Jul 24

MDIS Selects OPC UA as Protocol Standard for MCS/DCS Communications

Integration of topsides automation systems with subsea control systems is a pain point for many users in the offshore oil and gas business.  With more production assets being deployed to the sea floor, seamless integration between subsea and topsides is becoming even more important.  MDIS is one organization that is dedicated to optimizing communications between Master Control Systems (MCS) in subsea and topsides Distributed Control Systems (DCS).  A “joint industry network” consisting of end users and vendors of MCS and DCS solutions, MDIS is striving to provide standardization and simplification of MCS/DCS communications.   Recently, MDIS chose OPC UA as the standard interface technology for MCS and DCS.  According to the OPC web site:

MDIS has selected OPC UA as the protocol standard for MCS and DCS, and is currently developing the architecture and objects that will be mapped into the OPC UA Information model. As with the SLC collaboration above, the Foundation’s engagement with MDIS exposes OPC technology into other organizations with similarly complex information models, resulting in opportunities for expansion into new markets.

The goal of MDIS is not just to simplify integration, but to reduce project costs and improve reliability and to provide better information to operators.   We look forward to covering ongoing progress of this initiative and how it will manifest itself in supplier solutions and in practice at owner/operator sites.

Link to MDIS Charter

OPC Foundation

mdis_logo_100px OPC logo

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Jul 23

US is now the World’s Largest Oil Producer

The US has overtaken Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil and natural gas liquids producer, according to this recent report in Processing magazine.  Based on results from a report published by Bank of America and highlighted in Bloomberg, the US is expected to remain the largest oil producer throughout the end of the year.  The main reason for the rise of US oil production is oil from shale, which contributed to output exceed 11 million barrels per day in the first quarter.  According to the IEA, U.S. oil output is expected to surge to over 13 million barrels a day in 2019, after which it will plateau.  

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Jun 25

Forbes: Looks Like GE will Acquire Alstom After All

According to this article in Forbes today, the GE acquisition of Alstom’s gas and steam turbines businesses is going to move forward in a new proposal that has been accepted by both the French government and the Alstom board.  This new proposal is a little different in that it does not include all of Alstom’s power and grid businesses, but it was really the turbine businesses that GE wanted anyway.  GE is attracted  to the extremely profitable turbine business, which will also provide them with an increased footprint in Europe.

 GE Set to Expand Its Power Business with Alstom Acquisition

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Jun 23

Jason Urso Presents New Technology Advancements at 2014 HUG

Honeywell Process Solutions chief technology officer Jason Urso provided HUG 2014 attendees with a very comprehensive view of the new technology offerings from Honeywell.  While the presentation is not yet available, you can view much of the same content in his presentation from the EMEA HUG meeting which was held in the fourth quarter of 2013.  There were a lot of new product introduction at the 2014 North American HUG this week, from new Experion consoles, graphics, universal I/O to new field instrumentation, migration solutions, and more.

New Experion HMI and Operator Consoles

The real standout to me was the new Experion operator consoles and graphics.  Anyone who is used to the old style Honeywell workstations and graphics with the black backgrounds is really in for a surprise as these new graphics incorporate best practices gained from Honeywell’s experience in the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium.  The operator display incorporates a performance dashboard that allows the operator to keep the plant in the optimal profitable operating state, shows key performance metrics with speedometer style indicators, and incorporates touchscreen technology.

The new Experion operator consoles are a complete redesign of the old stuff.  The old four panel workstations have been replaced by new control room furniture with desktops that can raise and lower along with advanced lighting for alarms and more screen real estate.  The latest Orion release also includes touchscreen displays and a new generation of mobile operator workstations.

Honeywell Universal I/O and Cabinets

Honeywell’s Universal I/O is software programmable for Analog Input and Output or Digital Input and Output.  Universal I/O is 32 channels per module, which is twice the density of standard analog. This also allows Honeywell to reduce the quantity of individual spares and greatly reduce the overall installed quantity of I/O.  The software programmable nature of Universal I/O for both process control and safety also eliminates the need for custom cabinets, and Honeywell has standardized on a single cabinet model for Universal I/O projects, which also greatly reduced project costs.

The Push to Upstream and Midstream Oil and Gas

Honeywell made its reputation in downstream processes, but the company has a strong position in upstream and midstream oil and gas that it has been developing for many years.  Honeywell covers the entire oil and gas supply chain from shale gas and other onshore operations to LNG, gas to liquids, terminal automation, pipeline SCADA, oil sands, offshore platforms, FPSOs, and more.  Much of the work that Honeywell has done to create its Lean Execution of Automation Projects comes from the demands of the upstream and midstream oil and gas industry.

