SBM Offshore Sees Simulation on the Horizon

SBM is looking at Siemens’ Simit system to simulate behavior changes of the plant resulting from changes to the integrated control and safety system. The goal is to minimize growth of base purchase orders and improve overall project execution for bottom-line savings.

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Headquartered in Amsterdam, the company’s official name, Single Buoy Mooring, builds floating production systems for the offshore energy industry. Often, it buys old tankers and converts them into floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels.

These vessels are designed with advanced functionality, such as a disconnectable turret, that, during severe weather conditions, can be disconnected from the FPSO allowing the vessel to sail away to safer waters. Once the weather improves, the vessel returns to reconnect with the structure and resume production operations. The disconnection/reconnection operation is controlled by a PLC system using Siemens PCS7 and expertise from a Siemens Solution Partner. Siemens technology can be found throughout the FPSO vessels, such as within rotating equipment (power generation), process equipment (water injection), field instrumentation, valve controls and the integrated control and safety system (ICSS).

The ICSS is an important part of the onboard architecture as it combines a variety of systems including:

  • Human machine interface (HMI) to operate, view alarms and provide reporting;
  • Process control system (PCS) for monitoring and control;
  • Process safety system (PSS) for process shutdown;
  • Fire and gas/emergency shutdown system (FGS/ESD); and
  • Interfaces with package unit control systems (i.e., turbines, compressors, water injection, metering, boilers)

All of this is connected to a common network backbone.

As an instrumentation package, the ICSS relies on input from various disciplines and systems. At the early stages of a project some data is simply not available or in an incomplete state. The shift in resources can have a major impact on the implementation and successful commissioning of the system and results in a compressed schedule for the ICSS.

During a presentation at the 2017 Siemens Automation Summit in Boca Raton, Fla., Ash Alashqar, a category manager at SBM who focuses on ICSS, field instruments and fire and gas detection systems, discussed the challenges presented by typical marshalling panels, where the hardware is held hostage by the software, which may delay construction activities. Because of these challenges, a new approach was needed.

When staging and testing the system, the hardware stays at the vendor’s shop, and if the panels are shipped, the controllers are taken out and left with the vendor(s) to implement any changes that may happen. “But then, any changes we have to make on the panels will be three times more expensive and take five times longer because they are at the shipyard now and will require a permit process,” Alashqar said.

It’s a system that is way too complicated given the different package unit interfaces and regulatory requirements. To address this problem, SBM sent out a survey to most of the known DCS providers, technology experts and internal stakeholders to study the market and find the available solutions that could help remedy the situation and take SBM to the next level of innovation and streamlined project execution.

Here are some of the key findings and recommendations from the SBM 2016 “Pulse of the ICSS” survey:

  • A recommendation to adopt new technologies (i.e., universal I/O, simulation, cloud engineering, virtualization);
  • The importance of supplier/OEM commitment to support the product/services for an extended period (i.e.,10 years);
  • Quality, schedule, availability, and technical support mattered more than price and product range;
  • At least 5 to 10 percent of the OEMs’ revenue is dedicated to R&D and new products;
  • Current industry focus is on connectivity, Industry 4.0, energy management and proactive maintenance; and
  • Ideas for cost reduction include early engagement, frame agreements, structured and accurate communication, as well as lean execution.

The last part, lean execution, includes finding ways to keep the purchase order under control. “The projects grow an average of 20 to 30 percent from the base purchase order by the end of the project,” Alashqar said. “That’s a negative hit to our bottom line.” SBM has successfully worked with Siemens to provide basic process control and safety systems on several global projects and continues to partner with Siemens to help improve the efficiency for which they can automate the FPSO.

The way to keep the project under control is through the use of simulation software. SBM is looking at Siemens’ Simit simulation and training system to simulate the behavior changes of the plant. The goal is to minimize the growth of base purchase orders, improve project execution for bottom-line savings and test safety systems separately from the hardware so the hardware can be released to the shipyard just-in-time—all the while ensuring its safety system risk reduction targets are met by removing potential human errors.

“Where Siemens can help us is to streamline this…and get it through the test track by simulating it,” said Alashqar explaining that any changes done at the simulation level can be passed on to the contractor months after the panels shipped. “So the pressure is eliminated or minimized,” with estimated savings of 20 to 30 percent per project.

In addition to the Simit technology, other Siemens products SBM is interested in using includes the Simatic Compact Field Unit (CFU) to bring multiple field devices into the unit. The field distributor connected over Profinet is able to overcome the restrictions of conventional I/O by providing consistent decentralization coupled with flexible structures. A distributed deployment of the Simatic CFU allows considerable savings in terms of cables and terminal points, and a reduction in the work involved in planning and documentation.

“It would give us the flexibility to ship the hardware metering skid or separation skid and later on run wiring to a local junction box and bring a laptop to configure the I/O,” Alashqar said. This streamlines project execution and provides a just-in-time approach to supply chain management. The ICSS will no longer be on the critical path, since the required materials are already at the site when needed. In the meantime, the software and configuration can continue its progressive elaboration and maturation.

In the future, SBM plans to work collaboratively with Siemens on early engagement to be strategic with technology implementations. They want to implement new and innovative technologies and execution methods and conduct mutually beneficial workshops. They also want to create more synergies between SBM and Siemens to enable a more packaged approach to products and services around the ICSS, field instruments and other equipment when needed.

SBM also wants to move more toward digitalization. As an example of how SBM’s digitalization process has already begun, Alashqar noted “We have an entire program focused on digitalizing our diagnostics and data gathering from power gen and metering. We’ve invested heavily in the digital approach. But it’s still baby steps.”

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