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Issue Date: April/May 2000

The data-driven plant: can it cut costs and improve performance?

April 2000

The process industry is changing. Competition is intensifying; project schedules are shortening; globalisation is demanding new ways of working; companies are looking to cut plant life-cycle costs by as much as 30% – without increasing risk. The industry is under pressure and looking for answers. Tricia Shaw reports.

Poor management of plant information which affects every stage of the life-cycle, is costing the process industry dearly. If you doubt that, then consider the facts:
* Processing and handling information accounts for an alarming 70% of the process industry's capital expenditure and operating expenses.

* Systems that generate and manage data that is not integrated result in data duplication and inconsistency.

* At least 50% of an engineer's time is spent looking for information, such as vendor or reference data, from other disciplines.

* One engineering procurement contractor invests two man years - or $0,75 million - taking design information into the fabrication phase, for every project.

* Handover costs from one phase of a typical medium-sized project to the next range from $3 to $10 million.

* 80% of design changes are caused by lack of data - or the wrong data.
Imagine what could be accomplished if you could reduce this time to the 'click of a button'.
What if the maintenance engineer could find and rely upon change orders, schematics and details for a particular pump without leaving their desk, rather than spending long periods of time trying to locate all the information?
What if owner operators could access both current and legacy data (including scanned documents) activate controlled workflow processes and be certain the information is the most up to date?
What if the project manager could review progress across disciplines on a daily basis from the desktop?
What if for a particular project procurement managers could generate up-to-date reports on the specifications of a particular vessel and the quantities to be used?
Individual parts of the process plant industry can no longer work in isolation. Indeed, owner/operators are already demanding a role in the overall decision- making chain that used to be the domain of engineering procurement and construction companies (EPCs).
It is not that they want to do the work of EPCs but rather that, in order to remain competitive, they need to ensure design and construction information can be re-used for the life-cycle of the plant - and that could be well in excess of 30 years.
Consider all the stages from front-end engineering through to decommissioning in the life-cycle of process plant. The engineering data that is pivotal in the beginning remains central throughout. This data is repeatedly referenced during operations, maintenance, production, revamps and regulatory compliance.
Since it exists as the result of initial conceptualisation, preliminary engineering and design, the challenge is: how do you get the overall improvement in business performance and optimum value out of the data?
Today's systems generate information in proprietary formats in their own environment, with limited integration capabilities. Traditional working practices have caused fragmentation of information and activities amongst disciplines. In the modern enterprise systems must integrate and interact with each other, supporting business processes and information flow.
Across the plant life-cycle stages many areas need to be considered, including process simulation, plant layout and design, costing and scheduling, materials management, process optimisation and enterprise resource planning.
Intergraph's approach has been to work with the other leading vendors in the process industry to provide an engineering framework - an environment and infrastructure that enables standardisation, integration and information access across the partners' systems. It also addresses engineering change control and change management. With its partners, such as Aspentech and Debis Systemhaus, this includes sharing of core technologies to enable optimum integration.
Let us illustrate this with an example from the front end engineering phase. To generate an initial conceptual plant layout information is required from a number of areas:
* Process simulation to evaluate the physical plant requirement.

* Financial or cost modelling for economic analysis.

* Vendor data sheets for equipment and instrumentation items.
With one logical source of information to store and access this information, data integrity is ensured, with significant time and effort reductions achieved.
The process industry has been establishing open standards under the ISO/STEP and POSC/Caesar initiatives. The resulting ISO 15926 POSC/Caesar standard provides the structure against which the data can be modelled and the library of terms to be used when defining plant items. This ensures that the range of applications that create, store, manage and access information throughout the plant life-cycle are all talking the same language.
Intergraph's approach has been to work with its customers and the standards bodies, to develop solutions built on these standards. Its Notia solution was the world's first commercially available data warehouse based on the POSC/Caesar standards.
The other vital prerequisites are a common user interface based on web technology and industry standards to ensure that there is one environment for access to information from around the world.
CAD is data in graphical form
Radical changes are taking place in the engineering world. Upgrading computer-aided design (CAD) systems in isolation to support work processes will no longer be enough in the new millennium.
The traditional concept of CAD as an electronic pencil or automated graphics placement tool that generated document deliverables is no longer valid. With a new data driven plant environment, 2D and 3D CAD is essentially another view onto the plant data, one that manifests the data in a graphical form.
For example, a group of valves may be shown as a tabular valve list in an Excel spreadsheet, as formatted information on a data sheet, as simple graphical symbols on a piping and instrumentation diagram or as 3D objects residing in a pipeline in a physical model. In each case what is seen by the user is an alternative representation of the valve data in the context appropriate for the user's needs at that point in time.
Intergraph has championed the data driven approach with its SmartPlant family of CAD tools. Adopting a data driven approach for plant information has many advantages. It provides one source of information which is kept up to date and re-used in many applications. It can be displayed in many environments, often generating 'virtual documents'; those produced on the fly from the data eg virtual data sheets with the most up-to-date information.
Within traditional documents much of the data is inevitably duplicated many times. A new document needs to be generated even if only one part of the information in the document is changed and that information may be cross-referenced in many other documents. However, while the vision and goal is for a data driven plant-based on industry standards, the reality for today and the foreseeable future is that traditional documents will play a key part in plant information management.
In Intergraph's experience, for both greenfield and brownfield sites, a modular approach to the problem allows companies to define their own area of primary focus - documents, assets or a data warehouse - safe in the knowledge that a growth and development path is available to achieve the ultimate solution.
This approach typically includes:
* Document management, for the management of both live and legacy documents.

