Though it will take more experience by automation providers and process industry users to learn how to deal with cloud storage of real-time or near-real-time data, initial proofs of concept may come from slower processes upstream, such as oil and gas pipelines using cloud storage for managing natural gas compression pressures.
For instance, BP is working with GE Oil & Gas Digital Solutions to deploy Predix as part of its "Field of the Future” program in the Gulf of Mexico. Elsewhere, BP us using sensors to measure the properties of oil coming out of the ground, and assess oil well health and longevity in conjunction with Mojix, which sells wide-area RFID systems and ViZix IoT software for real-time sensor data analysis.
More recently, Lockheed Martin announced in January its contract with ExxonMobil to develop a next-generation process automation system for refineries and chemical plants that will encompass operations from preventive maintenance to fleet optimization. Similarly, Emerson Process Management bumped up its connections to BP last summer with a 10-year contract to provide BP upstream oil and gas operations with aftercare services, as well as more valve, instrumentation and SCADA systems.
As more remote connectivity and upstream success stories build, the downstream plants of such processors may lead to more IIoT implementations.
Today, progress is seen in more limited, recent projects that show closer OT/IT connections at the plant level, and greater remote connections:
- Taking steps toward greater IIoT connectivity, one household name-brand soft drink company has gained great insight across its plants through constant analysis of times, temperatures, pressures and material use in its clean-in-place (CIP) systems to reduce food safety risk with more stringent CIP cycles in some places, and reduced cycle times in other areas for faster changeovers and improved production throughput. “The information may have been there," says Dan Miklovic, principal analyst with LNS Research, "but they just weren’t able to get at it and use it effectively.”
- Netherlands-based DSM Nutritional Products has used Siemens’ Comos software as a common platform for engineering, operations and corporate management, saving the company 15-25% in process and automation engineering costs based on a lower error and rework rate. The first use was at the company’s Vitamin E plant in Sisseln, Switzerland, where Niklaus Beck, head of technical services, noted it has been a “tremendous help” in unifying data that would otherwise have resided in 20 different systems.
- Linde Group has standardized on Siemens' PCS 7 platform to integrate more than 100 operations in 60 countries in eight global control centers, according to Siemens’ Gardner (Figure 1). He says the industrial gas giant has realized benefits including “global operator and capacity load balancing,” as well as “better support resource availability during critical situations and higher utilization of limited process and plant unit specialists across the entire manufacturing network.”
- Arkema Group's specialty-chemical plant in Marseille Saint-Menet, France, upgraded its legacy DCS to an ABB 800xA platform, and claimed secure remote maintenance connectivity for faster troubleshooting. This doesn’t mean the site’s up and running with IIoT, but it’s on the road to it, in light of the platform being one of the cornerstones to ABB’s “Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP)” mantra.
— Bob Sperber is a frequent contributor to Control.