Alliance with FMC

In May of 2013, Honeywell announced the integration and certification of the FMC722 subsea automation protocol with the Experion C300 controller as a native interface. The FMC722 subsea automation interface provides integration of the FMC protocol on the controller, enabling seamless peer-to-peer communication between topside and subsea control assets. This solution gives operators access to thousands of process parameters without the need for any intermediate hardware or protocol conversions, leading to fast response, reduced downtime and greater ease of maintenance.  FMC protocols are built directly into C300 controllers, direct subsea integration, compressors and anti surge control, instead of separate governor and surge controllers, the C300 controllers do it. You can see and maintain the whole system remotely. Customers are physically taking their control systems off the rig and moving to remote operations centers (Wintershall).

Honeywell Leverages UOP Ownership

Honeywell now owns 100 percent of technology licensor and engineering firm UOP.  In addition, UOP is now part of the Performance Materials and Technologies business within Honeywell, along with Honeywell Process Solutions.  Many common functions within both HPS and UOP are being integrated, including those in the refining and gas processing and handling businesses.  UOP’s position as a technology licensor provides some real opportunities for HPS to leverage the process expertise of UOP with the automation and solutions capabilities of HPS.  UOP also owns several chemical plants of its own, which can provide valuable end user input to HPS.

New RTU and SCADA Capabilities

The new 2020 RTU from Honeywell featured prominently in the Knowledge Center demonstration area at HUG.  The 2020 RTU is Honeywell’s own design and features power consumption that is 60-70 percent less than other RTUs and a much smaller footprint.  Foundation Fieldbus and HART connectivity are built in. The new RTU also features application specific configuration templates.

Field Device Advancements

Mr. Urso also discussed the release of new Honeywell SmartLine temperature transmitters, which improve overall plant and employee efficiency even in harsh and noisy process environments. This new product line is part of Honeywell’s SmartLine field instrument product family.  To reduce lifecycle costs, the transmitter features a built-in dual-input and digital output option to minimize the number of instruments needed for both monitoring and switching needs. Along with its unique modularity, SmartLine reduces complexity along the entire lifecycle, from avoiding initial purchasing costs to reducing maintenance and inventory expenses by eliminating spare parts requirements and simplifying module replacements and upgrades.

Employee efficiency features include wiring polarity insensitivity and local configuration capabilities. Unlike most other transmitters, SmartLine transmitters cannot be damaged by reversed loop wiring polarity and will function correctly if reverse connected. This protection significantly helps during a plant startup, when time can be wasted locating and repairing incorrectly wired devices. In addition, an advanced display and local configuration provides capabilities for field operators to configure the device in the field, solve problems, and avoid errors with no need for a handheld device.

Honeywell acquired German flowmeter supplier RMG in 2009, and in March of 2014 RMG released a new ultrasonic flowmeter.  The The USM GT400 Ultrasonic Flowmeter provides stability during flow perturbations thanks to its direct-path technology with six measuring paths on three levels. The paths are arrayed in an “X” pattern in horizontal planes. This orientation enables measurement of swirl, cross-flow and asymmetry, as well as transparent path velocity weighting per the Gauss-Chebyshev profile model for compressible fluids.





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Jun 05

HUG 2014 Reveals a new Honeywell

The last time I attended a Honeywell User Group meeting was back in 2011 and it was clear that the Honeywell represented at the 2014 HUG is a different company with some very interesting new offerings in some critical areas of process automation that are desperately in need of change. Over 1300 attendees were present at the 39th HUG this year, which represents a 25 percent increase over last year’s number. It’s also the first year that Honeywell has moved HUG out of its longtime host venue in Phoenix and moved it to the JW Marriott Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas.  Everyone seemed pleased with the new location and hopefully this marks the beginning of a trend for Honeywell, although we already heard that next year’s event is booked in Phoenix once again.

New Honeywell Process Solutions president Vimal Kapur kicked off the opening general session of HUG with a very good description of some of the key business challenges facing end users today and how Honeywell plans on addressing those issues through new products, applications, and service offerings.  Mr. Kapur is a 25 year Honeywell veteran and his appointment coincides with a Honeywell reorganization and a promotion for his (still) boss Darius Adamczyk, who was recently named head of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technology division (PMT).  In fact, Honeywell Process Solutions is now part of the PMT business, along with well-known technology licensor UOP and Honeywell advanced materials.

It was quite notable that Mr. Kapur singled out the upstream and midstream oil and gas industry as key industry drivers moving forward.  Honeywell has long been known as a strong company in the refining and downstream sector, but it seems clear from Mr. Kapur’s presentation that the upstream sector will be a key strategic target for HPS for the foreseeable future.  While Honeywell is certainly not walking away from its considerable presence in the downstream industries, Mr. Kapur noted that oil and gas accounts for 44 percent of US capex spending (US $290 billion), and many new Honeywell offerings are clearly targeted at the upstream and midstream sectors, including the new Honeywell RTU2020, fire and gas detection systems, and software solutions for integrated oilfield operations management, wellhead optimization, and more.

