PlantPAx DCS fulfills goals for LBC

Organic growth left multiple tank terminal facilities with poor reliability, security concerns and a hodgepodge of black boxes. The cure was a clear vision, executed by a strong partnership

By Paul Studebaker

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Organic growth is a wonderful thing, but when it means that, over decades, you added and grew independent facilities around the world, each with its own control philosophy, culture, systems and suppliers, well, that can present some problems. Especially if you want and need to implement uniform process safety standards, rationalize your asset management strategy and spares, lower total cost of ownership and embrace the synergies offered by the connectivity that supports initiatives such as Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Such has been the case at LBC Tank Terminals, an independent operator of midstream and downstream bulk liquid storage facilities for chemicals, oils and refined petroleum products. It owns and operates a global network of terminals in Europe, Asia and America with a combined storage capacity of 1.9 million cubic meters.

LBC also provides logistic connections via rail, road, ships/barges and pipelines. Headquartered midway between Antwerp and Brussels in Belgium, it has more than 550 employees and in excess of 300 customers, “many of which are more familiar to you than we are,” said Xiling “Tess” Zhou, group director, global projects, LBC Tank Terminals Group.

Zhou co-presented “LBC Tank Terminals implements PlantPAx DCS to sustain profitability” with Kris De Roeck, senior business consultant, Agidens, at the Rockwell Automation Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) conference this week in Houston.

Agidens is the second leg of the LBC/Agidens/Rockwell Automation triad that helped LBC move from a polyglot of legacy systems to a coherent, transparent and connected automation and control strategy, including projects to replace the systems at three facilities between 2013 and 2017.

Founded in 1947 in Antwerp, Belgium, Agidens specializes in automation and control for tank terminals, life sciences, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, infrastructure (moving bridges) and chemical industries. It established a U.S. presence in 1999 and now has about 700 employees.

LBC in 2013

When LBC took stock of its terminal facilities in 2013, it identified six major challenges to continued growth and improvement, safety and customer satisfaction.

First, its facilities were saddled with end-of-life process control architectures. “We are a composition of terminals going back to 1947, each with its own issues,” said Zhou. “Systems were built over time by different system integrators and could not be integrated. We couldn’t scale our business for growth, and it was becoming harder to find the right expertise to keep the systems going.”

Second, the systems and networks were closed. “They were black boxes with low transparency,” Zhou said. “We couldn’t get our hands on the data, so we couldn’t have enough control over what was happening.”

Third was security. “You must have safety first when handling dangerous goods,” Zhou said. “Our operations technology was not up to par; we had no IT/OT separation, no patching or updates, no secure topology. We wanted to give access to our service providers, but we didn’t separate them from our internal access.”

Maintainability came fourth. Multiple systems lived together in the same environment: Siemens Cube and Rockwell Automation, COTAS with Schneider and Honeywell and multiple SCADA systems by Panorama and Ignition. It was difficult to apply integrated maintenance on non-integrated systems and was very difficult, if not impossible, to perform release management and version control.

“Maintenance was costly and time-consuming,” Zhou said. “With what we had, it’s almost impossible to have a long-term maintenance strategy or lifecycle planning.”

Availability and business continuity could not be managed because “there was no data for preventive maintenance,” Zhou said. “Spares were hard to plan and couldn’t be rationalized.” Mean time to repair (MTTR) was high due to lack of transparency, data availability and spare part inventory. Operators increasingly used manual overrides to keep operations going.

Finally, the systems did not meet today’s standards. “Each terminal had its own knowledge but couldn’t share it,” Zhou said. “We couldn’t have a regional or global spare parts program and couldn’t apply standards for upgrades.”

4 simple objectives

“Our objectives are driven by two priorities—safety and happy customers,” Zhou said. The first objective is improved process safety and asset integrity systems. The second objective is operational excellence—asset availability and flexibility.

At the same time, LBC sought to get a grip on the third objective, total cost of ownership (TCO). “Our asset lifetime is 20-40 years,” Zhou said. “We want to see the cost of the asset over its entire lifetime.”

Finally, the new systems would have to be scalable. “We are growing,” Zhou said. “Whatever we have in place needs to grow with us.”

The four goals were related to seven aspects to be improved by new systems:

  • Best practice and knowledge sharing
  • Spare parts inventory
  • Improved pricing and support
  • Alignment of configurations and functional flows
  • Standardized lifecycle management
  • Global partnership with strategic vendors
  • Long-term implementation strategy

“We want a strategic relationship with global partners, with a long-term implementation strategy,” Zhou said.

The plan for success

Agidens helped LBC turn those goals into hardware and software. De Roeck said, “We started with the foundation and governance, based on ISA-95 and -99” for integration and security. They planned to standardize equipment, controls, process and network; focus on IT/OT conversion; and apply ISA-101 for HMI.

The rollout plan uses a phased approach to standardize equipment, controls and processes based on best practice and pilot study. The migration plan is then adapted to terminal needs and customized for each facility.

Agidens and LBC worked together to evaluate potential suppliers, including Emerson, Rockwell Automation and Honeywell.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to do our own controls,” Zhou said. With facilities around the world, “we wanted local, long-term support. “We see Rockwell Automation as having best-in-class network topology, and we like the way they think—for example, their approach to IT/OT convergence matches our way of thinking.”

Between 2013 and 2017, LBC, Agidens and Rockwell Automation converted LBC Rotterdam, Antwerp and CEPSA (Netherlands) facilities to systems based on the PlantPAx DCS. Key enablers were:

  • Using Rockwell Automation configuration and selection tools with unmodified libraries. “We didn’t touch them or the SCADA objects, so we wouldn’t have problems with future updates,” said De Roeck.
  • Using the PlantPAx System Estimator inside the Integrated Architecture Builder (IAB) tool. “System Estimator validates performance, and, if there’s an issue, it indicates a solution,” De Roeck said. “When you’re done, a bill of material comes out, and you can order it.”
  • Implementing FactoryTalk AssetCentre. “It performs automatic backups for disaster recovery,” De Roeck said. “All changes are identified with who did it and what was changed. It also records operational changes, such as if a valve is put in manual.”
  • Using the FactoryTalk Historian SE application. “It provides long-term data storage for a year or more and fast data access,” De Roeck said.
  • Replacing Honeywell Experion C200 with ControlLogix. “We could do it by just replacing the C200 boards one-to-one but ended up changing the I/O and racks for spare parts rationalization,” De Roeck said. “The racks just come off and the new ones go on. It was done in a couple of hours.”

Migrations were performed on tight schedules with minimal shutdowns, typically less than two days. The result is a set of systems that meet LBC’s expectations. “We now have central governance and much better process safety,” Zhou said. “Better transparency has had a positive impact on asset integrity. Lower MTTR, less downtime and the right spares inventory has improved our customer service. Our total cost of ownership is under control with mid- and long-term maintenance strategies; we don’t have to be reactive anymore. And we have scalability for our planned expansions. What’s more, the CEPSA facility recently won the global Most Efficient Storage Facility award from Tank Storage Industry magazine.”