Adapting to the automation revolution

OPERATORS’ need to enter more challenging terrain requires greater adaptation for industrial automation solutions, but end users shouldn’t beat themselves up too much over any reluctance to migrate to the latest technology, a major supplier says.
Adapting to the automation revolution Adapting to the automation revolution Adapting to the automation revolution Adapting to the automation revolution Adapting to the automation revolution


Anthony Barich

Technology research and advisory TechNavio’s analysts forecast increasing demand for automation control systems from the oil and gas industry to push the market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.87% from 2013-18 but warned it could be stunted by end users’ reluctance to migrate to the latest technology.

Ahead of the December 2-5 International Oil & Gas Industry Exhibition & Conference (OSEA 2014) in Singapore, ABB vice-president and marine and cranes technology manager Alf Kare Adnanes said automation was undergoing a shift from being loop-oriented to process and plant-oriented.

He said optimising loops were being extended to optimise the overall process and plant control systems, resulting in performance reporting requirements increasing.

Thus safety and availability becomes more important as operations move to more challenging environments and less accessible areas, which means automation systems need to be more advanced in terms of monitoring and predicting performance and technical conditions.

Remote connectivity towards shore-based operational centres with the operators and/or suppliers also gained more importance, he said.

“The rapid development in communication and IT, as well as the feasibility of integrating field operations with onshore operational centres, will see new solutions for integrating automation and information systems,” he said.

“This development has already begun and is expected to have significant growth potential.

“There is a vast opportunity in utilising modern automation in terms of optimising the performance of vessels, reducing fuel consumption and to have a much better monitoring of the performance as well as technical conditions of the plant.

“We see opportunities to be utilised first in the higher end segments where the daily values in charters and costs can justify the return of such investments.”

However, with all this happening, end users need to look beyond what they can get today to adapt to the rapid evolution.

Rather, companies need to look at the long-term strategy for the technology being selected when making a major investment in a new plant or upgrade.

Adnanes said end users’ reluctance to adapt was not necessarily unhealthy.

“One should always consider the benefits of upgrading the plant to the costs of upgrade and potential disturbances in the system,” he explained.

He said while it was impossible to always have the latest technology installed in all plants, considering how fast technology was moving, it was still possible to plan for the future by designing a system that had the ability to extend in structure and functionality without replacing all of it.

“There might be additional costs to a system that is designed for long-term operation and compatibility to future technologies but this allows for a much more continuous and gradual implementation of new technologies that will provide a steady improvement in the performance and efficiency of the plant,” he said.