Not your fathers’ DCS migration

June 21, 2016
How Chevron Oronite is managing the lifecycle of one of its most critical assets: the process control system.
About the author
Paul Studebaker is chief editor of Control. He earned a master's degree in metallurgical engineering and gathered 12 years experience in manufacturing before becoming an award-winning writer and editor for publications including Control and Plant Services.Chevron Oronite’s Oak Point plant in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, the second largest fuel and lubricant additives plant in the world, has been in operation since 1943. It includes a component manufacturing facility, captive power generation units, utilities, and blending and shipping areas, and uses both batch and continuous processes.

“The process control system [PCS] is one of the most critical assets in the plant,” said Nat Muthaiah, senior process control engineer and project manager, Chevron, “But does management realize it? We have to be sure they do.”

Muthaiah presented the session, “Managing the Lifecycle of One of Your Plant’s Most Critical Assets: the Process Control System” at the Honeywell Users Group Americas conference this week in San Antonio.

“I come from the world of pneumatics and hydraulics,” Methaiah said. The rate of change from them to single- and multi-loop controllers, proprietary distributed control and open systems was relatively slow compared to the current shift to multi-level integration between systems and business layers, IIoT and cyber security. That’s coming much faster.

“We don’t have a choice about this technical evolution. It’s forcing the PCS world to play to the tune of PCS and technology vendors like Honeywell, Microsoft, Dell, IBM, VMware, etc. And they may not have a choice, either – it’s a major domino effect in our industry,” Methaiah said.

“These changes will expose us and our so-called isolated, secure PCS world to vulnerabilities like cyber threats,” Methaiah said. It will cause major reliability and compliance concerns in our corporate scenarios. “The evolution has started. We as users need to plan and look ahead to the future.”

“The evolution has started. We as users need to plan and look ahead to the future.” Chevron’s Nat Muthaiah on the importance of actively managing the lifecycle of plant automation assets.

Develop a strategy

No one can tell you now what PCS will look like in five years, Methaiah said. “We only know where we are now, and some concept of the lay of the land. But using that, we can make a strategy and vision. So develop a long-term strategy, get it approved, and follow it.”

At Chevron Oronite, “we made a strategy board – a simple storyboard – showing the past and present, and projecting a future, a vision for 2020 and beyond,” Methaiah said. His story board has time as the X axis; the Y-axis shows functions including operator stations, human-machine interface (HMI), advanced control, historian, batch control, etc. From left to right, you can see how each functionality has evolved over time, and how he plans to migrate it in the future.

“This strategy board led to a breakthrough with management, but it took a year and a lot of work,” Methaiah said. “Translate the strategy to a vision and break it down into step-by-step projects. Be sure you lay it out in a way that it is easily understood by your decision-makers.”

Find value propositions

“If you just say you need $10 million for a new control system, no one will buy it. You need value propositions,” Methaiah said. Reliability and compliance are benefits, but you often can’t establish a direct ROI, so they may not be value propositions. “Don’t just focus on the control system – see what other opportunities can be tackled along with the project,” he said. “Honeywell consultants can help you.”

Some examples of value propositions include:

    • Lifecycle management as an enabler to a sustainable future;
    • Being up to par with the technology;
    • Compliance needs;
    • Long-term vendor relationships and partnerships that give better results and reduce costs;
    • Operator effectiveness: HMI, abnormal situation management, integrated alarm management, better work flow, control room ergonomics and operator fatigue management;
    • Interfaces to the business and third parties;
    • Data flow from business to DCS; and,
    • Better analytics.

Both when identifying value propositions and throughout the system lifecycle, “Stakeholder engagement is very important,” Methaiah said. “Automation, operations and IT have to work together as a collaborative team, you can no longer be separate from operations and IT. You have to create that collaborative culture, that one team.”