Oil & Gas industry observers are challenging the way the industry is currently operating its plants and facilities. The global shock of low oil prices has, in recent years, prompted a self-assessment within the industry, and has increased the level of urgency for finding more innovative ways of cutting costs in order to sustain profitability.
One approach to enhancing profitability is to modernize asset management so that operational data acquisition and analysis, and hence, decision-making, can improve. However, some obstacles are hindering the attainment of such a goal. First there are large quantities of operational data available today that are not being used. Current data, for the most part, is collected through traditional historians. In many cases, these tools are underutilized with only a limited set of their functionality deployed. Second, not enough has yet been invested in new ways to gather data (above and beyond historians), or in digitized, cloud-based tools that can quickly and accurately analyze that data.
Asset management has traditionally focused on monitoring the behavior of a particular piece of equipment or product, with each asset being treated as an individual. However, a discrete product that is experiencing issues may not affect the overall operation of a plant. Today’s plant managers are placing emphasis on greater efficiency across the plant, and want to view assets as integrated systems instead of as individual assets.
This is where digitization can come into play. As systems across facilities are upgraded over time, the intelligent devices that make-up those systems are now capable of capturing data and forwarding it to the cloud at an affordable price. Operators just need to determine the best ways of consolidating, analyzing and managing that asset information. The goal is to convert the asset management data into actionable plans that improve productivity and lower costs.
Openness – an enabler of a more powerful asset management
The lack of openness in existing systems also can place limits on the benefits of optimized asset management. Most of the Oil & Gas industry asset installed base consists of proprietary hardware and software systems that are typically sourced from a multitude of vendors. However, operators can no longer afford the inefficiency of having to go back to these separate technology providers each time they want to add or change parameters within their systems. The data gathering and analytics has to work across assets, regardless of the brand of hardware deployed.
Organizations such as the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), and the User Association of Automation Technology in Process Industries (NAMUR) are currently driving new standards around what “open” means. Their work emphasizes the standardization of system hardware components and looks to software as the principal change management agent. The goal of Oil & Gas industry stakeholders is to support this change in the traditional approach of complete proprietary systems by providers and open up the systems to allow multiple providers and different value-added solutions to be utilized and leveraged.
New tools that optimize the new data
As digitization opens the door to new data access, operators will be receiving information that most don’t currently have. As a result, they will be able to perform deeper analytics around energy efficiency and plant productivity which will, in turn, drive higher profitability.
Companies like Schneider Electric are enabling such developments by introducing open solutions and architectures that enrich the value of data. EcoStruxure Profit Advisor software, for example, collects real-time data on a regular basis from assets across a facility and links that data to an ERP system. The analytics are fed back to the operators, who can see the impact of their decisions from a historical view, and can judge how their current decisions are impacting plant profitability. Likewise, the software, EcoStruxure Asset Advisor, provides operators with the ability to anticipate and address asset performance issues before they become critical incidents, thereby mitigating safety risks, avoiding unplanned downtime, and reducing expensive maintenance interventions.
To learn more about how digitized asset management can drive plant profitability, click here