Autopro Blog

Autopro School of Technology - Panel Discussion Summary

May 23, 2017


The panel discussion at our recent Autopro School of Technology in Calgary yielded some very insightful questions from the audience. This is a summary of the questions, and the answers provided by the panel members.

Our panel consisted of Dwayne Gara, Senior Instrumentation and Controls Specialist with Husky, Trent Johannesson, Senior Instrument and Automation Specialist with Keyera, Tom Grusendorf, Control Systems Specialist with Autopro, and Gerald Friesen, Operations Manager and Senior Project Manager with Autopro. Gerald was also the keynote presenter.


What driving factors were used justify your migration project to senior management in order to get budget approval? At the end of the day, what key factors led your organization to decide to go ahead with the migration?

Most of our migrations are on a rotating cycle that follows our turnaround schedules.  Every four or five years we do a complete migration of the software and hardware.  We are working to develop a one, three and five year plan to keep our local staff thinking about the future of the system and facility. The major justification point tends to be keeping the system current enough to maintain service contracts and support.

Do you recommend online or offline migration?  How do you decide?

The choice between online and offline migration depends on a number of factors.  Do you have ways to work around de-energizing final control elements while your process is running (e.g. bypass valves, redundant equipment, mechanical overrides, etc.).  What is the tolerance for potential unplanned trips due to loose wires and incorrect tagging?  How much interaction is there between control loops (e.g. one transmitter feeding multiple control strategies).  Nearly any point can be migrated online, but may require much more time and effort than offline migration.  This needs to be balanced against the cost of downtime for offline migration.  In most projects it ends up being a combination of some online migration and some offline migration.  It’s a good idea to at least try out and get some experience on the new control system by migrating a few points to it prior to an outage.

What factors do you use to make the business case for a modernization?

Making the case for a modernization relies on alignment with your business objectives; you need to consider what’s important to your business in terms of safety, environmental issues, risk, obsolescence etc. The fact that the system is obsolete usually isn’t sufficient, however if it breaks down with no mitigation plan in place, that increases the risk. In some situations, the case can be made to modernize in order to meet current corporate standards for risk, which may not have existed when the system was initially installed.

Does Autopro intend to add electrical protection relay and load shedding design to their service offering?

We currently have staff that have done and are currently doing this work.  Our staff have experience completing upgrades from electromechanical relays to full electronic metering and protection control at main substations within multiple facilities such as major petrochemical plants.  Please feel free to contact Brent Senio with your inquiries.

What metrics can you use to show improved performance of the system after a modernization project?

The key to showing measurable improvement is ensuring you have metrics on your current system prior to undertaking the modernization project. Statistics on number of maintenance tickets, number of component failures, uptime, system load and alarm management can all form part of these metrics. This will be the baseline you work from, and is what you should measure against at the conclusion of the swingover to demonstrate performance improvement. As the key metrics will help drive system design, they should be identified very early in the process. This needs to be a joint effort between the automation engineer and the end user, as both need to agree on feasible KPIs.

When you execute a modernization project – who provides the required field services (e.g. electrical and instrumentation techs).  Autopro?  End user? Others?

Autopro provides construction management and construction engineering support. The hands-on work is typically done by a third party electrical construction contractor assigned by the end user, and Autopro works with whoever is assigned. We are also able to recommend and / or engage contractors if needed. As well, depending who we’re working with, we can provide either an abbreviated or detailed construction work package as appropriate, depending how familiar they are with the plant.

How have you convinced customers to migrate their graphics toward standards focused on increasing operator effectiveness?  How were they received?

The HMI is for Operations, they use it every day, all day, so educating them and then getting their buy-in is key. The example was given of a situation where Operations were shown two screens, one was a full color “old school” screen and the other was an ASM (abnormal situation management) screen. Operators were asked how many alarms were on each screen, and the results clearly demonstrated that the ASM screen was far more effective in allowing operators to quickly identify alarms. The key is to get Operations engaged early, keep them engaged throughout the entire process, and provide them with options through a staged approach. This is best accomplished by having a single, dedicated representative involved throughout the entire process, and his / her job is to then get buy-in from the rest of the Operations group.

Do you have other questions about Control System Modernization? Feel free to contact us for assistance.