6 min read

How do we increase efficiency with integrated operations centres?

By Ivan Rott on 19/10/22 11:45

For modern industry, digitalization is about ensuring effectiveness and efficiency of operations by collecting quality data available from the plant and organization, turning the data into insights, and insight into actions. The recent "industry 4.0" and "IIoT" trends has made a lot of data available. So now we have to make sure this data is properly utilized in the design and operational decision-making processes to ensure commercial and competitive advantage.


The Integrated Operations Centers (IOCs) enables and promotes a strategy for more forward-looking operations. We can see an increased number of more centralized collaborative environments, which are set up with inter-disciplinary resources who use enhanced data integration, visualization, analysis and new technologies. Some companies uses other terms such as SMART room, operation centers or digital operations support centers. One example is the ADNOC impressive Panorama Digital Command Center.

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Support activities for plant operation are already well established. Remote technologies have been used for common operational tasks for a long time. These tasks include: plant equipment diagnostics, process monitoring, maintenance planning, and historical event/alarm analysis. The future plans include more operations being carried out remotely, reducing the need for exposing people to high risk situations. Remotely controlled and even autonomously operated plants are being planned.


The Future of IOC

Current digitalization trends drive more focus, new users, and more applications into the IOC environment. It is important that the centers keep applying better digital technologies, as this enables working smarter, safer, and more efficiently. This may also support collaboration with suppliers and partners and improve how knowledge is shared across the internal and external organization.

As a result we can expect that the IOC expansion will change the work dynamics between the remote work environment and the operational setup on-site. The tasks for a modern IOC environment includes advanced optimization of production, collaborative work tools, more predictive maintenance planning/execution activities, and other smart manufacturing tools facilitating safer and more efficient, sustainable production.


The purpose and benefits of the IOC 

We should expect a range of different setups, solutions and technologies being adapted among the different companies establishing an IOC environment. The IOC will in most cases serve as a back-office support center while the control room always are the "hands" for operating the plant. Hence role of the control room is to instantly deal with production issues while IOC mainly deals with long-term optimization and are supporting all stakeholders.


The IOC could be set up with a wide variety of task with adapted tools and technologies handled by different experts and teams. Among them can be: Reservoir, Drilling and Wells, Rotation Equipment, Logistics, Meetering, Emissions and Power consumptions, Process Optimization, Maintenance, RCA and event analysis, Emergency Teams and Stand-By services, and more.


There is no doubt that all these experts and teams will provide information, experiences and improved data-analytics on how to tune equipment and processes, calculate power consumptions and emissions, understand the wells and reservoir behaviours, etc, which will help with the production efficiency. Therefore, it is important that all the data and resources are planned, integrated and "operationalized" so they will ensure better and safer operations. This also implies that for support to the "live-operation", the control room operators will need to know which situations they should call for support, to whom and when, as well as when personnel from IOC proactively contacts the control room. The control room will need the correct support at the right time.


It is important to be aware that smart applications and expert resources may not always work seamlessly together without adding new complexity and risks. For unmanned assets, we have to make sure that we have captured all possible equipment- and process-failures and implemented the automated means to deal with them.


The Control room Operator's needs

For the control room operators (whether on-site at a manned installation or at a remote control room), the information needed for decision-making could have increased during the past few years. The IOC acts as a decision support system and bring end-to-end operational visibility across facilities, for safe and effective operations. More monitoring, calculations, and forward-looking information will help the control room operators with better operations, however it also adds complexity to the plant operations.


Recent research discusses the topics of situational awareness vs. advanced situational awareness and concludes that building an ergonomically "correct" working environment for all our collaboration between IOC and control room operation is not enough. Advanced situational awareness explains the need for control room operators to quickly understand where the problem comes from (root-cause) and for them to have enough time to react and correct the situation to avoid any shutdown or incident. This is especially important to consider when there are more systems and information flowing to the operational decision process. In a complex system it is hard to determine all boundaries precisely and judge where the system starts and ends because of many interconnected agents and extended interactions. Any component that can control a few components, can affect the whole system. Therefore implementation of an automated system without considering human cognition is a significant risk.


To achieve necessary advanced situational awareness based on enhanced human vigilance and sensitivity in the control room, we need tools that can be integrated and provide insight of additional automated processes and calculations to enable the operators to become the best they can be.

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Topics: Digitalization Situational awareness Sharing human knowledge
3 min read

Do we really put safety first?

By Bernt Eldor on 15/09/21 09:06

Everyday life puts all of us in situations where we must make decisions, some of them concerning safety. Think about the last time you overtook another car. What kind of safety margins do need to decide to step on the gas?

Topics: Situational awareness Root causes
3 min read

Planning and introducing modifications with control room operators

By Bernt Eldor on 04/05/21 09:03

Imagine that your car changed behavior overnight so that the next morning when driving to work you notice that the location of the brake pedal has changed. Would you feel confused and unconfident? It is easy to understand the importance of introducing modification to the control room and changes to the process in a planned and controlled manner, when considering the car scenario. All operational personnel should be kept updated about coming changes. The most important personnel with respect to these kinds of changes are the control room operators.

Topics: Situational awareness Sharing human knowledge
3 min read

Is it possible to learn from others as control room operators?

By Bernt Eldor on 23/03/21 10:18

Being a control room operator is very much experience based, so how can they learn how to maintain safe operation?

Topics: Situational awareness Sharing human knowledge
6 min read

What is the problem with alarms in the control room?

By Bernt Eldor on 19/01/21 08:53

The role of a control room operator is to monitor and take control if and when the automation and safety systems fail to provide safe and efficient production. This role remains the same even with increased level of autonomy and more remote control.  

Topics: Situational awareness Alarm management
3 min read

Artificial intelligence for safer and optimized production

By Bernt Eldor on 19/05/20 09:02

The history of Artificial Intelligence goes all the way back to the classical antiquity where the idea of intelligent robots (such as Talos) and artificial beings, such as Galatea and Pandora, were a part of Greek Mythology (McCorduck, P., 2004). Talos was a giant automatic machine circling the shores and protecting Europe from pirates and invaders.

Topics: Situational awareness Artificial Intelligence Production optimization
3 min read

How to improve situational awareness by using data analytics

By Bjarne André Asheim on 21/04/20 08:54

The term data analytics refers to different ways of analysing raw data, using both qualitative and quantitative techniques and processes, to make conclusions about the information. In a control room, the goal is to improve the situational awareness for faster and more targeted decisions. Big data is extremely large data sets that may be analysed by computers to reveal patterns and trends.


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Topics: Digitalization Situational awareness
3 min read

The impact of human error on process safety and performance

By Ian Hamilton and Claus Myllerup on 01/04/20 09:09

Industrial accidents occur in most sectors where humans are exposed to heights, speed, or heavy powerful machinery. While each accident is tragic, the consequences are often limited to the casualties and their relatives.

Topics: Situational awareness Control Room Efficiency
3 min read

What is the value of real-time decision-making?

By Bernt Eldor on 24/03/20 09:54

The value of real-time decision-making in an oil & gas production process or at a petrochemical plant is closely related to situational awareness. In this setting, real-time is defined as time-critical decisions within seconds based on live real-time data. The control room operator normally operates in a time frame of seconds to minutes, but not all decisions are equally time critical. The reason we specify our understanding of real-time is to make a distinction to real-time that is also used for systems working on real-time data, but offline non-time critical. These kinds of applications are often used more as back-office support for operation and maintenance.

Topics: Digitalization Situational awareness Real-time