Refining Facility Digitizes and Eases Plant Operations

April 5, 2016
Facing difficulties with past DCS and PLC systems, Jaxon Energy’s re-refining unit in Mississippi took advantage of WinCC OA capabilities to facilitate commissioning and operations.

WinCC Open Architecture (OA) is a SCADA software system that is flexible enough to handle highly complex applications with high I/O counts. Though the stripping unit at Jaxon Energy is relatively small, with fewer than 1,000 I/Os, it was in desperate need of a more flexible control infrastructure, and found what it needed through the Siemens platform.

Jaxon Energy designs, builds and operates oil and gas facilities, including hydrotreaters, re-refineries and distillation systems, producing various lubricants, fuel products, and other finished products. The stripping unit, situated on the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Miss., is used to re-refine lubricants and pretreat raw material for use in other processing facilities, explained Alex Marcy, president of Corso Systems, who told Jaxon’s story at this year’s Siemens Oil & Gas Innovations Conference in Houston. “It’s small, but important,” Marcy said of the facility.

When Jaxon was first getting started, it bought distributed control systems (DCSs) for some of its facilities, but was soon faced with the high cost involved, Marcy said. “And it tied them to the few integrators in the country that were capable of working with them.” So the company moved to PLC-based systems for a couple of its other facilities, but found itself dealing with different types of problems.

They had ongoing issues with mobile access, PLC hardware and networking, Marcy said, and the response too often from vendors was that they would just have to buy the upgraded models. “They really needed a solution that better met their evolving needs,” he said, including better mobile access, the possibility of autonomous facility operation, and email notification implementation for alarms/events.

The solution that Corso Systems put together for Jaxon’s stripping unit consists of WinCC OA, including the operator interface/HMI, alarms, mobile/remote access and email notifications; Siemens S7-1200 PLC with <1,000 I/O; and Siemens industrial PC.

Templatizing as much as possible, Corso designed the HMI to mimic the previous DCS that the operators were used to, but “without all the software and hardware issues,” Marcy said. “We were able to make it look exactly like what they had before, but without all the headaches.”

First launched in Europe, WinCC OA was introduced to the U.S. market about five years ago—pretty good timing for Corso Systems, a Chicago-based system integrator founded in 2011, which recently became one of only a handful of certified WinCC OA Solution Providers in the U.S.

Marcy raved about the ease and capabilities of WinCC OA development. It reduced the time to develop the system by 60 percent over previous PLC-based facilities, he said, even including the time it took to develop templates from scratch. Pointing to the HMI screen shown above, he added, “It was probably quicker to configure this screen than it was to install some of the other software we have to deal with, and then you’d still have to configure it. This is really simple.”

They did off-site factory acceptance test (FAT) with PLCs to verify functionality, and on-site configuration was accomplished using the admin HMI screens. The PLC logic was also templatized as much as possible to match WinCC OA objects. PLC commissioning was pretty standard, Marcy said, with loop checks, logic testing and interlock verification.

“One awesome thing that I found was that the S7-1200’s autotune functionality reduced the amount of time to tune control loops by up to 80 percent,” he added. “I’ve struggled lots of times with autotune before, but Siemens just worked and it was awesome. It saved a lot of late nights.”

Mobile access and remote support is done through an off-site VPN connection. The mobile access uses the WinCC OA Ultralight Client with HTML5, allowing Jaxon Energy to operate the plant remotely. Further plant digitalization integrates WinCC OA data into existing business operations such as product reconciliation and shipping and receiving systems.

KAASM—a Siemens software distributor in Seattle that provides training, technical support and architecture design services for WinCC OA and other products—provided the on-demand support for Jaxon Energy during commissioning. “The Siemens support infrastructure was far and above better than what we’ve seen with other vendors, and we’ve worked with all of them,” Marcy added.

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