Predicting process performance through an online platform

Digitalisation has potential benefits across the oil and gas value chain. The InFocus™ Online Platform allows ExxonMobil Catalyst and Licensing LLC’s (EMCL) customers to improve day-to-day performance with advanced analytical tools and near real-time access to EMCL expertise.

Karen Ratcliff
ExxonMobil Catalyst and Licensing

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Article Summary

The need for digitalisation at manufacturing sites
According to PriceWaterhouseCooper’s 22nd Annual Global CEO survey, 79% of industrial CEOs were concerned about their company’s digital capability before Covid-191. Tools to enable efficient and remote digital ways of working can benefit companies through the current pandemic crisis and be seen as increasingly important in the future, notes L.E.K. Consultants2. D. Micklem3 observes that digitalisation “enables a process operation to extend its problem-solving ecosphere beyond the plant: to engage the support, brainpower and technologies of the plant’s key partners, customers and suppliers, each of which can bring specific expertise and experience to augment the plant’s own capabilities and resources.” The InFocus Online Platform provides an opportunity for bringing such enhanced support to EMCL’s customers.

New tool transforms unit monitoring
The InFocus Online Platform is designed to help EMCL’s customers optimise plant performance, increase operational efficiency and minimise production interruptions. The cloud-based platform, housed on dedicated Amazon Web Services servers, allows closer collaboration with EMCL technical experts through shared access to viewing a unit’s performance, giving customers secure, near real-time data to help them make faster, more informed decisions and potentially take their operations to the next level.

The platform supplements EMCL’s traditional monitoring service for customers’ refining and chemical manufacturing units that use licensed EMCL process technology and catalysts. The new online platform can automatically process data, which enables more meaningful analysis and improves collaboration.

The table below reflects the offline and online monitoring capabilities.
The InFocus Online Platform includes two technology-enabled tools.

Predictive tool delivers value for lube makers
The first tool included in the InFocus Online Platform is a predictive tool for lubricant production that allows users to quickly test the impact of feedstock and operational changes. This lube optimisation model is able to predict process performance and product yields and qualities based on key operating variables such as average reactor temperature, pressure and separation efficiency.

The online lube optimisation model allows the user to evaluate the impact of changes in base stock viscosity which could improve the economics of the unit. It also allows a refiner to understand the impact of changing feedstock qualities on the finished basestock properties to make operational decisions accordingly. The tool therefore enables the lubricant producer to make feedstock purchases and operational decisions to help improve unit profitability.

Monitoring tool boosts process unit performance
The second tool included in the InFocus Online Platform is a process monitoring tool that draws on EMCL’s decades of technical and operational experience to offer timely technical insights on processing unit operations that can identify potential concerns earlier than using non-digital monitoring, for faster resolution.

The unit monitoring module includes a common data view that helps to enhance collaboration between the operator and EMCL experts. The Unit Monitoring Tool can provide alerts when unit operations are outside specified parameters, enabling early detection of process issues and timely technical insights to help improve process performance. It can help avoid reduction in catalyst cycle length through early detection of catalyst deactivation and enabling easier troubleshooting by EMCL technical experts. The tool includes a collaboration feature which facilitates knowledge transfer and institutionalises process knowledge. This module provides a new tool to the industry for process optimisation in collaboration with technology experts to help enhance personnel efficiencies and unit profitability.

The illustrations opposite provide two potential views of operations via the Unit Monitoring Tool.

Covid-19 Case Study:
‘Remote start-up support’ helps InFocus Online Platform Customers maintain business continuity
Online platform provides Customers with enhanced technical support and collaboration during a time of operational restrictions.

Without interruption and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, EMCL experts continued to collaborate with certain customers by means of the InFocus Online Platform to enhance ongoing plant operations. Due to the pandemic, EMCL personnel were not able to attend on-site planned catalyst change-outs and subsequent plant start-ups to help customers ensure that everything went according to plan and instantaneous adjustments were made.

As travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines were implemented around the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many hydrocarbon processing plants were, and are, running at reduced rates and facing delayed catalyst change-outs. Other plants have needed to execute maintenance as planned, including change-outs of EMCL proprietary catalysts.  To help customers overcome some of the challenges COVID-19 presents and maintain or increase operational safety, EMCL was able to provide continued support to certain customers by leveraging the existing InFocus Online Platform for remote plant operations start-up support.

For example, in lieu of providing in person, on-site start-up assistance due to travel restrictions, EMCL used the InFocus Unit Monitoring Tool for online remote monitoring with application program interface (API) data transfer which allowed EMCL technical support engineers to see start-up conditions at a customer’s unit in near real-time. While monitoring the process conditions via the InFocus Online Platform, EMCL personnel saw the refiner was approaching unfavourable operating conditions and was able to alert the customer to intervene, bringing clarity to the minimum pressurisation temperature (MPT) requirements for the reactor vessel.

EMCL experts have been able to support multiple customers with unit start-ups during this time of travel restrictions and social-distancing restrictions. By leveraging the InFocus Online Platform to collaborate with EMCL experts, certain customers were able to safely complete the start-up their facility as planned, and to make quick adjustments to optimise operations, thereby avoiding catalyst degradation and additional costs.

InFocus Online Platform enhances customer operability
In addition to leveraging the InFocus Online Platform for remote start-up support, the tools included in the suite enable customers to evaluate operational impacts on their lubricant production and quality and to optimise production in normal and abnormal operating modes. The access to EMCL experts and a shared view of operations drives closer collaboration and more efficient troubleshooting.
Watch the video to learn how the InFocus online platform can help advance your business.

ExxonMobil Catalysts and Licensing (EMCL)
ExxonMobil Catalysts and Technology Licensing offers its customers a portfolio of high-performing catalysts and advanced process technologies backed by a legacy of continuous innovation and a commitment to maintaining strong customer relationships. Offering decades of operational expertise helps to ensure that our customers have access to the industry’s best solutions: the same world-class innovations and technologies we use in our own facilities. Our role as an owner operator uniquely positions us as experts in this area. From planning and installation to plant start-up and beyond, we continue to offer our services and know-how to customers well after implementation. Whether it’s for producing paraxylene, lubricants, fuels or other products, ExxonMobil is a partner you can trust to help advance your business. ExxonMobil operates in three core businesses:

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