The future is always on time. Will your plant be?

Posted: June 29, 2021

Sometimes the future seems far off, a dream of flying cars and robot butlers.

Today is NOT one of those times. Change is all around us.

In a single week, Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron received clear messages to change faster (one from a court and two from investors). Total decided to change its name (Welcome, TotalEnergies!). The Oil & Gas supermajors get the headlines, but the Chemicals and Power industries are further out ahead. They are racing to break the historical link between growth and resource consumption by embracing circularity, the hydrogen economy, and the electrification of everything.

For Owner Operators in the Energy, Chemicals, and Power industries, it’s never been clearer that the future comes fast. Greenfield plants will be built. Brownfield plants will be upgraded. Every plant will need to be integrated into data-centric, enterprise-wide systems. And it all must happen at a speed these industries have never before moved. Major capital expenditure (CAPEX) projects are notoriously over schedule and over budget. According to CII, the average capital project today is delivered 20 months late and 80% over budget. If we want to build the sustainable, digital, connected plants of the future, how do we ensure they arrive on-time, on-budget and ready to meet the demands of a dynamic market?

Young plants, engineered to maturity

We can’t engineer plants the way they've been engineered in the past. There simply isn’t enough time. In a recent AVEVA panel discussion on sustainability in the Chemicals industry, Dr. Christian Redepenning of Covestro explained that “new processes that are based on alternative feedstock (for sustainability) have to compete with processes that we have been optimizing (regarding energy or resource efficiency) for about 70 years.” Whether greenfield or brownfield, new CAPEX projects must reach maturity – that is, reliability, sustainability, and profitability – in much less time.

The way forward is engineering efficiency. Simulation applied at the earliest stages of concept development builds a behavioral Digital Twin that can reveal inefficiencies and optimize processes at every step in the design phase. The Digital Twin can then grow with the project to include all 1D, 2D, and 3D data in a single hub. It becomes a powerful tool to break down silos and increase collaboration between teams for agility and flexibility.

A changing relationship to your EPCs

On any significant CAPEX project, those flexible, agile teams often include multiple Engineering, Procurement, Construction contractors (EPCs). The Owner Operator/EPC relationship is likely to change as Owner Operators seek transparency and collaboration throughout the project. While the needs of Owner Operators inevitably drive the relationship, for new approaches to work, EPCs have to recognize them as a positive evolution. Read our companion blog on the EPC perspective Transitioning to data-centric engineering systems on the cloud creates a secure shared space where innovative business models can flourish.

The opportunity ahead

The changes needed to engineer the plant of the future are significant. The opportunity is enormous. The plants of the future will start-up on time, reach nameplate capacity quickly, and continue onto optimal operations – all with peak transparency and efficiency throughout the entire capital project. AVEVA’s research and customer experience show savings as high as 15% of the total installed cost of the project.

For an Owner Operator, that’s just the beginning. The Digital Twin lives on past the engineering phase so that plants of the future are ready for the next future, whenever that may come. The last year and a half has demonstrated how quickly we can all change when stasis is not an option. We will need to keep that mindset to meet the future on time.

The solutions needed to engineer the plant of the future are available today. To learn more about our vision and how to get started, explore our whitepaper, webinars, and other resources on Engineering the Plant of the Future.

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