Mr. Kapur also explained Honeywell’s new approach to project engineering called Lean Execution of Automation Projects (LEAP).  Driven by the end user demand to reduce project cycle times and get automation off the critical path, LEAP combines three key elements from Honeywell — cloud computing (in this case cloud engineering), virtualization, and “universal technology”, which in this case means Honeywell’s new universal configurable I/O and standard control cabinets.  The new Experion Universal I/O is now programmable, so you can configure the I/O to be AI, AO, DI, or DO.  That means you can add the physical I/O to the project much later in the game, and it also eliminates the need for custom cabinets.  Honeywell now has one universal cabinet!  All of this adds up to shaving some significant time off automation projects.  Engineers can work concurrently on a project in the engineering cloud and design a system that can be created virtually, then loaded into the physical system infrastructure right before deployment.

This is not a new thing for Honeywell.  The company is already executing over 200 projects with this LEAP methodology with many more in the pipeline.  We will be reporting on more of the developments from HUG, including Jason Urso’s presentation on the new Experion operator graphics and ergonomically designed control room furniture, advancements in alarm management procedural automation, SCADA, and oilfield operations management software, and much more.

New Experion HMI Graphics

New Experion HMI Graphics


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Jun 02

We are at Honeywell Users Group This Week in San Antonio

Mark Sen Gupta and I are attending the 2014 Honeywell Users Group Americas meeting at the JW Marriott Resort in San Antonio.  You can view the event web site here.  We will be tweeting and blogging from HUG (@HWUsers and #HUG14).  I am hoping to learn more about Honeywell’s solutions for the upstream and midstream oil and gas industry. Also hoping for some more details on the Experion PKS Orion release!  Here is a nice YouTube video I found of Honeywell solutions for the oil and gas industry as well.  The interesting thing about this video is that it highlights the process technology capabilities of Honeywell company UOP, which I feel is a key strength for Honeywell and provides some real opportunities for the company to leverage its process control and optimization technologies with the processes licensed by UOP.  It also showcases Honeywell’s increasing focus on floating production and storage operations (FPSOs) and floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) applications.  We will keep you posted as the meeting progresses.

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May 27

Jeff Immelt on GE Oil and Gas Strategy and the “Power of One Percent”

Some of us at ARC had the chance to see the Jeff Immelt luncheon presentation at the OTC show in Houston.  As CEO of GE, Immelt is a great presenter and we were surprised to hear just how important the oil and gas industry is to GE in the long term.  From a global perspective, Immelt is still quite bullish on China and sees very good growth in Latin America and Africa for the near future.  Immelt cited that one of the reasons GE went into the oil and gas industry is because it is hard. The supply chain is fragmented, there is a lot of inflation in terms of project costs, and the “technical intensity” of the industry is only going to grow, and rules and regulations for the upstream and midstream sector are evolving.

Immelt sees the transition to natural gas as one of the three primary transitions for industry over next several years, along with the focus on advanced manufacturing, and industrial internet of things. Immelt stated that he dislikes buzzwords and he view IIoT as one of these buzzwords.  Immelt really feels that IIoT can best be described as the marriage between analytics and industrial equipment.  Immelt sees multiple disciplines converging, from coatings to process and 3d printing, the physical and digital worlds are uniting and are providing an ever increasing flow of real time continuous data. Analytics can be applied to this data to create small changes that can have a huge impact on the overall operations of a business, which GE calls “The Power of One Percent“.  For example, even a one percent reduction in downtime across an entire enterprise can mean hundreds of millions of dollars worth of productivity.

According to Immelt, the GDP impact of gas is over US $500 billion, with investments ranging from extraction to compression and transportation.  At the same time, Immelt notes that the average cost of unplanned downtime for an LNG facility is about US $150 million a year.  Immelt cited the Predix platform from GE as one of the primary tools that will be used in the oil and gas industry to eliminate downtime.  GE is already working with Shell at the Pernis LNG project and Queensland Curtis LNG on use of the Predix platform to eliminate unscheduled downtime.

It’s encouraging to see that GE is making the oil and gas industry a priority, and even more encouraging to know that the growth in the oil and gas industry was predicted by GE several years ago and the current strategy for the company is built on years of planning.  Immelt actually called out the measurement and controls business at GE as one of the key businesses that will be needed over the next decade to serve the oil and gas industry.   ARC believes that we are already witnessing more convergence between the automation businesses within GE and the equipment and service businesses for oil and gas.  GE is already a leading supplier of subsea equipment and controls.  The company’s new Proficy historian is designed to be mounted closer to the process on industrial equipment and is more of an information appliance than a traditional historian.  I think we are going to see more and more surprises from GE in the future.

