How Unified Power Management and Process Automation Boosts Profitability and Operational Resilience

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Energy-intensive industries, especially oil and gas and petrochemicals, have never been more pressured to meet sustainability targets, boost uptime, maximize throughput and reduce total expenditures (TotEx) by lowering the end-to-end lifecycle costs of their assets.

One way owner/operators and engineering professionals can identify strategies to reach these goals is to ask themselves two straightforward questions:

  1. Is there an overlooked source of value in our operations?
  2. Can we take advantage of currently available technology to unlock it?

Thanks to advances in connectivity and digital analytics technology, the answer to both questions is an unequivocal yes.

Until recently, industrial enterprises’ power and process systems were designed and operated independently across a plant’s lifecycle.

However, evidence confirms that uniting these two domains and managing them holistically can offer dramatic resiliency and efficiency benefits for industrial operations.

Whether organizations integrate during a plant’s design phase or unite existing power and process system management during a major infrastructure upgrade, the fusion of the two has real potential to accelerate business value and help build a long-term competitive advantage.

The status quo increases operational risks

Traditionally, power management and process automation separation was primarily due to technical hurdles with separated engineering domains connected by hardwired signals and localized digital information.

Even though more global digitization has largely removed those barriers, the prevailing opinion amongst select industry professionals is to resist merging the two engineering and operations silos.

The situation is rapidly changing now as engineers realize the lifecycle benefits of coordinated systems within an operational and maintenance framework.

Conventional wisdom suggests that because classic systems, such as those in liquefied natural gas plants are joined only at the I/O level, unifying them at the information and analytic level increases potential risks. The thought is that separate networks keep issues isolated to one system rather than two.

However, there’s ample evidence to suggest that companies require new data-driven insights to support better, faster decision-making to thrive in today’s volatile economic environment.

They need to respond faster to critical conditions that threaten uptime and become more agile to make their operations more resilient, safe, and profitable, which is much easier to achieve with converged power and process systems.

Protecting today’s critical production infrastructure means rethinking traditional methods

Power automation systems started digitizing and protecting on-site networks and managing spinning reserve, voltage and frequency through both generation management and load shedding schemes. These systems became necessary in the oil and gas industry, particularly upstream, dominated by major motors and limited generation.

The original high speed load management systems matured with the advent of super-fast networking and the use of the IEC61850 information models and signaling. Other segments like mining and combined cycle power generation are now finding the infinitely resourceful grid connected systems are changing, causing a major re-think in energy balance and load management.

The reality is that for virtually every onsite power generation situation the power and process physical systems are already intrinsically connected electro-dynamically, so why not monitor and manage them as a unified system at a higher level of close loop, cascade loop and analytic behavior?

For instance, voltage surges or sags, deviations in power quality, and supply interruptions negatively impact production throughput and product quality. Additionally, inadvertent trips due to power shortage, generator overload and other electrical constraints need to be quickly analyzed from correlated sequence of events across both electrical and process domains. Quickly understanding how and why these events occur is crucial to maintaining operation value and uptime.

Modern, digitized solutions offer the best of both worlds

Converged power and process solutions with predictive analytics, such as Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ Process and Power, are engineered to help boost profitability by:

  • Improving operational efficiency and saving energy
  • Increasing electro-dynamic protection for more uptime
  • Enhancing asset reliability to prevent downtime

According to Craig Resnick, Vice President, ARC Advisory Group, “The fusion of power and automation is a catalyst for operational resilience and improved sustainability across the plant’s lifecycle.” In their examination of the benefits of power and automation Fusion, ARC concludes that:

  • This integrated, digitalized approach can reduce electrical, instrumentation, and control CapEx reductions by up to 20%
  • OpEx costs, including decreased downtime, can be reduced by up to 15%
  • Bottom-line profitability can increase by up to 3%
  • End users can see energy procurement cost reductions of up to 2-5% and carbon footprint reductions of up to 7-12%

Converged digitized systems offer additional benefits, including: faster commissioning, less cabling, simpler maintenance, and a reduced footprint. With the outstanding potential to improve process and energy efficiency while lowering risks to operational continuity, digitized process and power control solutions make good business sense in an unpredictable business environment.

Explore more insights about EcoStruxure™ Power and Process from our web or read our white paper, Eight Strategies to Drive Enterprise Profitability through Integrated Power Management and Process Automation.

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