IIoT will be a key enabler for refineries and petrochemical complexes

Numerous refining and petrochemical companies are investing in digital technologies and data analytics to improve plant operations, to ultimately reach their goals of optimal operational efficiency, says Jim Moshi, regional general manager, Honeywell UOP, Middle East, in an interview given to Martin Menachery.

Jim Moshi, regional general manager, Honeywell UOP, Middle East.
Jim Moshi, regional general manager, Honeywell UOP, Middle East.

Can you elaborate on the concept of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in the context of the downstream industry?

IIoT is a highly scalable network of technologies and services that use the internet to connect people, processes, and assets, enabling a new way to optimise business results. It is often referred to as the digitalisation of industry, or Industry 4.0.

The downstream industry across the region is increasingly adopting IIoT technologies to improve performance, availability, reliability, safety, and security. This is achieved by leveraging connected assets, advanced data analytics and secured cloud-based data, and drives higher productivity and lower costs at oil refineries and petrochemical plants.

The deployment of these connected solutions translates into increased intelligence throughout the downstream process, by gathering, aggregating and optimising data with the help of analytics software to improve automated control and enable better decision-making.

For more than 100 years, Honeywell UOP has been a leader in developing and commercialising technologies for the oil refining, petrochemical and gas industries. We are now focused on the power of connected technology in this area, deploying solutions that act as the backbone of the transformative IIoT evolution taking place in the industry.

Please give us an overview of the latest trends in IIoT with relevance to the refining and petrochemicals manufacturing industry around the world.

Globally and regionally, the digitalisation of the refining and petrochemicals industry is gaining momentum. The latest trends in the industry are focused on making sense of big data using cloud-based systems. These technologies allow refineries to analyse large amounts of data from within the plant, so they are better informed about the condition of assets performance, operational capacity and potential failures.

How do you evaluate the progress made by the downstream industry in the Middle East in the application of IIoT?

Organisations across the Middle East are looking to improve returns on large asset investments by making the most of their plant data. The true value of IIoT can only be fully realised with a holistic view of asset management, and regional operators are quickly recognising this.

They are seeing that, to be able to minimise unscheduled shutdowns and optimise product quality in the downstream industry, they need to combine production and maintenance strategies with the power of the cloud. These cloud networks continuously collect, aggregate and model data for accurate predictions of failures and as such help limit their impact on operations. This approach has become central to make the process more reliable and creates connected systems that deliver useful data in real time.

Several early adopters – as a first step – have implemented digitalisation campaigns. Many are reporting excellent early results, some to the tune of many millions of dollars in savings.

However, there remains a significant number of manufacturers who are hesitant to take the leap. Their reasons include a lack of understanding of the benefits of data analytics and inadequate resources – specifically, people with data analytics expertise.

What are the challenges faced by the Middle Eastern refining and petrochemicals manufacturing com-panies in the application of IIoT?

The Middle East region is witnessing an economic transformation that requires a step up in operations to enhance productivity across industrial sectors. The ambitious regional government programmes, including Saudi Vision 2030, UAE Vision 2021 and Kuwait’s National Development Plan, are placing a lot of emphasis on the efficiency and effectiveness of state-run commercial operations to maximise returns on national resources. The digitalisation of the economy is at the heart of this transformation.

In terms of challenges, safety and security are an overriding concern in any industrial enterprise. While physical safety and protecting employees and the environment are top of the list, many plants also need to increase their cybersecurity preparedness, as a key condition to maximise the benefits of IIoT technology.

The recently launched Industrial Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence in Dubai further demonstrates Honeywell’s commitment to addressing the industrial cybersecurity needs of customers in the Middle East region by leveraging globally proven expertise, technology, and solutions. This investment comes in support of regional government initiatives aiming to strengthen cybersecurity defences amidst growing digital transformation across industries. The new centre is supporting a rapidly developing Middle East cybersecurity market.

Please elaborate on the benefits of IIoT in the refining and petro-chemicals manufacturing sector.

