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September 2008

This past month has been a lot quieter with vacations and holidays. I made a couple of trips this month to Texas and South Carolina and have spent the rest of the month working in my office doing reports and designs. Dave and Rusty have made a few trips but for the most part we are working on existing jobs. We are working on several console operator staffing assessments; one job has over 1,000 P&ID’s to review, keeping Rusty out of trouble. We are also doing several “Theater Style” control room designs and three centralized Blast Resistant Operator Field Shelters. Dave has been doing staffing assessments and alarm management projects

It is nice to have a variety of jobs going through the office. We are about to start another new project in Denver, which is a great place to visit. Mid-September I will be in Las Vegas doing an Alarm Management Workshop and then will be speaking at the KBC User Group in San Francisco. I hope we can squeeze in a night with the Fab Four in VegasJ I am still a big Beatles fan and play their music everyday!

Due to the weather situation in Houston, my trip the week of the 15th for the PAS User Group was cancelled. Our thoughts are with our work associates, clients and friends during this time.

This last month, I was interviewed by Dave Harold for Control Magazine about fitting the workplace to the environment. I think he did an awesome job putting the article together. I recommended he also talk to our good friends from Acuite as we have done many jobs together. I believe they are the most experienced and have the practical experience to build graphics to today’s best practices. The article is a good review of how some of our customers have been very successful with the projects we have done for them and some have provided testimony to this. Thank you for sharing – I know many of you would like to share but have company restrictions that do not allow talking to the press. See the article here: –

I have also been working with an existing client who has already done a Centralized Control Room with UCDS. They are now looking at doing something similar at one of their other facilities and are looking for financial cases. We were asked if we could share what our customers are using, which is very difficult as most of the jobs are very site specific and confidential. However, we are seeing some very generic things in the industry such as:

  • Most are experiencing an Instrumentation upgrade.
  • Most are doing capital expansion by shutting down some old units and building new.
  • A lot are driven by Environmental projects
  • Most are crude expansion, some very big projects, and some as follows.

A typical refinery similar size to our customers we observe the following changes:

  • Shutting down the old Crude unit
  • A new coker and gas plant
  • A new Sulfur unit
  • A new Foul Water Stripper
  • Modifications to the existing Crude Unit
  • Modifications to the DHT unit
  • New Hydrotreaters gas and diesel
  • Shutting down old boilers
  • Building three new boilers
  • Building Cogen Units

Some projects we are working on as announced in the press are doubling their crude capacity, taking the refinery to over 600,000 BPD.

Existing control rooms are being closed because of:

  • RP752 study compliance
  • Providing remote centralized control and hardened or modular blast field shelters
  • Reduction in the workforce due to loss or retirement, running with fewer people and the need to centralize to allow this to happen.

As far as performance improvements, most have weak claims around communications improvement. Some quote quality or environmental cases, traceability goes back to breakdowns in communications; most are recorded in incident investigation reports.

What is actually needed is a full Conceptual Design that does an analysis of cost benefits, but most companies are not doing this step, or if they are, they are doing it internally.