Overcoming the COVID-19 crisis in petrochemicals - Part 1

Posted: May 21, 2021

The global petrochemical outlook is still unclear, as the COVID-19 crisis extends longer than expected. The recovery in the petrochemical sector will vary in each region according to how the pandemic affected the macroeconomic factors. The projects to increase capacity have been delayed or put on hold. We don´t know for sure if the sector will face an overcapacity when demand is finally reestablished into a new normal. What we do know is that every organization needs to handle uncertainty and be able to extract the most value of its assets. This is valid for now, when most plants are operating below the desired utilization, and will still be valid later when the pandemic is over.

As the market dynamics and plant operations become more complex, petrochemical companies need to increase the level of the business Digital Maturity. This is a journey where you need to ensure value is realized at every step of the way. For your business to reach higher benefits through Digital Transformation, the first steps should be taken on the operations level. By digitalizing and optimizing operations, you create a digital foundation to drive intelligence and value up to the business level.

Watch the on-demand webinar to learn how BASF has been optimizing their ethylene plants with AVEVA Process Optimization.

The first steps for Value Chain Optimization

Let´s use ethylene plants as an example. Advanced Process Control (APC) is a well-known technology in this industry. A standard cracking furnace will likely have APC to address the interactions among multiple variables and keep operations stable and within defined operating constraints. But to expand benefits beyond that, you must consider optimizing the operational targets. Furnace yield optimization can provide significant benefits, and it´s an excellent option to start. Real-Time Optimization (RTO) is applied connected to the advanced control and set optimal targets for the ratio between steam to hydrocarbons and COT (coil outlet temperature), or the severity (conversion rate) while managing furnace APC variables and physical constraints. The expected benefits of online optimization are 0.5% increase in capacity utilization, 0.2% in raw material usage, and 0.5% reduction in plant energy usage.

To reach the maximum return, you need to continue the journey and build the digital foundation through your operations. You must include all aspects of the value chain (planning, scheduling, operations, and optimization) to break down silos, unlock hidden values, and reach the highest level of profitability.

Read the Part 2 of this story to learn more.


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