Software to drive efficiency through resource optimisation

Refinery Plant AspenTechFluctuations in the feedstock market and energy prices have reduced the competitive advantage for Middle East refining, petrochemical and chemical production, making optimisation a commercial necessity

Feedstock and product prices have fluctuated dramatically in recent times and consequently affected supply and demand. With global competition and regional imbalances, the need to implement more stringent safety and environmental regulations is essential for companies to mitigate risk against unplanned events. The potential effect of this on the Middle East producers is significant as margins are reduced and new production capacity shifts to embrace new feedstock sources. The USA shale gas/shale oil industry is already putting tremendous pressure on operators across the markets as they are now caught in between cheap chemical imports from the USA and the Middle East.

Despite holding more than 48 per cent of global oil reserves, as well as 40 per cent of global gas reserves, oil and gas companies in the Middle East will need to excel in their pursuit of commercial and operating excellence in order to remain competitive and preserve global market share.

In addition, the region suffers from a shortage of skilled and experienced indigenous engineers across all areas of the industry. Therefore, in order to be a high quality, low cost manufacturer, the region needs not only more indigenous expertise, but cutting-edge technologies to help bridge the skills gap and address operational challenges.

It is vital for businesses to squeeze as much value as possible from operations where costs and risks are high. In order to achieve this, companies need to adopt best practices using integrated software for superior cost results, including in the following key areas:

• Commercial excellence: The Middle East region is focused on the development of mega-refineries and large integrated petrochemical plants that are world-class in both size and complexity. Companies need to work hard to establish what to produce, how or when to ramp up production, where to sell products, how to distribute it and quickly determine the return on investment. By standardising on optimisation software, companies will improve margins, increase yields, meet customer demand and gain competitive advantage.

• Operational excellence: Companies need to be leaner, more efficient and able to adapt quickly to customer needs. To achieve operational excellence, companies are implementing flexible and integrated software technology to bridge the gap between strategic planning and scheduling. Using integrated software to avoid silo practices will help empower engineers to make better decisions when they address feedstock planning, operational efficiency, energy optimisation and safety analysis. The use of Advanced Process Control provides greater control over operational and energy efficiency targets, while also improving product quality.

• CAPEX efficiency: Together with better analysis, the ability to easily evaluate capital investment projects faster early in design process along with better analysis helps engineers understand the economic implications of decisions. Crucially, the project scalability, improved workflow and the ability to achieve better predictability and accuracy during FEED reduces the total project life-cycle. With better cost trade-offs in making incremental capital investment decisions, companies will increase profitability.

• Compliance and sustainability: Efficient design of facilities is vital to achieve outstanding environmental, health & safety performance and reduce operational risk and prevent injury to staff. Excellence in process safety starts by ensuring facilities are designed, operated and maintained in a way that minimises the potential for process safety incidents. Risk is also managed by quickly identifying hazards, assessing consequences and implementing prevention and mitigation measures.

• Skills development: The Middle East is focused on addressing a shortage of skilled and experienced indigenous chemical engineers. With integrated software, new and occasional users become proficient faster and experienced users can do more.

The industry needs to undertake a combination of these elements to respond effectively to the commercial and operational issues affecting it. The use of integrated automated software, in particular, delivers accurate real-time information and significantly helps operational decision-making be more efficient with less resources and time to complete tasks. Sustainability is, therefore, enhanced through more efficient use of energy and less raw materials wastage, while quality is improved. Cutting-edge software streamlines workflow and manages orders more effectively to be on time and measurably meet customer satisfaction requirements.

Manufacturers who standardise on optimisation software across the enterprise will minimise lead times, maximise asset utilisation, speed up time-to-market, increase production visibility and strengthen competitiveness. Many refineries have adopted AspenTech’s aspenONE software suite to optimise process manufacturing for energy, chemicals, engineering and construction and other industries that manufacture products from a chemical process. With integrated aspenONE software solutions, process manufacturers can implement best practices for optimising their engineering, manufacturing and supply chain operations. AspenTech customers have increased capacity, reduced costs, achieved energy efficiency and become more profitable.

— John Hague, managing director for Middle East and North Africa, AspenTech

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