It is practical intelligence art with engineering. Practitioners try to find creative ways to take and solve large-scale problems. Some of the greatest engineering achievements in history began with obstacles that seemingly never to be overcome, creating enormous and ongoing value after being overcome.
You increase your market share in the oil and gas sector by solving big problems. Companies that identify the difficulties and take the risk of overcoming them also maintain their competitive advantages. Problem solving is embedded in the DNA of Anglo-French natural resources company Perenco. The company, which has oil and natural gas projects in the continents of Africa, Asia and America, has grown by bringing new business models to the market.
An important example of a problem solving request is the Sanaga natural gas processing plant, which supplies fuel to the Kribi power plant in the southeast of Cameroon. Instead of building a fixed gas well from scratch - a process that could take years to complete - Perenco decided to remove the world's first floating liquidation vessel (FLNG) from a transformed vessel in 2015. The ship, called Hilli Episeyo, has shortened the commissioning process for years and created a more flexible method for extracting natural gas from hard-to-reach areas in accordance with national regulations.
The Sanaga offshore operation is controlled from Perenco's coastal natural gas Central Processing Facility (CPF) in Bipaga. Bipaga plant takes natural gas from Sanaga, produces liquefied natural gas (LNG) condensate after low heat treatment process, and produces liquefied petroleum gas as a by-product. These facilities provide Perenco with 1 million 200 thousand tons of LNG export capacity and 26 thousand tons of LNG domestic market production capacity used in Cameroon households.
To modernize or change?
Operating the FLNG ship, the first of its kind, requires industrial processes and security to provide control from a range of distributed control centers. CPF natural gas production is the most important component of the coordination of the supply chain.
The company's previous distributed control system (DCS) had problems due to a number of difficulties. Firstly, the fact that the process and safety factors were not adjusted appropriately caused operational inefficiencies. Second, the lack of diagnostic data required that trained personnel be on site to identify and resolve problems. Third, the platform did not have scalability to increase capacity, and as Sanaga gas field operations expanded, this became a suppressor.
These difficulties emerged even more in a failure. At a later stage, a network problem was detected and expert engineers had to be brought to the field. Solving the problem meant a week of downtime and a high cost. For this reason, the systems had to be urgently more autonomous and the return to work was faster.
This required Perenco to make a choice: either it would modernize the existing system or replace it completely. Following in-depth analysis, the company decided to move from DCS to a remote access integrated control and security system (ICSS) from Peruaco's central data operations, from Douala and Paris, where the company's local and central headquarters are located.
Perenco has signed a long term contract with ITEC Engineering, our solution partner, to meet these new needs. ITEC Engineering handed the project over to Rockwell Automation to fully implement it - from the installation of electrical control devices to the integration of the plant ICSS.
Trust built in decades
There are deep-rooted relationships between Perenco, ITEC Engineering and Rockwell Automation. As Rockwell, we have been working with Perenco in different locations and continents for decades. Since we already have some security technology operations at Bipaga, we had the opportunity to provide an integrated solution to meet Perenco's needs.
Negotiations and cost discoveries about the Bipaga project started in 2017. It would not be cheap to replace the existing system completely with a new one. While ITEC Engineering provided Perenco with cost-benefit details, ICSS required pre-investment, but daily operating costs were becoming much cheaper than on the current platform. The total cost of ownership (TCO) argument was very attractive.
The cost debate had another dimension. The transition of Bipaga from the old platform to a completely new system had to take place within a very short time frame. The new platform was supposed to become operational in a year or else it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for Perenco every day the system didn't work.
Here, the strength of the existing relationships came into play. While the risks were so high, Perenco could not give this business to a company he could not trust. The company knew that ITEC Engineerg understood its needs and would make compliance with project deadlines its top priority. As Rockwell Automation, we also had a serious experience in the oil and gas industry, and our strong relationship with Perenco's operations and security teams made us a strong supplier.
Working very closely with ITEC Engineering, we created an ambitious but accessible road map during project delivery time. ITEC Engineering was responsible for specifications, engineering design and automation processes; we would also be able to identify the areas and potential problems with PlantPAx distributed control system (including SIS, PCS and HIPPS), enabling remote access to FLNG from Pereco's Douala and Paris control rooms over EthernetIP, and enabling connectivity.
Apart from these, ITEC Engineering has developed a mobile application for Perenco. This application enabled senior staff to monitor diagnostic activities on tablets and reduced the need for on-site operations management. Parts of PlantPAx were pre-packaged, allowing the entire infrastructure to integrate into a global application, saving us a huge amount of time and engineering costs. Upon switching to real-time data flow, a year after the project started, Perenco was able to 'turn the key' back to work and activate all the parts in turn.
The test and application delivery times, which were very limited, were complied with, and the time and cost were also lower.
Everything went well
Although it was only a year since it was launched, Perenco has already provided significant benefits that justify its decision to switch from the original DCS system. Some of these benefits are as follows:
- Scalability is increasing. Rockwell's PlantPAx is built on multi-server architecture. This means that Perenco can now easily expand its operations and add new processes. The company did this in October 2019, and began using additional systems without disrupting processes on board or CPF.
- Integration competencies are increasing.Perenco now has an efficient ICSS that combines all process and security systems in one architecture. This system has brought enormous benefits to employees, especially in the Bipaga facility - on site or in remote access locations. Since the system used Rockwell technologies in many of Perenco's facilities, it also provided a wider benefit throughout the company, and even asked Perenco suppliers to upgrade to the Rockwell standard.
- Better diagnostics can be made.The open system nature of Rockwell's technologies significantly improves Perenco's IT employees' ability to monitor the performance of the process and security systems in CPF, and enables them to react to problems much more quickly without the need for facility engineering. Rockwell and ITEC Engineering have deliberately included Perenco's IT team in the process of setting system parameters to ensure greater compliance and IT security.
- Ease of use is increasing. Rockwell's ICSS was a much more accurate approach for Perenco to modernize the existing system. Perenco now educates its employees much more easily about the system and can add new processes without creating new problems.
Perenco had such a positive experience that just a year after starting PlantPAx, he decided to completely replace his DCS and have a fully integrated system across all his operations. One of the most important factors in this decision was ITEC Engineering and its relationship with our own practitioners. Together, we used all of our information about the company to create a better solution, enabling Perenco to move faster, to continue to overcome big problems and gain great advantages in Sanaga operations in the future.