Shell operations integrity assured by KBC software

By Jim Montague

Sep 13, 2018

It's crucial to be sure what you're doing, but it's equally important not to check too much and waste time, or check too little and miss vital details or problems. While achieving this delicate balance is useful for everyone, it's especially essential for large oil and gas processes, such as those run by Shell Canada.

The oil major's vast, complex and widely distributed applications require an operations integrity assurance (OIA) program that has almost as many data sources and other "moving parts" as the facilities and processes that it helps oversee and manage, including such widely varying data sources as historized process data, end-of-shift reports and alarm overrides and bypasses.

Overseeing operations

"OIA identifies if facilities are being operated outside of operating limits; reports activities that have failed to be performed; monitors results of maintenance and operating activities, and reports abnormal conditions; and creates accountability at the appropriate organizational level for failure to operate within limits needed to perform the necessary maintenance, operating or technical activities," explained Lindsey Beal, OIA coordinator, Shell Canada. "It also enables supervisors to focus more on people and processes, rather than day-to-day operations.

"OIA also uses trends in data to prevent process upsets for proactive prevention of alarms and maximizing production; provides end-of-shift process and form to ensure standardized dialog for shift handover; escalates failures and non-conformances on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis; gives operators instructions and reasoning when dealing with abnormal situations; and integrates activities of operations, maintenance and technical groups."

Beal presented "A Cloud-Based Approach for OIA" at this week's Yokogawa Users Conference in Orlando.

Managing goals

Beal reported that Shell has had an OIA program for about 20 years, but it had grown antiquated and increasingly dinosaur-like, so the company began trying to replace it about six years ago. This led it to work with software from Industrial Evolution, which eventually became part of KBC, a Yokogawa company.

Shell and KBC developed Operating Goals Manager (OGM), over the past two years, and are working to implement it at four of its natural gas plants in the Foothills area in central Alberta, Canada.

"OGM manages the performance of indicators and goals," explained Beal. "Indicators include real-time process data, lab test results, calculated values, manually entered data and degradation statuses. Goals include safety targets, planned values, operating limits, technical constraints, expected statuses and completed tasks.

"OGM identifies which indicators are out-of-normal (OON) conditions, and examines the severity of OON conditions to find non-conformance (NC) events. It then prioritizes NC events, and notifies the roles responsible to take action to resolve them. OGM can also escalate NC events in the organization based on severity due to duration and frequency. Finally, it captures comments and builds a knowledge base to resolve NC events."

Built on OSIsoft's PI System software, OGM is web-based, so it can be viewed and accessed on any PC, tablet or smart phone, as well as make use of cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) programs. PI tools also let users share and manage indicators, while PI Asset Framework (AF) repository lets users continuously run calculations to determine indicator statuses. In addition, OGM records deviations from targets, constraints, plans and other goals, and marks indicator statuses as normal, OON or NC.

"OGM also performs weekly, monthly, quarterly and exception-based reporting. It does real-time (RT) and charted data analyses using PI tools," added Beal. "There's also role-based commenting associated with NCs and general periodic reports. OGM also does shift-handover reports, and has administrative screens that let users set schedules and report indicator details."

Facilitating dialog and accountability

"One of OGM's unique features is it can be configured to only show users the information they need at a particular time. For example, they can 'mask out' inapplicable data, such as high-temperature conditions in summer months, which can help prevent normalizing alarms. Also, OGM's comment manager feature facilitates dialog between operators and managers, while its RT monitor feature drives accountability by using expertise to help set realistic target, standard and integrity limits. RT monitor also supports direct measurement of abnormal states, such as regulatory task completion failures, non-regulatory task completion failures and equipment abnormalities. These tools also give users a chance to resolve issues, and bring them back to normal states. This is a lot better than items ending up on your boss's boss's desk."

So far, OGM has been implemented at the OIA project's pilot application at one of the four Foothills plants in Waterton, Alberta. "It's been running for about a year with no failures, and has made the plant and its processes more stable," Beale said.

"In fact, this OIA program paid for itself in a just a few months, and has already saved Foothills about $2 million per year by reducing time spend by operators on handovers, and increasing throughput via optimization. Also, moving OGM from on-premise to SaaS has reduced our server count by 85%; reduced in-database instances by 60%; and reduced support costs by 80%. Our software is also more stable, and we're no longer dependent on custom, unsupportable Excel spreadsheets."