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Dow Texas Operations named FieldComm Group Plant of the Year

Oct. 9, 2020
Dramatic advances in operational reliability underpinned by FieldComm Group technologies

Using data to make timelier, better informed decisions is a key tenet of digital transformation. And if one’s seeking to understand the difference that data-based decision-making can make in process performance, one need look no further than Dow’s Texas Operations (TXO), on the Gulf Coast in Freeport.

Over the past six years, integrated data flows from some 50,000 smart instruments have become central to the expansive site’s reliability objectives, helping to save tens of millions of dollars by boosting overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and trimming instrumentation-related production losses by 80% (Figure 1). These achievements, together with the organization’s efforts to promulgate and sustain a culture of data-driven reliability at TXO—and across the rest of the global organization—have resulted in Dow-TXO being named the FieldComm Group Plant of the Year for 2020.

Dow-TXO is the largest integrated chemical complex in the Western Hemisphere. It comprises of four major facilities covering 20 square miles and includes more than 3,200 acres of waterways and pipeline corridors, 4,700 acres of reservoir operations and 9,500 acres used for grazing. The products manufactured here are transported by rail, truck, marine vessels and pipeline to customers around the world. The complex accounts for 30% of Dow’s products sold in the United States.

While Dow-TXO standardized on HART smart instrumentation communications back in 2000, that investment really started to pay off in 2014 with the roll out of disciplined device integration reliability strategies and widespread implementation of a standardized Instrumented Asset Management System (IAMS) approach, according to Josh Ruiz, P.E., maintenance manager, reliability engineer and leader of this effort.

Using their IAMS, Dow-TXO has since commissioned/diagnosed more than 40,000 smart loops, achieving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost savings. Dow also uses their IAMS to perform routine loop-checking and safety-instrumented-system (SIS) validation on more than 5,000 loops. It also leverages FieldComm Group’s FDI architecture to streamline device integration efforts across the many varieties of smart instrumentation and device profile versions.

Reduction of instrument production losses 2014-2020

Figure 1: Over the last six years, Dow's IAMS programs have achieved an 80% reduction in instrumentation-related production losses.

Mobile data access

Dow is also transforming digital mobility by outfitting instrumentation and electrical personnel with HART-enabled tablets. The Dow I&E tablet, qualified for use in Class 1, Div. II hazardous environments, establishes HART communication locally with instruments then displays, logs and downloads the variables during proof tests and other diagnostic procedures. Harnessing mobile digitalization allows Dow-TXO to automate and document modern tasks, such as OSHA compliance, even on legacy analog distributed control system (DCS) installations.

Dow-TXO also continuously monitors some 10,000 critical instruments remotely, alerting the company’s subject matter experts to developing instrumentation issues and allowing manufacturing operations to continue safely and reliably. Dynamic dashboards flag any instruments that are in failure or out of specification, and one unit’s IAMS installation even paid for itself in less than three weeks.

Today’s I&E tablets for local troubleshooting as well as system-level diagnostics and remote monitoring capabilities have their roots in a data-driven, 2014 effort to systematically address repeat maintenance and production losses tied to instrumentation, Ruiz explains. Instruments found to be troublesome were studied via online and offline scans, meter verification, alert logs and echo curves. During commissioning phases of old and new equipment a baseline signature was captured for critically ranked instrumentation such as control valves, radar gauges and Coriolis flowmeters. “This data is now proactively used to determine control valve health and to detect coatings on stilling wells and fouling of Coriolis tubes. “Validating that HART data was beneficial allowed us to invest in more IAMS software and hardware, including wireless, HART multiplexers and I&E tablets,” Ruiz says.

Other productivity-boosting success stories achieved with the Dow-TXO approach to IAMS include:

  • A digital control valve flagged as not stroking properly. Control Valve Software diagnosed the actuator diaphragm was leaking and the root cause.
  • Twelve flowmeters were written up as failed during field testing during unit commissioning. The equipment was scheduled for expedited and costly replacement so as not to delay start-up. Using the Dow I&E tablets for diagnosing, the twelve flowmeters had confirmed problems ranging from bad linearization, plugged Coriolis tubes to failed electronics. The tablets were able to resolve the issue and avoid spending any additional money to get the unit operational.
  • A valve’s HART positioner online data scans revealed DCS pulsing and the actuator spring range to be inadequate. Correcting the problems headed off poor process control performance and premature valve wear.
  • A steam conditioning control valve was found to be providing inadequate blending of steam and water. The IAMS diagnosed and identified a worn plug, packing issue and high heat on the positioner, allowing for an expedited custom repair and start-up without any loss of production time.
  • Smart meter verification on magmeters and Coriolis flowmeters has allowed Dow-TXO to optimize maintenance costs. In situ verification of proper instrument operation often justifies not removing a meter for calibration or other maintenance activities, increasing overall reliability and reducing costs. In situ testing also flagged an inaccurate Coriolis meter that was removed and fixed.
  • The nearly 1,000 FOUNDATION fieldbus instruments that monitor furnace coils on one unit use Venturi flowmeter variables to forecast plugging, driving timely alerts for maintenance.
  • WirelessHART replaced hardwired infrastructure in poor condition due to corroded conduit and wiring. Chosen for easy implementation, high reliability and significant cost savings, the bill for WirelessHART was only $20,000 vs. $250,000 for replacement conduit and hardwiring.
  • Fifteen WirelessHART position monitors enable control room operators to confirm manual block-valve position resulting in over $300,000 savings (production loss avoidance, valve automation, DCS install) for a $35,000 investment cost.
Best practices in six dimensions

Figure 2: According to FieldComm Group's Intelligent Device Maturity Index, Dow-TXO is pushing the envelope of best practices when it comes to leveraging the capabilities of digital field devices.

Scalable, sustainable

Following on proven IAMS success at Texas Operations, Dow has standardized on IAMS across their global facilities, both greenfield and brownfield re-automation projects. Dow’s standards now require automation project scope to include IAMS equipment, services and plant personnel training. Dow has created sustainability goals which incorporate value cases, cybersecurity reviews, management-of-change (MOC) processes and competency training—all with the aim of supporting the IAMS program as an evergreen initiative across the entire global organization.

“The next priority is sustainability,” says Dow’s Ruiz. “Through the combination of our reliability program and IAMS, Dow has accomplished an 80% reduction in losses by continually challenging to improve year over year.” Sustainability plans ensure the IAMS initiative is widespread, and used in every project. Mobile solutions also are central to the company’s long-term vision, to bring experts closer to the equipment.

“As a global company, leveraging our internal global experts through the use of the Internet-connected I&E tablet has optimized diagnosing and fixing of instrument and electrical equipment,” Ruiz adds. “The ability to collaborate with internal experts and share visual information by way of a camera-equipped tablet takes us from practicing innovation to leading it.” 

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