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Maire Tecnimont Group introduces its platform for digital transformation in the industrial sector

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Maire Tecnimont Group is a leader in the natural resources processing industry with a global track record in plant engineering, mainly in downstream oil and gas, petrochemicals, and fertilizers, with approximately 1500 projects completed. The Group carries out its operations across four continents, through a network of 45 companies, thanks to the skills and competences of more than 9000 workers committed to driving sustainable innovation.

The Group’s technological roots go back to the pioneers of the hydrocarbon chemical engineering industry. Nowadays, besides managing the ‘conventional business’, Maire Tecnimont is actively working to provide solutions for the energy transition and green chemistry to meet its clients’ expectations of decarbonisation.

The Group is a technology-driven player working to convert natural resources into energy, using innovative and sustainable materials thanks to its positioning at the crossroads between the energy and the manufacturing industries.

In a challenging market scenario, the Group’s goal is to provide its clients with a revolutionary approach to digital transformation, combining the DNA of an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor in the IT industry with a business-driven approach.

The Group deems that the EPC contractor is the natural bridge between all the parties involved in the digital transformation process and it is able to catch and turn into tangible service its client’s needs to reduce the CAPEX investments and OPEX costs, in order to minimise the total cost of investment (TCO) and achieve a short return on investment. The EPC sector has a wide number of employees and is the cornerstone for each country’s strategic investment plan, but particularly under the energy transition scenario, it is suffering an important delay in digital transformation compared to other industries such as financial services, logistics, media, retail, etc.

Maire Tecnimont has demonstrated that with the application of a value-driven digital transformation it is possible to implement innovative solutions aimed at generating a relevant value for the plant owners and to make industrial complexes increasingly sustainable for health, safety and environmental impact perspectives.

Digitalisation leverages on enabling technologies, such as the ones that gather and elaborate data with an innovative approach based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques, allowing the actions to be performed during plant operation and maintenance to be optimised, with the aim to reduce OPEX and increase the plants’ productivity, reliability and maintainability.

It is evident that digitalisation enables new collaboration models to unlock potential value for the overall ecosystem and shareholders, leading to a sustainable evolution of the industrial market.

Maire Tecnimont’s approach to digital initiatives leverages on the following pillars:

Plant design optimisation

Maire Tecnimont’s digital suite for the entire design lifecycle (i.e. from engineering up to commissioning phase) consists of solutions that aim to improve efficiency and transparency of all EPC phases (and even before in the case of FEED execution) in order to be CAPEX challenging and to monitor and mitigate the risk of project time extension, which can impact return on investment (ROI).

The digitalisation of Maire Tecnimont’s internal processes leverages on:

  • Robotisation of routinely working processes.
  • Servicification of tasks to improve time and cost control of the activities.
  • Use of advance analytics and AI to support cost driven decisions.
  • Use of a design collaboration solution based on the 3D modeling.
  • Development of 4D (i.e. a 3D model linked to time schedule for constructability analysis) and 5D (i.e. a 3D model linked to materials costs and quantities).
  • Use of a remote collaboration solution to reduce response time for tasks closure.
  • Digitalisation of construction working processes to reduce the overall construction site supervision and to increase the safety of the erection phase as well as the control of quality on executed works.

Plant productivity and carbon footprint reduction

Process optimisation engine

Process data are captured from real plants, to feed a digital replica of plant processes. Process optimisation engine, leveraging not only on thermodynamics but also on ML models, simulates the process and optimises its operations as precisely as possible, integrating production programmes and economics. The optimisation is also driven by the reduction in utilities’ consumption and by the energy saving, therefore reducing the carbon footprint of new plants.

Prescriptive and predictive maintenance suite

Key features of prescriptive maintenance are maintenance planning, spare parts management, workload tracking, work orders management and planning improvements. The improvement to the traditional maintenance suite is based on the merging of the database typically used to plan maintenance activities with a 3D model of the plant. Moreover, as a natural evolution driven by a predictive approach, process, machine and environmental parameters are monitored and analysed through statistical and ML algorithms, to identify abnormal operating conditions and predict failures in advance. An optimal and more sophisticated approach to maintenance (unlocked by a predictive approach), impacts OPEX (by reducing the cost of unplanned maintenance activities and avoiding the loss of production due to unexpected shutdowns) but it may also increase plant safety, reducing the risk of unexpected assets failures with consequential risks for humans and environment.

Virtual reality digital training and operator training simulators (OTS)

Operators are trained in advance with respect to plant start-up and operations in a fully immersive 3D environment, through a combination of virtual reality (VR) and the equivalent of flight simulators (i.e. OTS). This approach maximises the effectiveness and efficiency of plant production starting from the first months of plant operation. The integration of the VR platform with the OTS model creates a unique and advanced training environment, introducing a more realistic interaction between the control room and field operators. Such an approach to training creates new job opportunities (allowing the upskilling/reskilling of the current workforce and leveraging on the native digital skills of new generations). It may facilitate and speed up the transfer of competences when expert workers retire, and it may create the best virtual simulation scenario to test (in a safe condition) any potentially dangerous plant upset status without creating any real risk for human beings and the environment.

Connected field operations

HSSE platform

All operators are provided with smart devices that monitor potential health, safety, security and environment risks. By connecting smart devices to a central control room (via Wi-Fi, beacons, etc.) it is possible to prevent dangerous conditions while maintaining an operator's ‘regulatory privacy’. With this approach, the workers are geo-localised and their healthy parameters may be remotely controlled to limit any potential risk of injuries or access to unhealthy or restricted areas without the proper training and authorisation, thus reducing the risk of fatalities.

Digital field force

Field operators are supported by mobile applications during daily operations in a fully connected plant: every piece of equipment is uniquely tagged; all plant data are saved on a central repository; and experts are connected to field force to provide technical support remotely. Thus, on a single app/device, operators can access a range of functionalities to improve the productivity of their day-to-day activities. As such, the maintenance and operation activities of the field team are facilitated as essential information is readily available and remote can be easily granted by limiting the circulation of experts across various countries and providing support in real time. Such an approach fosters the continuous learning of workers, and it minimises the risk of injuries due to incorrect operation, reducing the risk to humans, the environment and assets.

The backbone to unlock any digital field service is the plant connectivity charactersed by a very wide band and extremely low latency time. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to allow the application of a new communication paradigm (such as 5G technology), to evolve the telecommunication sector in industrial environments, and to facilitate the adoption of edge computing concept (i.e. the elaboration of data at their source).

The fundamental characteristic of plant connectivity is cybersecurity in order to ensure that an industrial complex is not exposed to any cyber risk deriving from the application of IoT devices that might theoretically be the entry gates for unauthorised access.

Maire Tecnimont Group can engineer and realise a fully digitally enabled plant. To achieve this, the Group has already invested in specific technologies and work processes. The Group is developing a digital platform, NextPlant, which aims to host the products and services that may perform the functionalities described above.

The success of such an industrial plan is also driven by the engagement of technological partners, who are important links to the overall supply chain. Under the orchestration of Maire Tecnimont Group, these partners may better satisfy the new requirements for each specific functionality. The Group is willing to adhere to market requirements with an open innovation approach that leverages technological neutrality.

Written by Paolo Gallieri, Proposal and Prequalifications Management Vice President, Max Panaro, Group Organisation, ICT & System Quality Vice President, Ezio Pasqualon, Digital Transformation Services Head of Department, and Giuseppe Tornatore, Digital Portfolio Management Head of Department, Maire Tecnimont Group.

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