From the innovation track: controllers, alarms and critical instrument management

Trevor Hrycay of Suncor and Mike Brown of Matrikon presented a research project with University of Alberta, Suncor and Matrikon. Mike Brown indicated that this project provides a "three legged stool" for looking at real deployment, determining the real issues of adoption, reformulating work processes, etc.: the IRC Research Chair. Suncor is an integrated energy company, the first player in the oilsands. Now they produce 300Kbbls per day. Suncor operates in both Canada and the US, going to 5000Kbbls per day by 2010. Oil sands extraction challenges:
  • Key measurements unavailable
  • distant locations even on the plant site
  • tracking the performance and maintenance of equipment, processes and control systems
  • pipe and pump wear due to slurry transportation
  • level of automation and instrumentation have a direct impact on production
We are starting to do a lot of SCADA, but lots of people still "drive around with laptops in trucks." We started the NSERC/Suncor/Matrikon/iCore Industrial Research Chair in Computer Process Control Announced October 5, 2006, it is a five year partnership between the three companies. Controllers, Alarms and Instrument Monitoring System (CAIMS) started in May 2006, with 2 servers collecting alarms and data from all Extraction plant areas; 7 Experion pairs; 2 TDC App Nodes, 2 TDC3000 Gus Station Nodes, using ProcessGuard and ProcessDoctor (I've forgotten the new names, Trevor said). Trevor described the Primary Extraction Process Overview, where the truck delivers to the sizer, to the breaker, to the separation cells where dissolved air flotation is performed on the solids, and the oil is separated from the tailings. Lots of this is traditional mining equipment, even the DAF cells. He went on to describe the Secondary Extraction Process Overview, where the liquid is processed and water is removed, and the froth is sent to the tank farms. All the organics are flashed off in the Naptha treatment unit, so that there are no untreated tailings. CAIMS Goals:
  • alarm reduction
  • critical instrument monitoring
We did the analysis with ProcessGuard to determine if it is an alarm or a repair workorder is required. If it is clearly an instrumentation problem it goes directly to SAP for a work order. The alarm performance by month is trending down, but still are very high since the project is only six months old. Overall interventions are trending down as well. Daily alarms at the FTPH plant have gone from 8000 per day to less than 100 per day in six months. 749 loops, 361 not in service, and now most are back in service. Bad actors are identified almost immediately. Key benefits from the project:
  • Alarm reduction
  • instrument monitoring-- detection of several malfunctioning instruments
  • controllers-- identification of key constraints and protential bottlenecks; loop tuning currently in progress based on findings
More steps will be undertaken to continue to derive value, because the dollars are real. Another problem the consortium is going to look at is separation cell interface level control: hard measurement. Instead of a traditional instrument, they use a digital camera sending images of the sight glass, and the operator makes manual moves. Now, the digital camera allows the operator to put the process in auto, using an image based real time soft sensor. We took it into ProcessAct (Advanced Control Toolbox) and it is now running and producing a very large payback as a simple single loop controller running the underflow VFD pumps on the sep cell. "This slide says 'economic benefits' but it really should say 'stay in business.'" We're making really good progress. Next steps are best practices in alarms, and continuous loop auditing. For the sep cells, we are working on multivariable control strategies. We are also working on tailings pumps impeller erosion project, detecting from vibration signatures when they are going to fail. We are also working on production reporting calculation management to replace the spreadsheets with a web based calculation engine.