ARC tackles AI, sustainability, etc

March 11, 2024
28th annual forum draws almost 800 visitors and 200 speakers

If the diffuse and multivariate process industries have a bellwether for what’s going on and the undercurrents they share, the ARC Industry Leadership Forum is it. That’s why close to 800 visitors attended the 28th annual event on Feb. 4-8 in Orlando, Fla., where they listened to and interacted with close to 200 speakers, who focused on cybersecurity, digitalization, artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainability.

“We’ve delivered energy and products for 140 years. Even as alternative sources of energy ramp up, oil and gas will continue to play a role in meeting energy needs for decades to come. However, we also need innovative technologies to handle new and diverse energy sources, so we can meet society’s energy and product needs and reduce emissions,” said Wade Maxwell, engineering VP at ExxonMobil Technology & Engineering Co., during his keynote address on Feb. 6 at the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Fla.

Maxwell reports that these efforts include:

  • Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)—ExxonMobil has captured about 150 million metric tons of CO2 over the past 30 years. It’s working on accelerating CCS deployment, and establishing a CCS business together with other companies with the potential to capture and store more than 100 million metric tons annually (MTA) of CO2 per year on the U.S. Gulf Coast. ExxonMobil is also working on direct air capture (DAC), and completed its first DAC pilot plant last year at its facility in Baytown, Texas.
  • Hydrogen—ExxonMobil is one of the world’s largest hydrogen players, producing and consuming more than 1 million tons each year in its refining and chemical operations. It’s announced plans for the world’s largest, low-carbon hydrogen facility at a planned start up in Baytown, which is expected to produce 1 billion cubic feet of low-carbon hydrogen per day, and capture 98% of the CO2 produced by the facility.
  • Sustainability—ExxonMobil is investing in projects to develop lower-emissions fuels, such as renewably produced diesel at a new plant in Canada. This site has a capacity of 20,000 barrels per day. ExxonMobil also plans to increase plastics recycling to 1 billion pounds per year by 2026, and use its skills in exploration, drilling, refining to improve lithium extraction and processing.
  • Efficient operations—Consists of better methane detection, improved equipment inspections by drones and other robots, and more efficient operations using advanced process control and reduced flaring.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)—For accelerating technical development, more effective knowledge management, subsurface modeling, and concept analytics and development optimization, which uses mathematical models to identify net-zero pathways, and to optimize production and manufacturing operations.
  • Standards and Interoperability—Relies on open standards such as Open Process Automation (OPA) will bring value and ExxonMobil encourages the process industries to adopt open, secure, standards-based automation systems.

Mike Carroll, innovation VP at Georgia-Pacific, reported these and similar efforts will require greater “factfulness,” which means relying on strong supporting facts to avoid exaggerations and distortions that cause problems. Fortunately, even though people often aren’t good at getting their facts straight, Carroll adds that computing and AI can provide an even greater assist in the future in with more fact-based analytics and better decision-making.

“The three elements of AI are the ability to learn, predict, and reason/decide,” explained Carroll in his keynote address. “We can use our knowledge and AI to build better hypotheses and decisions based on the world as it is, and enable AI to work on our behalf to help us navigate.”

In the following panel discussion, Rashesh Mody, business strategy and realization EVP at Aveva, explained that AI can gather knowledge and learnings from three to six months of operations, and use them to serve as an improved advisory system. “AI can augment each user’s intellect and assist it,” said Mody. “You can give it complex questions, and it should be able to answer it. For example, asking ‘Why was production down eight hours last week?’ likely needs information from many sources, but AI can help trace it to vibration data or other probably causes.”

Supplier solutions

Beyond its keynotes and technical sessions, ARC forum also featured many informative press conferences and exhibits. Those presentations included: 

  • ABB demonstrated its ABB Ability Connected Worker apps to enhance health and safety, increase efficiency with digitalization and standardization, improve collaboration in the field, accelerate process solutions, and ensure complete, digital audit trails. ABB also demonstrated its ABB Ability PlantInsight—Operator Assist software that can provide early alert, daily support and incident mitigations. 
  • ARC Advisory Group launched its subscription-based Sustainability Data as a Service (SDaaS) that provides a use case-centric view of key opportunities related to energy transition and sustainability in the global industrial marketplace. SDaaS combines the qualitative market perspective of ARC domain experts with extensive quantitative market data capabilities to provide unmatched insight into key trends and growth areas of within process and discrete industries to uncover specific sustainability-related business opportunities.
  • Honeywell is driving new automation capabilities into its Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) with its Release R530, and expanding support of Experion PKS Highly Integrated Virtual Environment (HIVE). Experion PKS R530 introduces Experion Remote Gateway, which further enables remote operations by providing a browser-independent method to simplify monitoring and operations. Also, its updated Ethernet Interface Module lets Experion PKS HIVE integrate smart protocols while optimizing the C300 controller’s processing load.
  • Opswat reported on advances in its MetaDefender Kiosk for securing critical environments. These include its more-portaable Kiosk Mini form factor, VSA-mountable Kiosk Stand, and integration with Opswat’s MetaDefender Sandbox scanning solution and Media Firewall technologies to enable defense-in-depth for peripheral media.

For more coverage and information about the ARC forum, visit

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.