Have you ever gone into a design meeting with enthusiasm, because you have found a technology that can solve an issue and then been met with resistance? If so, you are not alone, and this article is for you.
As an instrumentation engineer you keep updated on new technologies, meet with suppliers and discuss lessons learned and new solutions available in the market. Furthermore, you probably have several ambitions when it comes to optimising production.
However, despite your extensive knowledge and experience within your field, convincing the project team that the technology you are suggesting is a good investment can be a challenge.
You might have good arguments as to why this technology is good, however, several members of the project team do not possess the same background as you when it comes to technology.
In other words, they struggle to grasp and understand the features and details of the technology. And frankly, they most likely care more about the risk, time and cost of implementation, particularly when they have to evaluate a new technology.
In other words, the project team is often a bit reluctant to increase initial spending. If the technology you are suggesting has a higher CAPEX, several members will question if it is worth it, even if it reduces OPEX and loss of production.
Do we need a solution as expensive as this? Yes, we might need something of a quality meeting our needs, but we do not require a “luxury”.
Furthermore, the project team know that new technology can bring uncertainties to the table, as well as cause the project budget to be exceeded. Put simply, novelty technology can be scary.
So, what can you do?
Prior to bringing up your suggestion in the team meeting, talk to individuals within several disciplines and find some allies. Suggesting the instrumentation as a group can strengthen your chances of getting the project team to buy-in. Furthermore, it can help them better understand the benefits for the whole project. Below are some key arguments that you can present to the different disciplines:
Advanced instrumentation can provide production with a higher level of controllability as it allows you to get accurate and reliable data, from the most difficult place. Controlling the production process in real time allows the operator to quickly adjust and adapt to upset conditions, keeping the production at the maximum levels while making sure that the safety is never compromised.
Furthermore, investing in advanced instrumentation like level profilers allow you to utilize the spare capacity within your separator. Hence, you can utilize your separator at 95% instead of 50-60% for the same production capacity.
Similar to the production, the instrumentation will help make the process more efficient, controllable and provide a higher level of performance and reliability. The process people can through this technology push the process system and perform at the maximum level.
Suggested reading: How Oil & Water Separator Optimization Improves Processing Performance
Advanced instrumentation barely needs any maintenance and recalibration. Hence, you can drastically reduce the OPEX, the days without production and the number of people required at the field. In other words, people in maintenance will love this solution as it is something that will stay there for the whole life-cycle, without requiring excessive amount of maintenance.
The IT/Digitalisation department are working on digitalising the infrastructure. The oil and gas industry is a heavy asset industry where the infrastructure is very heavy, and the software is a smaller part of it.
In other words, there is a lot of work, considering they have this huge plant (typically these kinds of plants are in the range of several km2 in physical dimension), how can they digitalize in a smart way? Installing instrumentation in the critical parts of the plant is perhaps the best way to start with.
The digital revolution is all about unlocking the power of data to generate value. However, the main question you should ask yourself is how to get reliable and accurate data from the most inaccessible environment - such as from within the process system and in particular the separators. This is crucial, because if your initial data is wrong, it does not matter if you have the best software. Advanced instrumentation will provide you with more data for your digital twin and to feed with higher quality data your automation system.
The project manager (PM) has a budget to control and allocate in order to build an asset. The PM has the responsibility of coordinating the engineering team, the procurement team and the construction team so that they can design, purchase and build the system. In addition to his budget, the PM has several specifications and requirements that must be adhere to.
The cost of advanced instrumentation is very predictable. The CAPEX tends to be slightly higher than with standard instrumentation. However, taken into consideration the full cycle cost, the investment is worth considering also from a pure economic prospective. In fact, with lower OPEX you achieve through not needing recalibration and maintenance activities, in combination with a higher production rate, the initial cost is repaid in a matter of days/weeks.
Suggested reading: The Cost Benefits of Instrumentation for Oil and Water Separators
Another concern of the project manager is to be on schedule as delays, leads to extra costs. However, the delivery time of advanced instrumentation for oil and water separators are shorter than the separator itself.
Furthermore, when examining the schedule, the first thing the project manager will look at is the critical path. In other words, the PM will check if your activity is on the critical path or in the shadow of more important activities.
Advanced instrumentation is not on the critical path.
As building a separator is an extensive activity, that requires a lot of aiding, industrial machinery, welding and then transportation. Usually, you have other activities on the critical path, however the instrumentation is an important activity, but a delay in delivery can be managed without major concerns.
When all the team members are presenting their suggestions such as new technology, it is for the project manager all about the risk/benefit balance. Even if the benefits seem good, the project manager will not give you a green light if the risks are too high. The project manager will simply explain that it is not a good idea to introduce this novelty into the project due to not wanting the risks to compromise the rest of the project.
As such, it is your job as an instrumentation engineer to explain that although this technology is new, it is not rocket science. Advanced instrumentation is made up of building blocks of existing technologies, it is only the packaging of the technology that is different. Consequently, there are no more added risks than with the standard instrumentation which is predictable as well as easy to manage/mitigate.
Advanced Instrumentation consists of a combination of several well-tested, proven technologies.
Despite being an instrumentation engineer with extensive knowledge and experience, it can be hard to get the project team to buy-in on your suggested solutions. As such, it can be wise to create some internal allies and ambassadors for your solution prior to the project team meeting where the technology is selected. Focus on presenting the benefits for the whole project and address the typical concerns of the project manager.
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