By Chris Sell
Utilities and plant operators looking to save energy are looking to process automation to keep their costs down.
With major utility projects underway in the GCC, and increased
industrialisation and petrochemical projects scheduled in the coming years - from
Saudi Arabia’s Ma’aden complex,
to the massive Bourouge 3 ethane cracker in Abu Dhabi - the fundamental requirements of power
will be an increasingly pertinent issue for the region.
Process automation, which will lead to a more efficient use of
feedstock, represents a clear path to improve the efficacy of such plants. In essence,
process automation involves the use of computer technology and software engineering
to help power plants and factories operate more efficiently and safely. With countries
such as the United Arab Emirates
forecasting demand being placed on its utilities to continue to rise with consumption
set to more than double within the next five years, a more efficient approach will
In the absence of such automation, plant operators have to physically
monitor performance values and the quality of outputs to determine the best settings
on which to run the production equipment. Maintenance is carried out at set intervals.
In general, this approach is operationally inefficient and can engender unsafe operating
One recent example of process automation was a collaboration
between Doosan and Honeywell on Kuwait’s
Shuaiba South Rehabilitation Plant, which provides a clear illustration of the benefits
of such an approach.
The Shuaiba South Rehabilitation Plant in Kuwait is one of
the largest planned power and water plants under construction in the world today.
Doosan was contracted to assist in the start up and commissioning and collaborated
with Honeywell to investigate the equipment and challenges that Shuaiba would have
to face at plant start up.
The key issue was the existing control system in use at the power
plant but any changes would have to be improved prequalification by the Ministry
of Electricity and Water (MEW). Doosan was able to provide Shuaiba with an advanced
control system in Honeywell’s Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) that helped
meet their needs from both an operator and maintenance standpoint. It can reduce
maintenance costs by up to 30 percent, says the company.
Benefits included improved productivity and transformed process
control by unifying people with process variables, business requirements and team
support. according to Honeywell. Seamless migration and best practice solved any
issues as change over became complete. It also minimised labour costs related to
site commissioning and quick cutover, says the automation provider.
The Shuaiba South Rehabilitation project in Kuwait is one of
the largest power and water plants in the world, capable of producing 36 million
imperial gallons per day – enough to meet the daily water needs of 500,000 people.
The project is upgrading an obsolete MSF-type desalination plant to extend equipment
life by an additional 10 years and expand plant capacity by 20 percent. This is
the largest rehabilitation order for the entire Middle East
region. The project was a multi-stage flash (MSF) process project which is one of
the most commonly used desalination technologies along with reverse osmosis (RO)
and multi-effect desalination (MED).
“Honeywell was able to provide a complete site survey and reviewed
the control logic at the plant and provided recommendations on people, process and
technology,” said Byun Soon Sub, an engineer with Doosan, at the time. “One of the
reasons we selected Honeywell was the ease of migration from Shuaiba’s existing
outdated controller system in place. We needed the flexibility to integrate at our
own pace and help our customer,” he added.
“There is a stronger drive towards energy efficiency, towards
emission monitoring, which is a serious topic in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and
rest of region,” says Feroz Qureshi, solutions consultant at Honeywell.
“Energy efficiency is key, we now have more projects dedicated
towards energy efficiency in the region. We have done a lot already in terms of
optimising and maximising reliability and providing monitoring tools. The UAE does
have a large footprint but the potential for this technology is huge. The Middle
East wants to be on par with that of Europe. Its
about being most efficient. We don’t underestimate our customer base with regards
to energy efficiency and know they want to do the right thing.”
His colleague Al-Mansour
Belhadi, sales director in the Middle East for Honeywell singles out the petrochemicals
project Bourouge 3 as an example of the sort of project being lined up for the region.
These will require a significant amount of power, which would benefit from installing
intelligent control systems. “We also see a steady stream of projects coming online
where the power business is the key. There are a lot of such projects in the region.