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May 22

Siemens Reorganization, the Shale Revolution, and More

Some commentary on the recent Siemens reorganization from David Humphrey, our director of research in Europe:

Siemens AG recently announced a major reorganization of nearly all of its businesses. This is the first re-org and management shake-up since Joe Kaeser took the helm of the industrial conglomerate last year. Most of the changes will occur in Siemens Energy business. These changes tell us a lot about how the company sees its future as well as what mistakes it has made.

The biggest change is the immediate departure of Energy CEO Michael Süss. Well versed in the business of selling turnkey power plants, Süss is said to have focused too much of his attention on conventional power and missed the boat in other areas such as the lucrative shale gas business in North America.

Equally interesting is the recruiting of Lisa Davis as Süss’ replacement. Siemens rarely promotes from the outside, especially to board-level positions (the obvious exception was when Siemens brought in outsider Peter Löscher in 2007 after a corruption scandal). Davis, who has spent of all her career with Big Oil, may be just the right person to lurch Siemens back onto a course to confront its archival General Electric, whose financial performance has increasingly become Siemens’ benchmark in recent years. If Davis’ appointment to the top job wasn’t enough, the fact that she will lead the organization from its new headquarters in the US should be a strong message to analysts and rivals alike.

Reorganizations are a time of reflection not just for top management, but also for all stakeholders from employees to business partners. There is indeed a lot at stake in this new orientation for Siemens’ energy business and its success will depend on the company’s ability to execute on new turf with new personnel and in an area in which it has little experience. Diversifying beyond the traditional all-German, all-male management may be the strongest indication that Siemens is now ready to become the bold new company that some of its competitors have been for a generation.


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May 15

GE Introduces new “Data Collection Appliance” for IIoT

GE quietly introduced a very interesting new product at OTC last week, which is essentially a version of Proficy Historian that can be connected close to the field level in a ruggedized form, making a “data collection appliance” for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  ARC has long been a big advocate of driving data collection and historian functions closer to the process to provide a “single version of the truth” for process operations.  If the age of the Industrial Internet of Things means a world of connected  appliances sharing data, we are going to need a whole new set of appliances to do this that created specifically for process applications.  This is one of these new generation of products that ARC believes will proliferate in the age of connected machines.  From the press release:

An integrated data collection and analytics appliance, Proficy Historian IPC delivers quick time-to-value for collecting real-time production and process information by simplifying purchase and installation. The high-performance IPC platform enables numerous data collection tags on a rugged form factor small enough to install with machine controls in harsh environments. Proficy Historian’s patented compression algorithms enable greater volumes of data to be stored on the IPC’s hard drive than competitive data historians, without sacrificing the data’s integrity.

GE played a big role at the OTC conference and we will be reporting on other GE events we attended, including a press conference for the oil and gas business unit and the Jeff Immelt luncheon, where Mr. Immelt announced that the oil and gas industry is one of three key focal points for the company over the next decade.

Press Release: GE Provides Integrated Data Collection and Analytics Appliance for the Industrial Internet that Turns Raw Data into Actionable Information

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May 15

Bloomberg: Cost Uncertainty for Canadian LNG Projects Stalls Spending

Bloomberg recently issued a release from its Canada Economic Summit that talks about the reticence to move ahead with projects in the burgeoning Canadian LNG industry.  The industry is looking for more certainty when it comes to long term costs, and the fact that British Columbia is trying to erase its debts through taxes and fees to resource based industries is compounding the problem as oil and gas end users look at ever soaring project costs.  More taxes could mean stalled projects and reduced spending and a resulting economic slowdown.  At the same time, wages in the remote areas where a lot of this gas is going to be produced and transported are pretty high.  It’s getting harder to find the right people and those people come at a cost.

From the article:

“We’re trying to get to a point of some level of high degree of certainty,” Kist, president of the Pacific Northwest LNG consortium, said Tuesday at the Bloomberg Canada Economic Summit. “Foreign capital’s concerned about wage inflation, the tax environment and about our ability to actually deliver in a timely fashion on environmental assessments.”

Energy companies are competing to build gas shipping terminals on coasts around the world to meet rising demand for the fuel. Global LNG demand by 2030 is expected to almost double 2012 consumption of about 250 million metric tons, as Asian economies expand and shift from coal and nuclear generation, according to an assessment last year by Ernst & Young.

Rising project costs was another theme that was echoed at last week’s OTC conference in Houston.

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