Turning data into cash

At a time of sky high oil prices and rising production costs, Honeywell is pumping resources into the Middle East market as it launches a new control platform to boost efficiency and data management

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By  Nicholas Wilson Published  May 2, 2006

Honeywell|~|honeywel-l200.gif|~||~|With its latest industrial process automation platform to sell, a new man at the helm, and plans for a 20% boost in staff this year, Honeywell is forging ahead in the Middle East as it targets the energy and petrochemical industries.

Honeywell chairman and chief executive officer Dave Cote said at the company’s recent user conference in Bahrain, “The Middle East is a very important and high-growth market for Honeywell. Its growth in the region mirrors the strong momentum that Honeywell enjoys throughout its global operations.”

Increasing global demand for oil, gas and hydrocarbon products are financing an economic boom throughout the region, and a great economic expansion is underway, he said. “Energy revenues are predicted to continue financing major projects of all kinds across the region.”

In 2005, the firm ramped up its workforce in the Middle East by 30%, which it intends to increase by a fifth this year, as Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) consolidates its position as the region’s top automation company by sales.

Heading the expansion is newcomer Larry Perkins, who in March took up his new post of regional general manager for HPS Middle East, based in Abu Dhabi.

Paul Orzeske, vice president and general manager HPS, Europe, Middle East and Africa said, “With Larry’s broad experience and his excellent track record of delivering profitable growth for HPS in the United States, Europe and Asia, he will be extremely valuable in driving the growth of HPS in the Middle East.” Perkins’ appointment underscores the increasingly strategic importance of this region to Honeywell, he said.

Symbolic of the Middle East’s growing importance to the automation systems giant, is its new integration centre in Abu Dhabi — the only one of its kind in the region. “The Integration Centre is a 1,000 square metre demonstration of our commitment to developing customised solutions that specifically meet customer needs,” CEO Cote said. It allows Honeywell’s customers to complete their verification and acceptance-testing processes close to home instead of traveling to the US or Europe. “To give you an idea of what that can mean — one customer reported that they saved US $250,000 on a single project by using our Abu Dhabi Integration Centre, he said. Six thousand customers trained there since it opened ten years ago.”

Honeywell’s moves in the region come at a time of record oil prices, almost-frantic increases in production and exploration, and a global shift in refinery capacities that is making the Middle East and Asia the heavyweights in petrochemical production, passing Europe and North America.

To help it ride the production wave HPS is rolling out its latest processcontrol platform, Experion PKS R300, which it demonstrated at the users conference where customers, including QatarGas, Saudi Aramco, gave presentations on automation technology advances.

Experion R300 shipments have started and will soon start shipping to the Middle East.

Honeywell says the platform is the only industrial process control system that unites process, business and asset management information — it can provide real-time process cost data at the same time it measures other inputs and outputs such as flow rates and temperatures, helping industrial manufacturers increase their profitability and productivity.

Commenting on the region’s process industry and its importance, Larry Perkins, Regional General Manager, Honeywell Process Solutions said, “Honeywell works with its customers to review how to optimise the performance of their existing facilities. With the increasing demand for oil production these organisations are under pressure to reduce operational costs, increase productivity and efficiency as well as optimise processes.”

Experion buyers benefit from the reduced footprint, wiring savings, reduced down time and the additional cyber security layer, he said.

One of the system’s major innovations is a space-saving design.

And with a square metre in a technical room costing about US $6000, dollars, compactness pays.

It also reduces customers’ installation and maintenance costs and extends the life of the system.

Jean-Marie Alliet, director sales support Europe, Middle East & Africa, Honeywell Process Solutions, said, “When we started the design of the new platform hardware, the compactness of the system is one of the goals we set — we had to reduce the volume required to put a control system in.” After lots of prototyping and design previews this is what we came up with, he said. “The space efficiency or the savings in space compared to other hardware on the market ranges from 5 to 75%, which is tremendous.”

A project in Qatar, based on previous generation hardware, needed 530 80cm X 80 cm X 200cm just for control system hardware. However, by using Series C hardware Honeywell was able to reduce the number of cabinets to 376 and lower costs, Alliet said.

One of the challenges was the heat management in the cabinet: By making the hardware more compact, HPS was able to put more electronics in the same cabinet, which results in higher heat production inside it.

After studies, Honeywell came up with a design where the IO module sits on a base plate but at an 18-degree angle instead of vertical. This allows cold air to enter at the bottom and be carried by convection, cooling the modules as it rises past the module above, instead of going straight into its neighbour, accumulating heat as it rises. This innovative vertical design of the hardware results in cooler electronic modules, and an extended the lifespan of the hardware.
When customers do an automation project, there is the initial investment cost to buy all the equipment, services and software. Then, over the life of the system and the life of the plant, people put more and more functions in that automation. “It’s tremendous how much time people spend putting in functions,” Alliet said. As the system gets to the end of its life, customers don’t want to simply throw it away. There is probably a larger amount of investment put in over its lifetime than in the initial purchase cost, so it’s extremely important that everything can be upgraded and migrated through lifecycle support, he said.

Experion will also offer corrosion protection alerts, following its purchase last year of InterCorr, which specialises in predictive corrosion detection and monitoring instrumentation, which will be of great interest to the Middle East oil industry, as it has recently made battling corrosion an investment priority.
The global process control industry spends an average of $50 billion a year on corrosion problems — a field that Middle Eastern energy producers have only recently begun to focus on: Detecting corrosion reduces maintenance costs and boosts productivity.

Honeywell is also introducing new technologies, including wireless sensors and transmitters, which allow customers to access data points in the plant that were previously untouchable. As part of this innovation, it is integrating InterCorr corrosion detection and monitoring with Experion. “The integration of the two will provide in-line, real-time corrosion data, which will help reduce overall maintenance costs associated with corrosion that will increase unit productivity through minimising failures and avoiding unplanned downtime,” Cote said.

Likewise, Honeywell has combined elements of UK-based Petroleum Experts’ Integrated Production Modeling software with UniSim Design to make a system that lets energy customers use a single flowsheet to link reservoir models, well models and gathering-network models with the UniSim model of the separation process.

UniSim Design helps engineers create steady-state and dynamic models for plant design, performance monitoring, troubleshooting operational improvement, business planning and asset management. It is part of Honeywell’s family of simulation software and engineering services designed to improve performance throughout the lifecycle of a processing plant.

IPM is a set of online tools that allow oil and gas petroleum engineers to design complete field models of oil or gas production systems, including the reservoir, wells and surface network. Specifically, Honeywell will integrate UniSim Design with IPM’s Prosper (well modeling and design), Gap (multiphase network optimisation) and Resolve (IPM controller) functions.

“Honeywell can provide process models that are compatible with Petroleum Experts’ technology,” said Mark Hagen, director of Advanced Solutions for HPS. “Integration is very powerful because it allows all functions within a customer’s organisation to communicate with a single tool, a consistent set of models and technology.”

Honeywell says it represents a significant step forward in the upstream industry. The operative link between UniSim Design and the Honeywell Advanced Planning and Scheduling tools, which align production planning with corporate goals allows upstream applications to benefit from “what-if” production plan scenario analysis and overall business-plan optimisation.

Other efficiencies that Experion offers oil industry users, according to Honeywell, include online data backupautomation and rapid restoration.

Furthermore, in the event of a plant shutdown during a production process, Experion records all the steps, alerts and data. This documented proof of a plant’s emergency shutdown capabilities meets the annual mandatory test-run shutdown that authorities in some countries require. Not having to deliberately halt a plant once a year for such a test saves production disruption and helps the bottom line.

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