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Fri 26 Sep 2008 04:00 AM

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Data management

Effective data collection and analytics can reduce downtime and make your operation more efficient.

Getting product to market at the right time means avoiding unplanned shutdowns. Effective data collection and analytics can reduce downtime and make your operation more efficient.

Maintenance issues abound as oil refineries and petrochemical companies strive to increase output while guaranteeing safety, flow assurance and equipment reliability. Too often, issues aren't identified, and no action taken-until an actual failure occurs.

But unscheduled maintenance can be logistically difficult and extremely costly. Routine maintenance is necessary, but how often? And on what equipment?

The complete solution includes finding patterns in data and then forecasting into the future. - Peter Venn, SAS.

If you don't know, you risk performing unnecessary maintenance, which means higher costs.

"But it's a catch-22, situation," explains Peter Venn, business development director, Africa and Middle East, SAS. "Equipment that isn't properly maintained is prone to malfunction and breakdown, a huge safety risk and shutdown threat."

However, many companies remain unaware of how much valuable data they are already in possession of, and through better data management and improved workflows, such a nightmare scenario can and will be easily avoided.

"Capturing and packaging data in a transparent report allows for optimised, sustainable maintenance strategies, which in turn leads to improved performance and availability of assets and production equipment," explains Venn.

Part of what SAS offer is a service which can profile, cleanse, augment, and monitor data to create consistent, reliable information upon which critical management decisions can be made.

"We are the largest independent analytics company in the world, the rest have been swallowed up. This allows us more freedom to be innvative with our solutions and we can tailor them more specifically to client needs," beams Venn.

"SAS has innovative business applications supported by an enterprise intelligence platform, and, cutting through the jargon, what that means for our customers is that we enable them to improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster."

Bad data

Data quality is a critical factor for the success of enterprise intelligence initiatives. "Bad data on one system can easily and rapidly propagate to other systems. If information shared across the organization is contradictory, inconsistent or inaccurate, then interactions with customers, suppliers and others will be based on inaccurate information, resulting in higher costs, reduced credibility and lost business," explains Venn.

The data integration offering can transform and combine disparate data, remove inaccuracies, standardise on common values, parse values and cleanse dirty data to create consistent, reliable information.

Middle East focus

Venn's remit is to manage the five Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, and says there are common themes running throughout the region.

"There are two main focuses in this region. Firstly there's the classic business intelligence offering, such as bringing together financial reports. But what's really interesting is what we can do with data. I'd say we are the world's best at getting to data and bringing that data together and compliling to add value."The other main focus for the region is concerned with business and data analytics.

"This involves finding patterns in the data that you have and then forecasting into the future. We're capable of bringing together historian data, enterprise resource planning, financial data, and analytics from plant machinery into a complete solution."

"There are a lot of Greenfield operations and new developments going on in the region, so from a technology perspective the oil and petrochemical companies are saying that it's an ideal opportunity to try new things. Of course, the oil price and petrochemical demand is a big factor in that take-up of technology too. With oil over $100 a barrel producers can afford to invest, and the downstream players can't afford to be less than 100% efficient in their operations."

Bold vision

The systems and consultancy services on offer are also dealing with an issue right at the heart of the petrochemicals industry. Coping with the problems of an ageing, or now even retiring workforce has become one of the primary concerns of downstream managers region-wide.

"I have a vision where a group of petrochemical engineers could live somewhere remotely from the site, and from refineries around the world they could receive detailed e-mails about specific problems, such as a specific piece of rotary machinery, asking for assistance.

These guys could be semi-retired and paid on a per action basis, which keeps the overheads low for the petrochemical company, and extends the period of time those engineering skills stay within the industry"

Through platform integration this vision is becoming a viable reality. "They'll be able to offer the right advice remotely, and bringing this sort of idea to fruition really is part of what we're doing now."

Predicting failure

SAS solutions are billed as technology-agnostic. "This means whichever service provider customers may be using, whether it's Honeywell, Schlumberger or whoever, it's no problem. We can integrate all of those."

Another valuable service that business analytics services can offer is accurately predicting when something is going to fail.

"By capturing all of the available data we can tell you when it happened last, and how similar the factors that led up to that failure are. As an example, we could present a company with the information that on September 2nd 2007 something failed, and with a 96% similarity of the contributing factors in place today, that can be replaced or serviced and an unexpected or forced shutdown can be avoided."

Venn's message is all about integrating existing data to maximise efficiency.

"What we can offer is lifetime value to the organisation, which brings stability and revenue streams in the future. It's early days in the Middle East for us, but were taking a fresh approach within the upstream and downstream operations, and the response has been encouraging," concludes Venn.


Peter Venn


Business development director: Energy Africa and the Middle East, SAS Institute Inc.


Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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