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ARC Forum discussions center on interoperability, data challenges from facility planning forward.
Growing interest in an emerging standard, ISO 15926, suggests the oil and gas industry may be ready to tackle an intractable challenge plaguing capital construction and development projects, maintaining a common set of electronic documentation relevant from facility planning through obsolescence.
At the ARC World Industry Forum held Feb. 7 – 10 in Orlando, Fla., representatives from owner-operators; engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies; and equipment suppliers discussed improving what ARC analysts refer to as “asset lifecycle management” (ALM).
Also present were representatives of Fiatech, an organization dedicated to forging standards for capital project technology, and much involved in ISO 15926 promulgation. The standard allows building common data models across design, engineering, construction and maintenance of large capital projects.
Why should interest be growing for ISO 15926? “The upstream oil and gas industry will invest $1.5 trillion in infrastructure every year from now until 2030,” David Ritter, president, Haymarket Group and formerly an executive with Royal Dutch Shell, said at the event.
One aspect of the larger facility management scheme that was discussed in particular was the integration and role of process control systems and industrial software. Participants also pointed to the reciprocal relationship between best practices and a sound systems infrastructure.
A need for speed
“As NOCs [national oil companies] become increasingly independent, IOCs [international oil companies] have gone deepwater and into unconventional resources, increasing capital intensity and complexity. IOCs and independents end up competing for the ‘privilege’ of continuing to work with the NOCs,” Ritter said. “To do so, they’re investing in technologies for modeling and collaboration -- from field design through production.”
Of course, not all field development challenges come from systems integration gaps. Industry vendors spoke eloquently of challenges they face when incentives for those responsible for meeting “capex” [capital expenditure] and “opex” [operations expenditure] budgets aren’t properly aligned.
“It’s frustrating to see what happens. The interests of those responsible for capex are to deliver a working plant in a minimum of time and cost,” Peter Zornio, chief strategic officer, Emerson Process Systems, explained. “Especially for projects associated with national oil companies, vendors fall into the trap of responding with a lowest cost bid. Then those responsible for operating the facilities face real frustration optimizing production.”
It goes the other way too. “Sometimes the Capex side gets excited by a new technology,” Zornio said. “But the operators later find they don’t have the resources to maintain that complex model or advanced process control scheme.”
While obviously no panacea, fulfillment of Fiatech’s mission “to integrate the full capital asset life cycle” will tend to bring these parties together sooner through greater transparency into the planning, design, and construction process, allowing earlier conflict resolution.
Integration of process control systems is primarily accomplished either by means of a standard called OPC or by custom interfaces. For a company like OSIsoft, the real-time infrastructure vendor, OPC works in about half of required interface instances. For the rest, the company has a library of more than 450 APIs [application programming interfaces] to service an installed base that goes back to the 1980s era of VAX midrange computers from Digital Equipment Corp.
“Even today, one-third of our development time is devoted to writing new interfaces. What’s changed is that systems are identified by application, not DCS technology,” Pat Kennedy, OSIsoft founder and CEO, said. “For the most part, seamless data transfer to execution systems from sites has been achieved. But there will never be a single system. You’ll always need interfaces.”
Practically speaking, standards also already exist for sharing design information across computer-aided design (CAD) formats used by equipment suppliers and EPCs. For example, DWG, proliferated by Autodesk, is one of the most commonly used lightweight file formats for storing design data.
The biggest gap, it seems is in the handover of a facility to an owner-operator. “In many cases what the owner gets is still ‘a pile of paper,’” said one panel member. Within months, as operations get underway and changes are made, confidence is lost in the accuracy of the documentation. Lack of valid data can mean dispatching experts to job sites that may be anywhere in the world.
Kerim Koseoglu, head of the project management office, western hemisphere, Saudi Aramco, said his company has about 140 on-going capital construction projects. “What we need is a tool that doesn’t impose a burden, but rather facilitates best practices,” he said.
Some see best practices migrating from the highly regulated nuclear industry to fossil-fuel industries, said Alan Kiraly, VP, operations product management, Bentley Systems. “These more rigorous specifications aren’t mandatory but have had proven success,” he said.
Besides Bentley and the already mentioned Autodesk, other vendors involved in data management efforts associated with capital projects include Aveva and Intergraph.
“The goal of asset lifecycle management is to balance risk, sustainability and performance throughout a facility,” Andy Chatha, president, ARC Advisory Group, said. “A platform is needed for a single corporate network for collaboration of internal and external partners. We see with Facebook and with cloud computing that this is increasingly possible.”