* A plant engineering database for asset management, linking physical plant, assets and documents.

* A POSC/Caesar data warehouse for enterprise information storage and integration; a source of data free from the system that created it.
Figure 1. Intergraph's Directa system was adopted for document management for the Britannia Platform
Figure 1. Intergraph's Directa system was adopted for document management for the Britannia Platform
The Britannia platform
When the £1,25 billion Britannia gas condensate project in the North Sea (Figure 1) was conceived in the early 1990s, its far-sighted planners decided that all engineering information required for safe and efficient operations throughout the operational lifetime of the production platform would be captured electronically during the design and construction phases.
For Britannia, with documents as the primary medium, its initial focus was on document management and the seamless integration with the project's bespoke maintenance management system. An Intergraph Directa system was adopted for the management of documents and associated data.
Before Britannia went operational every group was asked for a priority list of documents to be included so that from day one there would be a nucleus of scanned and electronic documents covering issues such as safety, production and environmental performance.
Directa enables immediate electronic access to information that reflects the operational status of the plant from a single, verified source. It also avoids one of the failings for which big projects are notorious - uncontrolled, superseded documentation.
As project transitional coordinator Clive Randall explained: "Once you have instilled the concept of a single source for documentation in the culture, you have a procedure that will put the latest version of a document into your management system."
This is crucial not just for safety but also because, with revenue from the field running at around £2 million a day, any interruption to Britannia production must be minimised.
"We have a maintenance system to look after issues such as inspection, replacement and overhaul, with links to Directa to access relevant documents," said Randall. "In the case of unscheduled maintenance, Directa will come into its own because we know that we can rely on getting to the right version of documentation needed to deal with the problem. Speed of access to information is vital."
Figure 2. The Åsgard B Platform had adopted a 'data warehouse' approach
Figure 2. The Åsgard B Platform had adopted a 'data warehouse' approach
The Åsgard B platform
The Norwegian state-owned company Statoil operates the Åsgard B platform (Figure 2), the largest floating gas platform in the world. Gas exports will begin in the year 2000 and by 2007 it will deliver some 10 billion cubic metres of gas per year to continental Europe.
Statoil places great emphasis on close relations with its suppliers. The platform consists of hundreds of thousands of components that must be manufactured or procured and brought together for fabrication. During its 30-year life, the platform will undergo several changes of process or use, each of which involve engineering redesign, more procurement and revamp.
Statoil needed an approach that:
* Integrated data from a wide variety of legacy sources and organisations.

* Separated the data from the systems that created, updated or used it.

* Permitted applications to interoperate so users could exchange and share data.
It adopted a data warehouse approach based on POSC/Caesar data model and the Intergraph Notia solution. The POSC/Caesar model holds data in a highly 'normalised form'. This would mean that data to describe a pump comprises many data objects which are linked. For example, do you describe a particular pump as a pump/centrifugal, a centrifugal pump, is it an electrical device that drives the pump or is it a mechanical device that happens to be powered by electricity? By adopting one standard to describe objects the industry can share information in an open standard format such as POSC/Caesar.
When populated with data that describes all materials, equipment and activities associated with Åsgard B, the data warehouse becomes a single source of plant information that can be used by all those concerned with the platform during its entire life-cycle.
A shorter supply chain
The industry is also reviewing a common equipment database of components from all suppliers to provide an electronic catalogue library. The suppliers would maintain and update their product information. Enquirers would be able to feed in the parameters of what they wanted to buy and ask for a search of suppliers who could meet this need. Longer term, there are plans to include stock information, price information and delivery time. This e-business approach would shorten the supply chain dramatically.
Statoil's Thore Langeland voices the management view: "Using data in a concurrent environment not only saves money but also time and the accruing interest that has to be paid on the capital investment before the plant is even in production."
Industry analyst CIMdata, having looked closely at Statoil's experience, concluded: "There are surely urgent and compelling reasons for implementing the data management technology and the financial benefits must be carefully studied and understood."
Intertech Systems
(011) 313 1222

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