Cyber schooling

Off site simulator training is helping train the next generation of petrochemical plant managers.

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By  Administrator Published  January 15, 2009

Off site simulator training is helping train the next generation of petrochemical plant managers.

One of the difficulties faced when training students in any particular discipline is trying to relate what you are teaching to the real life situation.

Sitting in front of a white board in a classroom whilst perpetually taking notes is fine in some theoretic academic disciplines, but when it comes to the safe and efficient operation of an oil and gas plant or facility, then first hand experience is fundamental to acquiring the relevant knowledge.

The benefits of training with our simulators are that you can teach familiarisation of the facility for plant operators. - Trond Island, Kongsberg.

The use of simulation for training purposes is nothing new, however the improvements in computer processing power and software capabilities, as well as advancements in hardware has enabled training simulators to come on leaps and bounds in recent years.

Simulators can and have been deployed in a variety of different training operations, and their potential means that they could be used for nearly every stage of the upstream to downstream operation.

What they provide to the spectrum of employees at a company is the ability to put those people in situations and teach them to make the right decisions and responses if and when they occur in real life.

"What we at Kongsberg deliver is something called the Lifecycle Simulator, a dynamic simulator used for engineering purposes, and DCS (distributed control system) test simulator, used for training and everything related to a plant or operation of a plant," says Trond Vegard Island, technical advisor for simulation and optimisation, oil and gas division, Kongsberg.

Kongsberg Maritime is part of the larger Kongsberg Group, Norway's major defense contractor and maritime automation supplier. The company supplies systems in the maritime sector for dynamic positioning, navigation and automation, seabed surveying, surveillance and, of course, training simulators.

"The benefits of training with our simulators are that you can teach familiarisation of the facility for plant operators. We can run sequences such as start-up and shut-down operations at the plant, we can test operating procedures and safety procedures, and we can create all kind of scenarios that very rarely happen in real life," explains Island.

The simulators also offer the potential of providing users with experience of using process controls in order to get the maximum optimisation of the plant or facility, according to Paul Seccombe, senior technical consultant, OTS (operator training system) EAME, IPS Invensys.

"One benefit is you can optimise the process by training the operators to sail closer to the wind by maintaining safe levels but closing available margins. For example oil refineries have been operating at 110% to120%, so you need to be close to the trip settings and maximise the throughput," says Seccombe.

"Another optimisation is for the operators to understand each others knowledge of their specific procedures. I have been to a number of plants where one operator who works on the night shift has a different way of doing things to the guy on the day shift, meaning they have to reset everything to their way of doing things. With the simulators personality does not come into it."

IPS Invensys is an enterprise technology, software and consulting firm focusing on process manufacturing, plant optimisation, business operations and enterprise performance.

The SimSci-Esscor is their range of OTS solutions designed specifically for the oil and gas industry, with clients including Ras Laffan, ExxonMobil, Shell, Saudi Aramco, Total, BASF, Sinopec, Pemex and Kuwait Oil Company.

The company describes the SimSci-Esscor range as rigorous first-principle models with perfect replicas of actual control systems, which enables the user to safely and thoroughly train operators off-line.

"We will take the simulators to offshore platforms, FPSOs, oil and gas to gas plants -  for example like the Saudi Aramco for the gas oil separation plants - and refineries. The unique differentiator IPS has is we can combine process and power simulation with power plants combined cycle and most recently IGCC (integrated gas and combined cycle plants)," says Seccombe.

One of the most important factors when developing any simulation is the realism of the finished system.

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