Honeywell is taking this very seriously,” Belhadi says. The firm can supply process
experience, train operators and all applications relating to power business, he
In October, Honeywell announced the opening of an office in Baghdad, Iraq.
The office will supply technology such as process automation equipment to Iraq’s oil and gas
industry. The company announced it is also opening a new office in Saudi Arabia in
Qureshi adds that Honeywell is introducing a new control application,
which combines the balance of plant control and turbine control into a single application.
“We are the only ones to offer an integrated package,” he said. “Clients are keen
to take on the latest technology. Saudi Aramco for example is keen to understand
how to explore integration existing systems with the turbine indicator, instead
of using a third party indicator.”
Other firms are also implementing new process automation. In
October, ABB won an order from the Ministry of Electricity and Water in Kuwait for the construction
and rehabilitation of the Mina Abdullah water pumping plant.
The civil works will be carried out by the Ahmadiah Group, the
local consortium partner for the project. ABB’s project scope is worth
$148 million. The plant will pump about 1.5 million cubic metres of water per
day from two desalination plants, more than doubling the country’s fresh water supply.
This increase in capacity will support the needs of urban developments and metropolitan
areas planned for the area.
“The Mina Abdullah water plant is an integral part of Kuwait’s infrastructure
development efforts and will help serve the growing water needs of the region,”
said Peter Leupp, head of ABB’s Power Systems division, when the contract was announced.
“Our vast range of power and automation technologies combined with our domain expertise
and experience in the water sector will facilitate the smooth execution of this
ABB is responsible for the engineering, supply, installation,
commissioning and testing of the electromechanical package for the new pumping plant,
which is expected to be completed by 2013. Some of the key products that will be
supplied include the control and instrumentation system, motors, low and medium
voltage switchgear, transformers, telecommunications and fibre optic equipment as
well as the integration of 23 water facilities into a newly supplied national
The firm’s solutions for the water sector include integrated
and optimised instrumentation, control and electrical (ICE) systems as well as a
range of power and automation products that improve the energy efficiency, productivity
and reliability of water network, desalination and treatment plant assets.
In January, the firm also won an order to provide electrical
and automation equipment and related services for a new seamless-tube mill and pipe
production plant in Jubail,
Saudi Arabia. “Our
expertise in the metals industry and strong local presence in the region were key
factors in winning this important order. Our reliable and energy-efficient technologies,
along with our experience in project execution, will help the new plant to operate
effectively from the start,” said Veli Matti Reinkala, head of ABB’s Process Automation
Siemens is another firm heavily involved in promoting process
automation within the Middle East. “The UAE is
a fascinating market with lots of challenges,” says Dietmar Siersdorfer, CEO of
the energy sector cluster in the Middle East. “Also,
process automation is highly competitive and our partners expect to get value for
their investment. Key drivers for an investment are related to increased efficiency
and requirements for more power consumption. It is important to have a local technical
office, because the operating companies require fast support at a reasonable price,”
It is worth noting, says Sierdorfer, that process automation
not only steers and controls the entire production process of a power plant. The
plant is a producer of electric power but a consumer as well, necessitating a dual
“Firstly you need to optimise single components of the power
plant with regards to its energy needs and secondly you need to optimise the entire
production process, in particular the furnace and steam side, with regard to maximum
fuel efficiency. One example of this is the replacement of existing drive systems
by electronically controlled drive systems using frequency converters,” he says.
“Optimisation of the entire production process through automation
only allows you to get out the maximum of the existing assets, without touching
the major hardware like turbines or generators. It is an integrated approach of
combining a lot of control measures of fine-tuning on all different process steps
using a highly sophisticated thermodynamic process model. This requires deep knowledge
of power plants and their production process as well as a leading-edge control system
to ensure stable and safe operation over the lifetime of the plant. Siemens achieved
efficiency increases of up to half a percent for an existing combined-cycle power
plant with this approach,” says Siersdorfer.