New project: Simulation platform for plant start-up, operator training

Honeywell UniSim platform expected to simplify starting up new oil sands facility and moving into operation.
By Control Engineering Staff June 4, 2008

Suncor Energy Inc.’s Voyager Oil Sands Upgrader Operation in Northern Alberta will use Honeywell Process Solution’s UniSim simulation technology as a part of the “operational readiness initiatives” to train the operations staff and facilitate safe and efficient plant start-up.

Suncor’s upgrading facilities, including the planned Voyageur Upgrader, process bitumen (a very heavy hydrocarbon) into synthetic crude oil. Suncor’s goal is to increase oil sands production capacity by 550,000 barrels per day by 2012.

By training operators on specific processes offline, companies can help operators better navigate complex process scenarios and avoid incidents that could potentially lead to plant upsets, safety risks, and unplanned downtime. Moreover, the training component reportedly enables new facilities to begin production faster. Plants can also integrate UniSim with advanced process control technology to further optimize overall production.

“Operator training is at the heart of plant safety, reliability and efficiency– all three of which are critical for a successful startup and continuing operations at green field facilities such as Voyageur,” says Tom Macleod, regional general manager for Honeywell Process Solutions Canada. “By effectively preparing operators for potential problems, manufacturers increase their chances for avoiding upsets that lead to lost production and catastrophic accidents. Keeping the process running smoothly and workers safe benefits the company greatly across the board.”

Suncor pioneered bitumen extraction and refining in the late 1960s and is still the single-largest investor in Canada’s oil sands industry. Northern Alberta’s oil sands are the world’s second-largest oil reserve, following Saudi Arabia.

Honeywell claims an expansive portfolio of automation and control solutions for the oil and gas industry that enables refineries to operate safely, reliably and efficiently. Recently, UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, announced its new slurry hydrocracking process that the company says will help refiners produce clean gasoline from heavier crude oil. The technology, licensed from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), is designed to upgrade bitumen, as well as other heavy, highly contaminated feeds found in other parts of South America and the Middle East.

—Edited by Peter Welander, process industries editor, PWelander@cfemedia.com ,
Process & Advanced Control Monthly
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