DCS migration and IT/OT integration oil and gas system integration projects

System integrators discuss an eight-year distributed control system upgrade from a legacy system without downtime and a 100-site information technology and operational technology system integration project to improve data mining, tagging structures, and programming disparities.

By John Hopshire, Bob Starkus, Gary Humble June 11, 2020


Learning Objectives

  • A refiner’s legacy DCS system was migrated with nearly 7,000 hard I/O points and connections to more than 20 third‐party interfaces, including safety instrumented system (SIS), analyzer and OPC interfaces.
  • An oil and gas company with nearly 100 facilities had wireless instrumentation was installed; edge devices consolidate information; networks were assessed and upgraded for cybersecurity/bandwidth; data collection, analytics, dashboarding and reporting software was developed; analytics drive critical notifications and alerts.

Control system integrators answered questions for a Control Engineering System Integration Roundtable article on oil and gas automation and control system integration. The two projects involved a distributed control system (DCS) migration, and integration project for better information flow between operational technology and information technology.

Providing information about the projects, scope, automation involved, challenges, solutions and benefits were:

  • John Hopshire, PMP, oil and gas industry manager, and Bob Starkus, PMP, senior project manager with Maverick Technologies.
  • Gary Humble, director, oil and gas – RoviSys

1.For a recent successful oil and gas industry automation, controls, or instrumentation system integration project for your firm, please give a brief project description.

Maverick Technologies: In modernizing their facility, a major oil and gas refiner needed help migrating a legacy distributed control system (DCS) to the same vendor’s modern DCS across multiple refinery process units.

RoviSys: A midstream oil and gas company with nearly 100 facilities spread across a wide geography was faced with various business and operational challenges. These challenges stemmed from limited visibility and latent data access across all their facilities and assets. Groups across the organization were making key decisions based on limited and stale information.

2. What was the scope of the project and goals?

Maverick Technologies: The multimillion-dollar, eight-year program required a systematic multiphase migration approach of all the process units. The team conducted a Level 2 front-end loading (FEL2) study to develop a detailed overall project execution plan, +/-30% estimate and a resource-loaded critical path integrated schedule for the entire program, which the customer could then use to support funding. The goal was to complete the long-term multiphase migration with little to no disruption to production while meeting schedule, quality and budget targets. All of the work was to be completed with zero safety incidents.

RoviSys: The overall scope and goal of the project was to develop an operations technology (OT) to information technology (IT) information solution to provide business and operational value across their organization. RoviSys initially worked with the customer to define current challenges, solutions and the scope required to develop them. Several value-added use cases with return on investment (ROI) were defined and prioritized. The prioritized use cases developed into a program roadmap for a phased approach focused on value delivery. Initial phases proved business value which helped build momentum and leadership buy in.

The use cases were focused on scheduling and delivery optimization, predictive maintenance, and product quality. The solution brought together real-time data from across all facilities. Using new dashboards and reports, the customer would be able to track products, view inventory, and track facility status. Schedulers and planners would gain the ability to optimize the routing of products and people.

Downtime reduction was accomplished by proactively monitoring critical assets like pumps, valves, metering, and vapor recovery units. Units have real time health checks to prevent unplanned downtime. Additionally, an equipment optimization plan was implemented to lower overall operating costs by running units more efficiently.

Improper routing of products to the wrong tank, truck or pipeline cost the company millions of dollars in product recovery and regulatory fines. The solution delivered real time tracking of the inventory and blending processes, automatically detecting anomalies and alerting operations.

3. What types of automation, controls or instrumentation were involved?

Maverick Technologies: The program encapsulates migrating the refiner’s entire legacy DCS system of a total of nearly 7,000 hard I/O points and connections to over 20 third‐party interfaces, including various safety instrumented system (SIS), analyzer and OPC interfaces.

RoviSys: The overall solution required technology improvements from the facility level to the business planning and logistics level. New, low cost wireless instrumentation was installed on tankage and other critical assets. Edge devices were used to consolidate information at each facility. The facility networks were assessed for cyber security/bandwidth and upgraded as necessary. An enterprise-wide data collection, analytics, dashboarding and reporting software solution, based on an industrial historian, was developed. Site data was integrated into geospatial dashboards. Analytics and event frames were used to drive critical notifications and alerts sent to personnel throughout the organization via email and SMS.

4. What were particular challenges outlined in the project?

Maverick Technologies: One main challenge was to minimize downtime throughout each phase of the program.

RoviSys: Two challenges in particular stand out:

  1. From a technical perspective, the challenge was data quality and normalization across nearly 100 facilities. Most of the facilities had aging or obsolete technologies, disparate technologies, and inconsistent configurations and operating standards.
  2. A second challenge was the enterprise-wide solution impact to multiple different functional groups throughout the customers organization – across both OT and IT. Development, testing, deployment and adoption required buy in from a diverse set of customer resources.

5. How were project issues resolved?

Maverick Technologies: The project execution plan looked in-depth at the refiner’s turnaround schedule and process units. The initial planning allowed for migration cutover phases to be conducted in parallel with planned maintenance and turnarounds, reducing unplanned downtime to zero.

RoviSys: First, RoviSys developed standard interfaces and data quality procedures to ensure compliance and a rapid scale out of the solution. It was necessary to audit each facility and develop a plan that included data mining, identification of tagging structures, and programming disparities to effectively move forward.

Second, to get buy-in of the solution across the customer organization, the biggest factor was earning trust through active engagement. RoviSys engineers worked directly with customer end-users throughout the lifecycle of solution design and implementation to build confidence in the coming changes and encourage adoption of the new normal. Whether through promotional messages, group presentations, or one-on-one attention, RoviSys helped identify how the new solution creates a better operating environment for all.

6. Can you share some positive metrics associated with the project?

Maverick Technologies: The Maverick team has completed Phases 1 through 3 of the migration project, commissioned during a previously scheduled two‐week turnaround, minimizing disruption to production. The customer has deemed the project a success in all aspects, including safety, budget and quality. The refinery readily obtained corporate approval for Phase 4 of the project, which is currently underway.

The team begins each phase of the program by conducting a Level 3 front-end loading (FEL3) study in order to develop a detailed project execution plan, +/-10% estimate, and reverse-engineering the DCS configuration. During the course of the FEL3 study, the team worked with multiple contractors to develop a baseline scope and cost, along with appropriate levels of progress reporting of critical deliverables to support the execution phase of each project. This helped ensure all parties stayed on track and within budget.

RoviSys: The real time product quality checks and alerts have prevented off spec product and erroneous routing of product, saving the customer millions of dollars in product recovery/disposal and regulatory fines.

7. What were the resulting lessons learned or advice you’d like to share, for your firm or the customer(s) involved?

Maverick Technologies: Upfront FEL best practices were used and the team worked closely with the company to manage all aspects of the program, including working closely with the customer on safety, contracting strategies, procurement planning, constructability, quality, execution planning, scheduling, contingency and budget. Biweekly project meetings with project stakeholders ensured keeping the project on track and within budget.

RoviSys: Successful projects require a partner that addresses people, process and technology.  Technology and process are typically the easier part of the solution. The people portion presents a different challenge, because success spans different layers of an organization. Our RoviSys team consistently focuses on people, starting with executive commitment and identification of key stakeholders. A collaborative environment keeps teams motivated and engaged throughout the life of each project.

Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.comMaverick Technologies is a Control Engineering content partner.

KEYWORDS: DCS migration, OT/IT system integration


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Author Bio: John Hopshire, PMP, and Bob Starkus, PMP, Maverick Technologies; Gary Humble, director, oil and gas - RoviSys