Refinery Expansion Runs on Fieldbus

Marathon Petroleum Shares What It Took to Build a Successful Fieldbus Project

By Ed Bullerdiek

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The first part of this article appeared in the July, 2014 issue of Control Magazine. Additional information found only here begins with Lessons in Software Development on page 3.

In the fall of 2012, Marathon Petroleum Company (MPC) started a $2.2-billion expansion of its Detroit refinery, the Detroit Heavy Oil Upgrade Project (DHOUP). The expansion centered on a new delayed coker unit and included a distillate hydrotreater, sulfur recovery units and associated utilities. The project also increased the refinery's overall crude capacity, and Air Products built a co-located hydrogen plant.

By any measure, this was a very successful project. The automation system was singled out by the licensor's start-up team, which reported, "This unit experienced no significant problems with process instrumentation, which is quite different from the typical start-up; on many start-ups, getting the instrumentation to function correctly has been a major and continuing challenge."

In addition to the obvious goal of putting a state-of-the-art process control system in front of the operators, DHOUP started laying groundwork to improve reliability. Today, almost all equipment is “smart,” but it does little good if the diagnostic capabilities are locked up in the field. To be useful, the data from smart devices must get to reliability engineers. Therefore, a key project goal was to install the networks necessary to talk to the instruments, analyzers, rotating equipment, motor control centers and electrical heat tracing equipment that is the bulk of our smart equipment. Foundation fieldbus was identified as a key enabling technology.

Foundation Fieldbus: Our Keys to Success
There is an ongoing debate over the advisability of installing Foundation fieldbus. Proponents will cite increased capability, including diagnostics, lower cost and reduced time to deploy. Opponents cite increased upfront engineering challenges and cost, and long-term support issues as reasons to avoid it.

Our experience is that both camps have valid arguments. We believe that our implementation is a success, but we recognize that there were challenges to overcome, and ongoing challenges to success. Our story is in what we did to get here, and what we're doing to ensure continued success.

The four key lessons we learned are to go big, to embrace the technology, to prepare for the challenges, and to build a lab.

1. Go big. The benefits of implementing Foundation fieldbus scale with project size. The up-front engineering costs do not scale with project size as much. Regarding long-term support, Foundation fieldbus introduces training, workflow and spare parts issues that also do not scale with implementation scope; in fact, the issues can be worse with small implementations.

2. Embrace the technology. Foundation fieldbus is fundamentally different from conventional instrumentation. We actively explored its capabilities. This article describes some of our creative uses and their benefits.

3. Prepare for the challenges. These include new training requirements, new workflows, software management requirements, spare parts management and finding knowledgeable people. A proactive approach is necessary to prevent these issues from overwhelming the benefits of Foundation fieldbus.

4. Build a lab. Given the complexity of modern control equipment, we recommend building an instrument and control laboratory whether or not you have Foundation fieldbus instrumentation. However, we believe it would be nearly impossible to manage and test software, validate instruments and train without a dedicated space for the instrument and process control staff to work with the instruments.

In the interest of full disclosure, these lessons were learned from a previous, less-than-successful Foundation fieldbus project. DHOUP could not have been successful if the automation team was learning these lessons as the project progressed; they would have occurred too late to be useful. DHOUP's success validates that the lessons learned from the prior project were the correct lessons, and that the project execution plan developed from the lessons is worth sharing. Now let's talk details

What Is Foundation Fieldbus?
For those who may not already be familiar with Foundation fieldbus, here is a definition from the Fieldbus Foundation website:

"The open, non-proprietary Foundation architecture provides a communications protocol for control and instrumentation systems in which each device has its own ‘intelligence' and communicates via an all-digital, serial, two-way communications system."

That's nice as far as it goes, but what does it really mean? How is Foundation fieldbus different from conventional instrumentation?

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