How is the petrochemical industry affected by digitalization, and what do global and Russian enterprises need to do to remain competitive? These are the questions posed by Control Engineering Russia Magazine to Ahmed Wafi, Development Manager for the petrochemical business at Schneider Electric in the EMEA region.
What recent trends have you seen in the petrochemical industry?
Unique conditions have been created recently for the development of the petrochemical industry. The industry has received a solid profit: the annual growth rate of investment in the past 10 years has been, on average, about 4%. According to economic experts from IHS, this trend will continue in the coming years and it will be supported by current macroeconomic trends, urbanization, industrialization and digitalization. Currently, the development of petrochemical production is aimed at larger capacities, integration with oil refining and the use of digitalization as a new source of profit.
The recent global trend in this industry is the active introduction of digital solutions to increase the operational efficiency of enterprises. Companies that have embarked on the path of digitalization and innovation have increased revenue, energy efficiency and productivity. Their assets have reduced equipment downtime and improved financial performance. This can be achieved through the use of advanced analytics of technological processes, service and commercial indicators. I would also point out that the digitization of workflows affects not only efficiency, but also high security.
How do global trends adapt to the Russian industry?
Russian petrochemical manufacturers are seeking to bring advanced digital innovations to the local market – it is obvious that technologies are the key to high competitiveness in the global market. Russian companies have already developed digitalization strategies and have started to apply these trends, investing in pilot projects on digital transformation. Also, enterprises have already begun to implement programs for the modernization of existing industries. However, some of these initiatives are rather difficult to implement due to the lack of local specialists able to support the introduction of new technologies.
How successful is digitization in Russia?
Today, the Russian petrochemical industry is only taking its first steps in digitalization, but it has already achieved good results. I would single out several reasons for this success. First, companies in the petrochemical sector rely on investments in digital technology, as they understand the economic benefits of this decision. Secondly, in this industry, a lot of attention is paid to cybersecurity issues. Thirdly, the adaptation of new technologies in existing enterprises takes into account social aspects.
What requirements will the new economic paradigm impose on petrochemical enterprises?
The exponential growth of information flows in the petrochemical business – both at the factory and at the corporate level – has led to the emergence of problems related to data privacy and security, social transformation, regulation, and insufficient qualification of specialists. Therefore, petrochemical enterprises must first accelerate the implementation of digital strategies to maximize the value of the current profitability cycle. At the same time, they also need to use new technologies as a means of expanding the capabilities of their staff, and conduct training for employees at various levels in order to gain the required competencies.
What technologies did Schneider Electric implement in successful projects for petrochemical companies around the world?
World petrochemical enterprises use Schneider Electric’s control systems to operate the largest and most technically complex production facilities. Unplanned shutdowns of large factories entail serious financial losses, so a reliable management system plays a key role in ensuring the safe and profitable operation of the enterprise. Schneider Electric automation solutions have been deployed in more than 100 olefins plants and more than 140 polymer plants around the world.
One of our largest customers in the petrochemical industry segment is Reliance Jamnagar (India). In January of this year, Schneider Electric introduced a system solution for a waste gas cracking unit with a capacity of 1.5 million tons per year, as well as on some auxiliary installations. This project has become the third expansion of production since 1990, which allowed Reliance Jamnagar to double ethylene production. The Jamnagar refinery and petrochemical complex is also built on the basis of the world’s largest industrial control network with more than 300,000 I / O modules, which are managed by a single integrated Ecostruxure solution (Triconex SIS and Foxboro DCS). Our company has many other projects – for example, Schneider Electric systems contribute to the efficient operation of the main ethylene complex of the BASF concern in Ludwigshafen, Germany.
What solutions for the petrochemical industry does the Russian market need?
At the current stage of development in the Russian petrochemical industry, solutions are required that would ensure return on capital investments in new plants, increase the reliability of existing enterprises, and also contribute to the efficiency and optimization of current activities both at the plant and at the corporate level. At the production level, it is necessary to take measures to increase the reliability of assets, expand the capabilities of employees, and increase the efficiency of processes. And at the corporate level, it is necessary to combine the assets, people and technological processes of various plants, and aggregate data to optimize the value chain and make quick decisions.
What solutions does Schneider Electric offer to Russian customers?
Schneider Electric has been represented in Russia for more than 40 years, and during this time we have implemented hundreds of successful projects here. Today, the company offers comprehensive solutions to improve efficiency, combining energy management, automation and software. We have nearly half a century of experience working with major players in the petrochemical industry in more than 100 countries around the world, and we are happy to share our expertise with Russian enterprises in order to make their businesses more efficient, reliable, competitive and profitable.
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