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№ 4 (April 2006)

Romania’s Rompetrol Automates to Optimize Performance

In today’s high technology world, it is unusual to find a refinery and chemical complex that is processing up to one million tons of crude with only four PC’s on site.

By Silvian Potlogea

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In today’s high technology world, it is unusual to find a refinery and chemical complex that is processing up to one million tons of crude with only four PC’s on site.  But this is how the Rompetrol Rafinare refinery and chemical complex (formerly Petromidia), located on the Black Sea in Navodari, Constanta, Romania was operating just six years ago. Since then the management team has revitalised the plant, transforming the company into an industry leader in southeast Europe.
This remarkable turnaround was achieved by changing the way the plant operated and embracing modern technology. "We could not compete on the world stage if we continued to operate our plants as autonomous units using outdated controls such as panel boards, single-loop controllers, pen-chart recorders and rack-mount equipment," said Nicolcioiu Alexandru, Board Chairman. "After the Rompetrol Group took control of the refinery/petrochemical complex in January 2001, we initiated a project to automate and centralize all controls as attempting to improve output, quality, and efficiency. Without automation this would have been impossible."  
Rather than automate piecemeal, Rompetrol decided to bypass intervening technologies and install an integrated modern automation platform across the entire refinery and chemical plant, as a single project — with all basic controls completed by the end of 2005. Setting a standard for the future, the plant vowed to apply only the most advanced processes, control devices, automation, information technology and software available worldwide. Continuing this desire to adopt the latest technology equipment, the site has recently finished installing the world’s most sophisticated safety instrumented system (SIS) on two plants.
The improvements on site are significant and reflect the decisions that have been made. Five years ago the site processed 1 mln t of crude per year; towards the end of 2005 this had increased to over 3 mln t. This is expected to rise to 4 mln by 2007 and 5 mln by 2008. These increases in production are all being achieved while operating costs are being reduced. In 2000, operational expenses per ton of crude were $45 to $50.  Today, they are between $18 and $20 per ton.
"I believe we had 10 days of unscheduled refinery shutdowns per year in 2000 due to control equipment failures alone," Alexandru continued. "In recent years we’ve had none. With a daily product turn of about $7 mln, that means we’re not losing $70 mln a year in production."
Rompetrol Petrochemicals, whose main product is polypropylene, benefited as well. "Before automating, we typically experienced three or four unscheduled shutdowns per month, at a monthly cost as high as $500,000," Alexandru reported. "We haven’t had any since. Process stability has boosted output by 10 percent and reduced costs by 3 percent."
Overall, Rompetrol Rafinare reports a more reliable and safer facility, a drastic reduction in operational errors, improved capacity utilization, higher output, yield and quality, less waste to remanufacture, better compliance with industry standards, and fewer employees. In terms of processes, the company sees greater stability, less downtime, less wear on process equipment, faster response times, tighter quality control, fewer instrument failures, longer instrument life, and wide availability of accurate and detailed data.
Key to the changes that have been brought about has been the relationship that Rompetrol has developed with its automation supplier, Emerson Process Management. "In my opinion, the only way for a major controls upgrade project such as ours to succeed was to establish a partnership with a leading manufacturer of automation products and create with that manufacturer, a long term strategy for implementation," said Alexandru. "This provided us with knowledge as to where automation technology is headed and what techniques may be practical, and enabled Emerson to gain more intimate knowledge of our plans and advance ideas drawn from its wide knowledge of control solutions. It’s synergistic.  Both pull together in the same direction." 
This strategy was endorsed by Cornel Cirligeanu, director of Rominserv’s Constanta Branch, the exclusive services provider to the refinery. Cirligeanu also noted additional benefits, "The partnership between Rompetrol and Emerson is a good idea because it allows us access to the most modern technologies in automation, it also allows us access to the most reliable automation equipment, field and control, and gives us the possibility to reduce our maintenance costs."
Acting as the main instrumentation vendor (MIV), Emerson has applied the proven PlantWeb(r) digital plant architecture strategy to build an automation solution that uses the power of predictive intelligence to improve plant performance. Supplied technologies include DeltaV(tm) digital automation systems; Rosemount(r) pressure, temperature, analytical and flow measurement solutions; Fisher(r) control valves and digital valve controllers; and Micro Motion(r) coriolis mass flow meters and flow measurement skids. In addition to supplying product, Emerson also performed — with assistance from refinery personnel — the engineering, configuration, testing, commissioning, and start-up for new projects.
As part of its desire to embrace modern technology, Rompetrol has just installed one of the most technologically advanced safety integrated systems (SIS) on the market.  Emerson’s Smart SIS is the first to provide an integrated approach to complete safety loops – from sensor to logic solver to final control element. It also uses digital intelligence and diagnostics to enable more automated safety loop testing and other features that increase system availability while reducing life-cycle costs and easing regulatory compliance.
The Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 3 system is used to protect gas-fired burners on the atmospheric distillation/vacuum distillation (AD/VD) heaters on the refinery, and on the polypropylene and pyrolysis units in the site’s petrochemical plant. Configuration, start-up, and post-start-up activities were conducted by a team of refinery and Emerson engineers.  
"Looking at the AD/VD project in particular, the safety system consists of three identical subsystems, one for each heater," said Christian Pariza, the automation/systems engineer. "Each heater subsystem is housed in a dedicated cabinet containing 18 non-redundant logic solvers, some 270 I/O points, redundant power supplies, and redundant communications with the plant network." He continued, "A great advantage of the Emerson SIS is its integration into the plant’s existing DeltaV hardware, software, and global database. No additional operator, application, or engineering workstations were required. What’s more, the safety system’s operating style is the same, it uses the same configuration and diagnostic tools, and display screens are similar."
DeltaV SIS is the world’s first smart safety-instrumented system. Its design reflects the fact that more than 85 percent of safety faults occur in field instruments or final control elements. The logic solver communicates with intelligent devices via the HART protocol to diagnose faults before they cause spurious trips. In other words, the system applies predictive intelligence to increase SIS availability.
The new technology takes into account SIS standards that insist upon separation of control and safety functions to eliminate failures that might affect both layers of protection, while answering end-users’ desire for integrated configuration, maintenance, and operation. DeltaV SIS is unique — its dedicated hardware, software, and networks integrate seamlessly with DeltaV workstations. DeltaV SIS’s function blocks have been certified for SIL 3, and they include all common safety functions. Risky, hard-to-verify ladder logic and cause-and-effect matrix translations into code are unnecessary. 
One of the major hurdles the company had to overcome was that back in 2000 only four PCs were in use at the site.  Most operators had never used a computer and had to be taught how to operate a keyboard and how to manipulate a mouse. Despite this the systems implementation was performed easily "largely because," according to Alexandru, "The operator interface is very friendly and our operators managed to adapt very fast to the new control and automation system."
As a result of the new automation the company is now overflowing with information, information that was either not available before, or was manually recorded and stored in many locations across the site. A challenge now is to find ways to use the available data to bring the most benefits. 
Alexandru, together with his technical director, has just set up a group that will work on pushing vital data to users rather than requiring them to ask for it. It has been recognised that it is not enough to channel raw data; it must be formatted to serve particular needs with instructions on how to apply it. For example, the plant manager will be given data correlated with customer orders and requirements generated by the commercial department. This will help him respond better to the market. 
The availability of information is something that has also been recognized by Georgescu Gheorghe, the chief engineer in charge of production, as being a benefit. "I can get a view of process equipment status and can see if equipment is operating close to its operational limits, by looking at electrical currents, flow rates, and other parameters. The technology also allows us to easily set alarms," continued Gheorghe, "which increases my confidence in running the plant at the limit without causing upsets, shutdowns, or damage."
A few years ago, quality on the refinery was at East European levels; diesel fuel sulphur content was 0.2 percent.  Today, diesel is at 10 ppm and meets the Euro 4 or Euro 5 standard. Petrol is also of higher quality; most is rated Euro 3 or Euro 4 and is exported.
"To improve quality, we had invested heavily in catalysts, reactors, and other equipment," said Gheorge Oprea the refinery’s chief engineer. "Additionally, we had to automate to achieve strict control so we could run closer to maximum output while still holding tolerances. The investments have resulted in operating costs falling significantly because units run continuously with little variation."
Oprea quoted as an example the atmospheric distillation/vacuum distillation, where variability was reduced through more advanced closed-loop control. Spikes were flattened allowing downstream units to operate in a more stable manner. Rompetrol has fully embraced the predictive diagnostics enabled by the use of PlantWeb architecture. The AMS (Asset Management Solutions) Suite software is being extensively used for field device configuration, re-ranging, diagnosing, and comparing performance over time and also for planning repairs and replacements.
In addition, the predictive maintenance department uses Emerson’s CSI Machinery Health(tm) analyzers to evaluate the condition of rotating machinery on the plant. The data is fed into AMS(tm) Suite – Machinery Health Manager software, for analysis. "A perfect example of the benefits of these measurements was the early detection of cracking in a pump rotor safety bolt," said Paduraru Dumitru, predictive maintenance engineer. "Had it broken, the process unit would have shut down. I developed quite a reputation as a result." Dumitru similarly works with a lubricating oil analyzer and AMS Suite, to check for signs of oil degradation to better determine oil change intervals and equipment repairs.
Rompetrol is an excellent example of how embracing the latest technology can bring enormous benefits.  The company is justifiably proud of its achievements and is now able to compete on the world stage, something that was only a vision six years ago.
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