Industry view: Planning for the future

By Tom Shannon, Head of EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) for Rockwell Automation Oil & Gas in EMEA

An intelligently designed and implemented strategy for upgrading safety systems on ageing assets can deliver significant cost savings and increase productivity.

Oil and gas operators demand stringent safety standards in order to protect personnel, the environment and production assets while maintaining uptime and minimal operational disruption.

Balancing these critical requirements often comes to a head when a critical safety or control system needs to be upgraded.

ARC, the leading technology research and advisory firm for energy, manufacturing, and infrastructure industries, estimates that there is $25£16billion worth of control and safety automation systems in the world today that have been installed for more than 25 years.

Tom Shannon

As these systems age and become outdated and obsolete, they not only increase safety risks, but can also cause lost production time due to unnecessary trips or shutdowns.

Contrary to popular belief, installing an upgraded safety or control system does not necessarily require a lengthy shutdown of the facility. With careful planning and detailed, thorough engineering, a safety system can be upgraded with minimal disruption to facility operations.

The first step in a system migration is to establish a clear understanding of the existing design and functionality during the Front End Engineering and Design (Feed).

In order to establish a documented baseline, a Gap Analysis is required to compare a desktop review with a full and comprehensive site survey, in order for any ‘As-Built’ issues to be addressed and defined.

The deliverable of the Feed project is also to define any additional project requirements (modifications, new legislation, process optimisation, performance criteria, etc). This may take a considerable amount of effort, depending on the status of the existing information but is essential to ensure the functionality and physical installations are correctly documented and the design is traceable.

Once the Feed is completed, the upgrade project can then move to detailed design. In the North Sea, a phased system migration is commonly preferred to ensure maximum production uptime during the transition.  

Given the current oil price situation it may not be possible to get funding for new upgrade projects. Therefore, a phased migration can be more attractive as replacing specific obsolete component parts is a more cost-effective option.

Within the Rockwell Automation EPC department we define, design and execute phased ‘Live’ migrations which allows for the asset to remain in production for the duration of the migration while the individual inputs and outputs are transferred from the old to the new system.

This type of complex system migration becomes viable by completing the following scopes, (a) Constructing a Project Execution Plan, which will address and mitigate the risks involved, (b) Liaise with operations for a realistic plan and schedule of phases, (c) Extensively pre-test the system in a controlled environment prior to deployment and (d) Use experienced and trained personnel relevant to the specific tasks.

In short, preparation, preparation, preparation!

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