IIoT-enabled technologies provide refining and petrochemical companies with the ability to combine advanced software capabilities with the necessary physical products to provide value to industrial operations. This enables the creation of a seamless integration of the entire value chain – from supply to the end consumer. Through such integration, we can run plants with software-based systems that yield smarter operations, capable of deep self-diagnosis and self-learning. We can sense operating anomalies days, weeks, and even months before they become problems.

As an example, Honeywell Connected Plant (HCP) technologies can improve plant performance and increase profitability saving up to $300mn in operating profits for a 200,000bpd refinery. The range of connected IIoT technologies available will enable Middle Eastern plants to capitalise on the full potential of the region’s oil and gas reserves.

Can you explain how IIoT can empower an organisation in increasing productivity, improving the quality of services and creating new business models, taking the example of a Middle Eastern refining, or petrochemicals manufacturing company?

In the Middle East, Honeywell has been a trusted advisor to the oil and gas industry for the past 60 years. Today, nearly 400 UOP process and adsorption units are in operation across the region.

Al Waha Petrochemicals Company is using IIoT-based Connected Performance Services (CPS) to explore possibilities of maximising propylene production. Al Waha is using a tool within CPS called Process Reliability Advisor at its plant in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to continuously analyse the operation of its Oleflex unit, quickly detecting and resolving problems to ensure the plant operates at its peak capability. This tool is using Honeywell UOP process and fault models, fed by current plant data, to provide key performance information and process recommendations.

CPS also offers the Process Optimisation Advisor, which continuously monitors streaming plant data and applies Honeywell UOP process models to determine the economic optimisation. All solutions use big data analytics and machine learning to drive a plant’s full potential.

If we take the example of Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (KIPIC), it is using a range of process technologies from Honeywell UOP for the expansion of its refining and petrochemical complex at Al-Zour, south of Kuwait City.

For this project, Honeywell UOP is supplying technology licences, design services, key equipment, and state-of-the-art catalysts and adsorbents to produce clean-burning fuels, paraxylene, propylene, and other petrochemicals. When completed, this will be the largest integrated refinery and petrochemicals plant ever constructed in Kuwait.

Can you please elaborate on three key innovations through IIoT for the downstream industry?

Connectivity has rapidly extended beyond people to ‘things’, as devices, sensors, controllers, and actuators are connected by IIoT. As a result of connectivity, platforms, tools, algorithms, applications, and strategies are needed to analyse and act on the huge amounts of data that is generated. One of the main innovations within the sector is the Honeywell Connected Plant, which is a suite of applications that delivers higher levels of safety, reliability, efficiency, and profitability.

These proven industry solutions are based on decades of domain knowledge and controls experience. They turn data into actionable insights so that industrial manufacturers can optimise operations, predict plant failures and eliminate unplanned downtime. This new level of consistent high performance makes every day the ‘best day’ of production.

Another innovation that was recently launched by Honeywell UOP is a new high recovery retrofit unit to upgrade existing cryogenic units to extract more than 99% of high-value ethane from natural gas.

We also recently launched a new gas metering solution that provides easy-to-use health monitoring of midstream metering systems for operations, maintenance, and leadership teams. Honeywell Connected Plant Measurement IQ for Gas enhances the metering operation’s reliability and safety while cutting costs by massively reducing the need for site visits. Users can detect and correct costly mismeasurement, anticipate equipment failure, reduce gas losses and eliminate unnecessary maintenance.

How do you envision the impact of IIoT on refineries and petrochemical complexes in 2025?

Studies show that the adoption of digital solutions within the energy sector is increasing as IT spending within the Middle East oil and gas industry grew to around $1.66bn last year. In the Middle East energy sector, $337bn has already been committed to projects under execution, an additional $622bn worth of development has been planned for the next five years. Leading the drive will be Saudi Arabia, which, along with the rest of the GCC, will invest across all the energy value chain.

As such, we expect to see an increase in investment in IIoT and data analytics across the regional oil and gas sector. By doing this, operators and manufacturers will unlock additional value by integrating smart-edge devices, secure cloud-based infrastructure, and operational process knowledge.

Successful implementation of IIoT will be a key enabler for refineries and petrochemical complexes to maintain high levels of safety, security, efficiency, and reliability of their operations for many years to come.

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