Whenever suppliers phase out obsolete technology because they’re no long able to guarantee spare parts, industrial companies face a major challenge: Do they rip out and replace the existing system with something entirely new, or can they find a lower cost way to significantly extend a system’s life? That was the challenge facing Maersk Oil in 2014. With its existing ABB MasterPiece 200 controllers being phased out, Maersk Oil decided to migrate to ABB’s Advant controllers, which would extend the life of its SCADA systems by at least 12 years. The lifetime extension of the SCADA controllers had to be performed on six of Maersk Oil’s North Sea platforms. The project also involved the Gorm platform, from which processed oil is sent ashore.
This “relatively cheap 12-year lifetime extension, in which we had to evolve to newer ABB hardware already familiar to us, was an easy choice compared to buying a completely new system,” says Jan Temberg, team leader at Maersk Oil’s Danish business unit.
All offshore upgrade work took place within just 10 days during a planned maintenance shutdown in June 2014, an opportunity that only comes approximately once every four years.
“Even though doing upgrades is the core DNA of ABB,” Lene Østerby, ABB account manager, explains, “we haven’t done that many upgrades within such a short time span before. It was a massive logistical puzzle involving shipment of hardware, allocation of helicopter seats, placing beds offshore for engineers, work permits, and numerous other tasks.”
No code conversion
or testing needed
An important aspect of the business case for the control migration was the savings in installation hours compared to the time required to install an entirely new system. Buying a new generation of hardware often entails reprogramming and testing of systems, as well as replacing, testing, and commissioning new controllers.
All these activities were avoided with an Advant 450 upgrade since it comes with interfaces to existing I/O systems and ABB’s systems are backwards-compatible. This means the application can easily be transferred from one generation of controller to the other without any code conversion or testing.
The offshore upgrade activities went smoothly, according to both parties, because of two primary factors. First, because it was possible to draw on the experiences from similar, previous upgrade projects. And second, because planning from ABB’s side was handled by one project manager, who was responsible for all hardware purchases as well as coordinating all ABB engineers working on the project.
“You definitely get a lot of synergy from having a large group of engineers working that intensively on such an extensive upgrade project,” says Østerby. “If any technical challenges occurred, our engineers could consult with each other and share experiences and solutions.”
During the shutdown, ABB had 11 people offshore for the upgrade work. Their tasks involved demounting existing equipment, mounting new controllers, and loading new system and application software. ABB’s engineers were also present during the start-up of the platforms to assist if needed.
In total, the Maersk Oil upgrade project involved replacing 15 MasterPiece 200 controllers with 13 Advant Controller 450 controllers and upgrading five Advant Controller 450 units with newer, more powerful processor modules featuring the latest system versions.