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Wherefore Art Thou, Process Optimization?

Oil and gas players detail their use of Schneider Electric’s ROMeo Process Optimization to get real-time information to improve performance and profitability.

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The ability to get real-time economic and process conditions into the hands of operators is providing real benefits for refining, petrochemical and gas processing industries. The kind of decision-making capabilities provided by Schneider Electric’s ROMeo Process Optimization is enabling tangible results for users able to get better insight into operating parameters.

At the Innovation Summit: Software Conference 2017 in San Antonio, Texas, two users—from ExxonMobil and Reliance Industries—detailed use cases that showcased the challenges they face and the benefits that ROMeo provides.

At ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, engineers are using the ROMeo platform to monitor the removal of coke from a delayed coker. The delayed coker operates with a pair of drums, where material that cannot be converted into usable oils is gathered in the coke drums, one of which is filling while the other is emptied.

“Our focus of monitoring is more on the coke removal steps,” said Kenneth Teague, advanced engineering associate for ExxonMobil. “But if I can reduce the time it takes to remove coke from the drum, then I can increase the feed rate.”

There are several steps involved in coke removal—including stem purge, water quench, drain water out to leave a solid bed of coke, cut the coke out of the drum, and prepare the drum for feed. “All of these events take a certain amount of time. We want a way to optimize that time,” Teague said.

ExxonMobil is monitoring several event-specific variables, seeing a number of benefits throughout the sequence of events. Monitoring the maximum quench rate, for example, the refinery realized it was overfilling the drum during quench, Teague said. In another instance, steam is used to air free the drum; optimizing that step provides an opportunity to save energy.

ExxonMobil was one of the primary proponents of event detection capabilities on ROMeo, according to Teague, and is now reaping the rewards. “The coker tends to be a bottleneck and it’s a very high-volume unit,” he commented. “So even with a very small improvement, the benefits can get into six figures very easily.”

Information from applications drives action and continuous improvement, Teague noted. “One of the things I’ve grown to appreciate about monitoring is that the more you understand about the state of your process now, the more you have to contribute to future optimization of your process,” he said. “The refinery gets feedback and they can take immediate action on it.”

Reliance Industries, which owns and operates two of the largest and most complex refineries in the world, is using ROMeo in its gasification process. The gasification complex is tightly coupled with the refinery operation to meet fuel, steam and power requirements. ROMeo provides detailed models to capture these optimization opportunities, said Vinesh Raja, a chemical engineer for Reliance.

Although linear programming (LP) models are inherently easy to use, Reliance had faced some modeling challenges that ROMeo models helped resolve—focused on reliability, applicability, tuning, what-if studies, and results analysis and verification.

Providing good model fidelity, ROMeo had a robust model capable of running various turndown cases, Raja said. Detailed models capture optimization opportunities and constraints. The ROMeo model features simplified tuning, and does so with a user-friendly interface.

Raja listed several benefits of the overall scope:

  • Detailed modeling of gasification complex covering all process units.
  • Capability to tune models as per operational requirement and feed configuration.
  • Light on computing resources: Less than 5 minutes run time for optimization.

Reliance was able to improve value, margin and opex calculations, he said, and improve technical know-how geared toward load optimization, feed and energy distribution, and the optimization of operating parameters.

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