Photo by Keith Larson
“Looking back, the trial was extremely beneficial,” Cenovus Energy’s Riley Pashniak explained how the company unified operations across four of its sites in an Integrated Control Center before bringing in the other eight.

Cenovus Energy unifies operations with integrated control center

Nov. 21, 2022
Company unified operations across four of its sites in an ICC before bringing in the other eight.

Cenovus Energy is Canada’s third-largest oil and natural gas producer and its second-largest refiner. With 12 heavy oil thermal facilities and more than 100,000 barrels per day of production, the company has a lot to manage. Add to that the vast distances its staff needs to traverse to maintain operations among facilities, and it all makes for needed change and opportunities for operational improvements.

“Operators hate two things. They hate change, and they hate when things don’t change fast enough,” quipped Don Sherwick, superintendent of operation for Cenovus Energy, who along with several other company leaders was on hand to tell Cenovus’ story of how it addressed its need for an integrated control center during Rockwell Automation’s Process Solutions User Group conference and Automation Fair 2022 meeting in Chicago.

The Integrated Control Center (ICC) is at the heart of the company’s improvements, and it is designed to make its vast operations across a wide swath of western Canada function more seamlessly and productively. The ICC sits approximately 150 km from each site. Although representing a change in operations, Sherwick said the ICC was very much welcomed by operators at Cenovus oil and gas assets.

Cenovus’ Riley Pashniak, senior automation specialist, pointed out several reasons why the ICC needed to be built. For starters, they wanted to turn good operations into great operations. The ICC is designed to give operations managers better tools to work with, and to improve processes. The ICC divvies up responsibility among operators, with each managing about 7,500 I/O. The ICC project also improved human-machine interface (HMI) and radio communications among its facilities. In addition, Pashniak said, the ICC gives the company much-needed agility, a recurring theme throughout the PSUG and Automation Fair sessions. Agility in processes was often cited as a main need in today’s fast-changing world of stakeholder expectations.

The ICC is designed for centralized process data, including historian and visualization functions. It also sets Cenovus energy up for Industry 4.0 opportunities.

One of the biggest benefits the ICC brings is unified operations. That means all its facilities can participate in data-based decision-making and apply best practices from one facility to another.

Given that the company largely operates in Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territory in western Canada, travel from facility to facility among its staff can be unproductive. The ICC creates opportunities for remote maintenance and reduced operational inefficiencies. “It also closes a divide between urban and rural workers,” Pashniak said.

Located in Lloydminster, Alberta, The ICC serves 12 thermal facilities in places such as Sandall, Bolney and Edam in Saskatchewan. It also serves a raw water network stretching from the far west back into Saskatchewan. The company worked with Apex Automation, a systems integrator with operations across western Canada.

“I would say 15 years ago we were more experienced on proprietary and serial networks,” said Levi Hastman, system integrator, Apex Automation. “As control systems evolved and everything started going EtherNet/IP, system integrators started learning more about various technologies.”

The ICC is loaded with technology. Cenovus and Apex worked with various technologies and technology partners including ThinManager and VersaView from Rockwell Automation, and offerings from TRBOnet, Voicemeeter, Stratus, Dell, Logitech and Motorola, to name a few. At the center of its technology is its radios, networks, audio and peripherals.

“High performance standards and radio communications was a big part,” Pashniak said of their selection of technology. “Operator experience in our case was very critical.”

He pointed to the Logitech Easy-Switch software and multiple monitor functionality as key technologies in the layout of the ICC. The software allows multiple computing devices to be controlled by a single mouse and keyboard. The operator simply selects a preconfigured button to toggle among devices.

During an initial trial across four facilities, the company had a chance to find out what challenges it would face before rolling out the capabilities across the full fleet of assets. “Looking back, the trial was extremely beneficial,” Pashniak said. From there, the ICC created smoother operations across all its facilities—and a smoother ride into the future. 

About the Author

Len Vermillion | Editor in Chief

Len Vermillion is editor-in-chief of Control. 

Sponsored Recommendations

Measurement instrumentation for improving hydrogen storage and transport

Hydrogen provides a decarbonization opportunity. Learn more about maximizing the potential of hydrogen.

Get Hands-On Training in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment

Enhance the training experience and increase retention by training hands-on in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment. Build skills here so you have them where and when it matters...

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Learn about: Micro Motion G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meters

The Micro Motion G-Series is designed to help you access the benefits of Coriolis technology even when available space is limited.