The Right Decisions in Abnormal Situations

May 13, 2020   Written by Sanjay Bhargava, Principal Consultant

Do you have an accurate representation of your plant to drive the right decisions in your organization at this critical time?

Over my 20 years at KBC I have found that most FCC process model representations don’t even exist and where they do exist, they are based on some calibration with one data point from years ago. There is no validation of calibration to real data on an ongoing basis with good, clean data – basically it is not even coming close to being a digital twin.

There are many reasons for this status quo including inexperience, new engineers and general inertia to use models. However, the latest technology advances are seamlessly integrating existing tools - your Petro-SIM® process simulation, accurate reactor models, data historian and monitoring packages - making it easier and more accessible to build, use and benefit from digital twins. Data connectivity also enables the twin to be always up-to-date as it can be maintained by experts, eliminating your learning curve and getting you to value sustainment quicker.

Having an up-to-date digital twin of the full refinery is a perfect tool for handling abnormal situations such as the one with COVID-19. In this case, refineries have needed to adapt to over-supply and lower demand simultaneously creating the perfect storm for refiners. Some of the things refineries have had to consider are lowering crude throughput, shutting entire trains down, shutting specific units, change operating strategies and re-adjusting their blend ratios. Specifically, refineries in the US are addressing negative gasoline cracks by adjusting FCC operations or purely selling VGO if they can find a buyer that has alternate use for this feedstock or has storage capacity to sell VGO in the future or process it in their refineries later.

Accurate FCC representation in a refinery-wide digital twin can be the difference in making the optimal decision around the FCC and how the products from the FCC can be optimized to yield accurate netbacks. This alone can amount to a difference in profitability by millions of dollars. The key differentiator in times of abnormal situations is having an accurate digital twin to make the right decisions.