Chemical producer increases productivity by modernising control and safety systems

Arkema, a major world player in the chemicals field, wanted to take a holistic approach to modernising the control and safety system of its Rotterdam plant to maximise its investment, both in the near term and into the future. Working with Invensys the company sought dramatic improvements in productivity and enhanced safety as well as increased operator capabilities and efficiency

Arkema Group is a major world player in the chemicals field with almost 14,000 employees and 80 industrial facilities throughout Europe, North America and Asia. Like most corporations, Arkema has developed strategic vectors to guide the many people and plants that comprise the company. One of these is ‘growth through innovation’. Perhaps no other part of the Arkema Group has embraced this strategy as enthusiastically and successfully as its operation in Rotterdam. The plant has continuously modernised its control and safety systems to significantly boost productivity, and has even won an award for its efforts.

Path to productivity

Arkema Rotterdam is a production facility for ultra-high-performance chemicals used in the food, perfume and other industries. It is also a logistical depot, storing and managing the flow of materials going in and out of Europe, running seven days a week, 24 hours a day with three operators per shift.

The main plant was operating with a Foxboro I/A Series Distributed Control System (DCS). In describing the DCS, first operator Valentino Mansueti says, “It’s a complete system. It works independently; it’s easy to use and easy to learn. It gives graphic design to the different sections of the plant. It’s logical, reliable, and makes our work easier.”

Arkema Group’s drive to meet ever-higher goals and standards, and its satisfaction with the DCS, led management to develop a plan for innovation based on the solution’s potential for the present as well as for the future. The objectives included maximising output, and also helping its operators and engineers to perform at their optimal levels with the greatest possible safety.

In tandem with the Foxboro I/A DCS is a Triconex Tricon controller that was installed on the gasified incinerator. Based on a triple- modular redundant (TMR) architecture, it provides high-integrity, uninterrupted process operation with no single point of failure. Plus, it supports better operator efficiency because setting up applications is simplified and users see all diagnostics in a single view.

Managing alarms

With the improved availability and reliability of the incinerator, Arkema Group next focused on its non-automated alarm system.

With an optimum number of operators on each shift, workers were pulled in many directions with numerous alarms that required response, but little direction as to which ones could be the most critical. Invensys helped by recommending an alarm management and rationalisation system that would sit on the DCS. This solution has not only reduced alarms, but also provides prioritised information and documentation, so operators can make informed and timely decisions about the safety systems throughout the plant.

Creating a wireless solution

As Arkema Group’s production volume surged, management soon faced a critical decision: either add personnel or find a way to increase the efficiency of its existing workforce. Like many companies, Arkema wished to find new ways to do more with current employees.

With the help of Invensys, it envisioned a modern wireless infrastructure, equipped with PDAs that would enable operators to be mobile and to reliably control the plant from any location. The wireless system would also be available to take over in the case of any disruption to the fiber optic connections.

Gary Williams, Invensys principal wireless consultant, was instrumental in developing the custom solution. He says: “The wireless infrastructure provides a multi-redundant mesh with average latency of about 120 milliseconds, similar to what you would find in an average cafeteria or airport. The most beneficial element is the redundancy, as it gives continuous, live communication between the mobile operator, the handheld device and the DCS.

“We can do what we want with the plant from the field. And if there really would be an emergency, we can even stop the plant with the PDA.”

Quantified results

The modernised system is generating measurable gains in productivity. Mike Spronkmans, manager, technical operations, says: “Before, our shift occupation is about 47 per cent. After we implemented the wireless solution, we went up to 75 per cent, this resulted in a 25 per cent increase in production.”

The icing on Arkema Group’s cake came in 2011, when the company won the Invensys Operations Management Open contest’s prestigious Control Excellence Award. Given each year to just one company, it signifies the investment, hard work and results that have been achieved in Rotterdam.

Invensys Operations Management

T: 01293 643351

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