Improving Project Performance with Dynamic Simulations and Operator Training Systems

Emerson's Ronnie Bains


Dynamic process simulations can be used across the lifecycle of a capital project from early verification studies of process designs to training the operators to prepare to operate the running facility. For offshore oil & gas production facilities these simulations are even more important given the remoteness, space limitations and transportation requirements for the project and operating teams.

In an Offshore Engineer article, Faster start-up, Emerson’s Ronnie Bains describes how the use of dynamic simulations improve the opportunities to bring the production platform online sooner.

Offshore Engineer: Faster start-upRonnie opens describing the scope of these simulators. They:

…comprise of an integrated control and safety system (ICSS) communicating with a model of the process facility, which is designed to reflect actual plant process dynamics and to provide realistic feedback for the ICSS.

Early in a project, during the design phase:

…the process model can be integrated with the control system configuration at various stages during the ICSS development. That allows it to be used as a tool to provide enhanced verification of the ICSS configuration, in addition to the traditional acceptance testing. This can include verifying alarm and trip settings, providing initial controller tuning values and enhanced verification of control logic.

Data from the simulations can be used to verify points of integration and virtual commissioning to identify and correct issues long before entering the start-up phase of the project.

It’s critical that operators develop competence of the process before start-up, given the hazardous environments found oil & gas production. An operator training solution (OTS):

…consists of a software-based representation of the dynamic and behavior of a process, residing on dedicated computer hardware and are usually integrated with a replica of the ICSS. OTS enables operations personnel to gain experience in an offline, non-intrusive environment, and expose them to what they will experience in their actual control room. Operators learn about control and safety system operating concepts, while gaining experience of their actual process in preparation to effectively handle incidents, process upsets, and the management of abnormal situations.

Ronnie cites an American Petroleum Institute (API) study where upskilling platform operators from average to advanced performance increased their financial performance impact by US$350,000 annually per operator. Safe operations are also improved as operators work through startup, shutdown and abnormal situation scenarios to gain experience and confidence.

Ronnie describes a BP FPSO [floating production storage and offloading] North Sea project that includes an OTS with dynamic simulation as part of the project [hyperlinks added]:

A high fidelity dynamic simulation was developed by Emerson to support a number of activities including engineering and training.

The OTS includes a virtualized DeltaV system that will control production, and a DeltaV SIS process safety system for process and emergency shutdowns. Personnel will learn both DeltaV operating concepts and the actual process, preparing operators to effectively handle abnormal situations and process upsets, as well as providing decision support.

Read the article for more about how dynamic simulations and the OTS are being used in this project to improve project performance and prepare the FPSO staff for ongoing operations.

You can also connect and interact with other project, simulation and training experts in the Plan & Design and Train & Develop groups in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.