Andy Howell, CEOThe biggest challenge facing the Energy and Chemical industry is to take their multi-million dollar fixed assets—which are high risk and extremely inflexible—and find new ways of generating revenue or reducing costs, without ever compromising safety or environmental compliance.
Achieving this feat requires plant operators to be on top of their game in terms of decision making in real-time. They need to mobilize the right combination of technology and talented people to rapidly analyze the current situation and assess the impact of changes in order to make effective financial and operational decisions. Simulation can help.
For several years now, simulation provider KBC (A Yokogawa Company) has been driving operational excellence with its customers. KBC provides a comprehensive simulation toolset covering process operations and their utilities in the Energy and Chemical industry. It is used to non-invasively enhance the operations of an industrial plant. “Through the right mix of rigorous simulation tools and technical expertise, we help a plant to reach its full potential and achieve strategic goals—sustainably and consistently,” states Andy Howell, CEO of KBC.
KBC‘s simulation tools cater to the holistic needs of these process industries across the whole asset lifecycle. The same consistent simulation model used to design the facility can become the Digital Twin of the operating plant, running in real-time to assure it is operating at its full potential, even in the face of changing demands and economics. It is even used as a dynamic simulator for training purposes; just the same way an aircraft pilot uses a flight simulator. Because the same model is used in all these cases, the cost of ownership is reduced and everybody uses the consistent information to come to the appropriate decision for their unique span of control.
KBC’s Digital Twin is unique in that it connects to the plant’s actual control systems, matching plant data with the rigorous, physics-based model in the simulator to track anomalies. “Rather than blindly following error-prone plant data, our Digital Twin reconciles the inputs based on physics and statistics to ensure that valid conclusions are drawn,” adds Howell. This approach provides a well-governed single version of past truth and approved forecasts that different teams throughout the organization can use for decision making. Managers can figure out the best economic path forward; engineers can use the simulator to optimally design modifications to the plant equipment or operation; maintenance departments can continuously monitor the physical condition of equipment and machinery.
KBC’s simulation software has been developed with the enterprise IT architecture in mind. KBC’s software has real-time data connectivity with industry standard data platforms. The engineering model within KBC’s simulators can automatically generate data models for other database systems and maintain synchronization between the two models to reduce maintenance and for consistency of analysis and reporting. This elevates simulation from being just an engineer’s desktop tool and instead makes the Digital Twin an integral part of the enterprise’s digitalization solution.
Through the right mix of rigorous simulation tools and technical expertise, we help a plant to reach its full potential and achieve strategic goals— sustainably and consistently
KBC’s simulation products make full use of the Cloud. Recently, KBC introduced its ‘Co-Pilot Program’. Co- Pilot is a cloud-based service where KBC subject matter experts anywhere in the world access the Digital Twin through a web browser to investigate problems and opportunities in real-time, collaborate with the plant personnel, feedback recommendations and guide execution to the desired outcome. Co-Pilot is already in operation with one of the world’s largest oil refineries.
In 2018, KBC is investing in artificial intelligence. AI goes hand-in-hand with simulation. For example, Machine Learning can be trained on the simulator rather than the live plant; cognitive AI can triage the many possible futures evaluated by the simulator and bring to the attention of experts only those few that it deems most worthy.
So KBC, which started about half a century ago, has come a long way. It was born out of the oil refining industry but has extended to upstream oil and gas, and into the chemical and power industry. From planning, scheduling and optimizing, to improving energy efficiency, KBC’s success journey has been exciting and impressive. KBC’s simulation tools are the most widely applicable process simulation and optimization software solutions in the market. The open platform architecture promotes exceptional levels of integration with third-party software packages and much of its underlying modeling technology is the industry’s de facto standard due to its accuracy and reliability and is often embedded in other companies’ simulators.
With the vast success of their simulation tool, the company’s capabilities moved beyond making purely technical improvements into more strategic consulting. “Rather than simply thinking of how to change the operating temperature of a reactor vessel, we strived to identify how we could build a culture centered on excellence in our clients’ organizations,” says Howell. KBC’s idea was to move away from standalone symptomatic corrections and lead their customers on a shared journey of continuous improvement. Simulation is at the heart of that since it shows where they came from and proves that the recommended changes are viable, profitable and sustainable.
All things considered, KBC is a powerhouse in the use of accurate, holistic, integrated simulation for design and operation in the asset-intensive Energy and Chemical industry. It has considered how simulation needs to be part of an enterprise’s digitalization strategy, is exploiting the new world of Cloud and has a plan for leveraging the emerging power of artificial intelligence and analytics.