The Industrial Internet could help refineries and petrochemical plants run more efficiently, safely and economically.
In recent years, the term "Industrial Internet" has entered the lexicons of myriad businesses. The downstream oil and gas industry is no exception to this trend. The development of the Industrial Internet, which relies on the collection of larger and more robust sets of operational data also known as "Big Data," could help refineries and petrochemical plants run more efficiently, safely and economically.
Alan Hinchman, infrastructure global market director with General Electric's Intelligent Platforms business, recently gave DownstreamToday an overview of the Industrial Internet and its implications for refiners, petrochemical manufacturers and others in the downstream. A transcript of the conversation follows.
DownstreamToday: What is the Industrial Internet, and how does it differ from the "regular" Internet?
Alan Hinchman: The Industrial Internet combines and maximizes the capabilities of intelligent machines, advanced analytics and people at work. It refers to complex machinery communicating automatically with networked sensors and relaying the information to plant operators to enhance operational efficiency, maximize assets and reduce downtime. Using big data and real-time predictive analytics allows infrastructure-heavy industries to become much more efficient and allows operators to make more informed decisions regarding their assets.
The Industrial Internet can put extensive real-time plant data on a single computer monitor. Source: GE Intelligent Platforms.
DownstreamToday: How does the Industrial Internet function?
Hinchman: The Industrial Internet functions via a series of networked sensors, controls and software that connect all the equipment within an operation. The sensors monitor all aspects of a machine's functionality and "learn" what normal activity is, alerting operators when the data moves out of a specified comfort zone. All data is aggregated and viewed from a monitoring interface, so operators or data scientists can analyze a complete snapshot of asset activity or inactivity. Problems are detected much faster and can save substantial amounts of money for an operation by avoiding downtime and scheduling maintenance at a convenient time avoiding an emergency shutdown.
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DownstreamToday: What are some applications of the Industrial Internet in the downstream oil and gas industry?
DownstreamToday: How can the Industrial Internet influence cost control and efficiency at refineries, petrochemical plants and in other downstream oil and gas settings?
Hinchman: When oil and gas machinery goes down, it can be overwhelmingly expensive to fix. The cost of downtime can have a huge impact on a bottom line. Since the technologies of the Industrial Internet give advanced warning when a piece of equipment needs maintenance or will fail, operators can plan on when to shut down operations, fix the equipment, or replace parts.
DownstreamToday: What are some of the key trends in the deployment of the Industrial Internet downstream?
DownstreamToday: On a human level, what impact is the Industrial Internet having on how downstream oil and gas personnel do their jobs?
Hinchman: The emergence of the Industrial Internet has given downstream personnel much more detailed information to work with when managing their infrastructure. Personnel can spend much more time analyzing data and responding to problems ahead of time and much less time responding to emergencies and unplanned downtime.
DownstreamToday: Looking ahead 5 to 10 years, what might be different about the downstream oil and gas industry as a result of the Industrial Internet?
Hinchman: Unprecedented operational information from the rise of Industrial Big Data powered by the Industrial Internet is about gathering much more data than we have ever been able to accumulate— from multiple sources, over longer periods of time—and doing it much more quickly. Comparing and correlating years of diverse historical data to real-time data allows for a myriad of new analysis possibilities, allowing operators to rapidly detect trends and patterns never before possible to better understand how equipment and processes are running versus how they should be running and to help businesses make even better and quicker decisions to improve operational performance. To accomplish this, GE built an Industrial Big Data Historian built on Apache™ Hadoop. Hadoop is a technology specifically designed to handle large data sets by clustering large numbers of low-cost commodity computers together to act as one, in the "cloud." This makes it possible to analyze much more data, to store it economically and to get answers in a much more expedited fashion. A historian built on Hadoop can compare data across time and across the enterprise, and it can scale both horizontally for any data volume and variety, and vertically for any velocity.
Matthew V. Veazey has written about the upstream and downstream O&G sectors for more than a decade. Email Matthew at email@example.com. Twitter: @The_Mattalyst
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