Technology has penetrated almost every aspect of refining and petrochemical operations, with many believing it has made them safer, more secure and less harmful to the environment. Process automation now more than ever allows workers to perform their duties without even leaving the control room, while smart equipment can deflect, predict and prevent potentially life-threatening situations.
‘Adopting technology has brought about a number of health and safety improvements since I started in the industry 30 years ago, and we can see the benefits today,” Bernard Sanseau, drilling manager at Total Abu Al Bukhoosh, told RPME.
“Automation brings additional layers of safety. Now it is possible to work remotely from a ‘cyber chair’. It is a completely different way of looking at things. At Total Abu Al Bhukoosh, we marked 1000 days without a single Lost Time Incident (LTI) and automation has played an important role.” Sanseau added
The oil and gas industry, especially the refining and petrochemical ones, have been known for their conservative approach to adopting new technologies, but those days are long gone now. Both refiners and petrochemical producers are operating under new and much more challenging dynamics, with worker safety, increasing productivity and improving environmental footprint occupying a prominent role within the organisation.
Technology one again is seen as the key enabler to achieve these targets leading operators to drop their scepticism and embrace the latest innovations on the market.
“This is not simply due to the availability of technologies, but also because of the increased capabilities of technology providers to proof test the new technologies more quickly with improved reliability.” Said Ghassan Barghouth, vice president, oil & gas and industrial segments, MENA, Schneider Electric.
“Safety and security have always been a top concern for the industry, particularly in terms of ensuring the safety of plant, equipment and people, as well as meeting environmental standards.
“With telecommunication networking at such an advanced stage of saturation on existing platforms, process automation system implemented with safety and security provides immense benefits for operators not only monitor their operations in real-time , but also to perform all necessary controls on remote and unsecure locations from a central hub,” Barghouth added.
One of the main causes for accidents is an industrial environment is the lack of understanding when it comes to risk. According to Ken Ume, director of product marketing at Petrotechnics, innovative uses of technology can help operators visualise and better manage operational activity and risk.
“With this kind of technology, organisations explore opportunities for improvement that can easily get lost in the complexity that makes up most modern operational environments. All too often deviation in process safety, where barriers become impaired, can be lost or misunderstood because it is difficult to connect them to daily operations. Deviations in process safety barriers can lead to increased downtime and in the worst cases – to major accidents.”
Stuart Douglas, regional manager for Petrotechnics in the Middle East, added: “We have a product called Proscient. It is a software application that brings a common language of risk, or a common view of the risk across an organisation’s operations from the frontline activity right up to the board.
It allows everybody to collectively see what the risk is to safety and what the risk is to business. Once you have looked at all that operational common view of risk and made sure you have mitigated it all through your barrier management and so on, it gives an operation a more streamlined process.
On the back of that, what it will do is, it will give the management of an organisation the chance to prioritise maintenance, or what they really need to get done on the plant in a more efficient and safer manner, which again, brings optimal performance and a heavy return on investment.”
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