Pioneering construction simulation
According to John Sanins, to reflect growing market demand and to stay ahead of competition when bringing a product to market, owners need to be able to construct a suitable gas processing plant quickly and with low risk. This needs to occur as soon as they have identified a market need for the product, and must maintain design integrity while still taking into account health, safety and environmental considerations.
“When an owner has identified the market demand and acquired the raw materials for a gas processing plant, a crucial business imperative is to develop and bring the new asset online as soon as possible. In the case of LNG facilities, this means they can address the market more quickly and begin production earlier, resulting in earlier profits,” says Mr Sanins.
“Once production has begun, one of the owner’s main imperatives is then to maintain the capacity, utilisation and availability of the operating plant. Thus, the owner’s two main time constraints are the time it takes to design, build and start up the new facility (time to market), and the time that they are able to maintain the facility’s operational availability and output capacity (time in market).”Article continues below…
Through its virtual construction planning and simulation software, ConstructSim, Bentley has developed a way that owner operators can monitor the progress of construction by simulating the plant construction process and ultimately validate plant start-up by recognising the importance of a project’s time to market and time in market.
The new technology compiles data from external software applications as well as from the internal organisation to create a virtual construction model. The software is then used for construction status visualisation, work package planning and overall construction status planning, and linked to monitor delivery of all materials and associated plant items needed to construct the plant.
In addition to being able to plan the construction phases, ConstructSim is also able to manage all the resources linked to construction including material procurement processes, project employees, localised craft cost rates and associated construction resources, such as scaffolding and cranes.
“ConstructSim helps the individual construction craft teams work together more effectively,” says Mr Sanins. “Traditionally, all these activities would be managed on paper. ConstructSim is the first technology to support this kind of management in a digital environment.”
Further to being able to assist in the planning of project construction, ConstructSim is also able to assist with project management after construction is completed during system turn-over and the mechanical completion phases moving into pre-commissioning.
“Successful construction of a project relies on three things: accuracy of materials and associated procurement information, a good construction planning system, and the complete handover of project data leading into the commissioning phase,” explains Mr Sanins. “The interrelationship between these systems – the so-called ‘procurement/construction/commissioning triad’ – provides a more integrated approach during construction compared to current or historical methods.
“ConstructSim is able to facilitate this approach as it can then exchange associated project information with third-party commissioning systems or internal enterprise-based systems being used by an operator or commissioning team.”
Management after construction
Bentley prides itself on offering integrated solutions that address the full lifecycle of a gas project. The company offers two unified data management environments, ProjectWise and AssetWise, each addressing the unique needs for engineering and operations.
ProjectWise is a project information management (PIM) environment, which is used by the engineering, procurement and construction contractor during conceptual front-end engineering and detailed design to manage project data as it matures through the detailed design phase. The environment supports collaborative ‘work-in-progress’ workflows to ensure the latest released data is available to all project participants.
AssetWise is an asset lifecycle information management (ALIM) environment that is used by the plant owner to manage the lifecycle of information for the asset following handover.
When combined, ProjectWise and AssetWise provide an integrated project information and asset management environment which streamlines the process of and improves overall handover of data into systems used in operations. “Once AssetWise is connected to the owner’s systems, it will combine all the engineering information – data and documents – on the plant, which can then be linked to corporate systems used by the operations and maintenance groups,” says Mr Sanins.
“These data management environments are traditionally used to manage data at different times during the asset lifecycle, however, Bentley combines the PIM and ALIM environments together, allowing the two to communicate very closely.
“Bentley’s environments manage data and the change of data in a controlled, consistent way. They allow all data users and consumers to access and use the latest released agreed information. When changes are made, they are tracked and managed. This helps project managers to maintain safe operating plans and to manage health, safety and environmental issues. It also helps with the auditing of information during the asset lifecycle.”
A multidisciplinary approach to construction
Mr Sanins says that today’s gas processing plants are much larger and more complex than in the past.
“Operators are trying to maximise efficient operations through economies of scale; larger processing plants mean more production. The challenge with this is that larger facilities required for multiple LNG trains, for example, bring with them much larger volumes of engineering and associated data. This information must still be managed and be accessible compared with smaller plants built in the past,” says Mr Sanins.
The scale of modern ‘mega projects’ (large-scale projects which are high in capital investment)and the number of contractors, vendors and suppliers involved in a project means that there is a need to share all project-related data in a more open, federated way in what Bentley refers to as a ‘federated information workflow’ (FIW).
Mr Sanins explains, “In the mid-1980s, digital infrastructure used to support capital projects could be characterised as being monolithic and task-driven. It was localised to individual offices – even work groups – which was not a sustainable data management environment for today’s more complex projects. In contrast, today’s digital infrastructure is more process-driven as there are so many more people involved in these mega projects. FIW broadens accessibility to all project information in a more open, federated way. This allows for information to be distributed more widely. As the system builds and grows, it creates a more sustainable, collaborative environment.
“To illustrate these points, engineering software used during the 1980s were developed on closed, usually proprietary databases or file systems resulting in large, monolithic systems specific to an individual software vendor. These early systems usually imposed fixed work processes in the way engineers could use the software to undertake specific engineering tasks. As a result, these systems were dictatorial in how to use specific software used by specific engineering disciplines or groups with limited interaction or data exchange. Clearly, the resulting digital infrastructure, whilst offering tools to support discrete engineering functions, did not address the need to provide and share data in a more controlled environment across a broader user community.
“In contrast, today’s engineering, analysis and information management systems support a more open, federated approach to creating, sharing, using , ‘consuming ’ and managing evolving engineering information better suited to the increased number of people and organisations involved. Through better data and applications via the use of industry data standards such as ISO 15926, the resulting digital infrastructure is more process-driven reflecting a more democratic way to distribute and use engineering data during all phases of the lifecycle. As projects grow larger, this federated approach simply adapts and expands thus offering a more sustained environment to support projects both today and in the future. “In practical terms, FIW, by implication, supports a broader geographically distributed workforce, providing a more open, collaborative network environment that allows different information to go to different stakeholders in different formats,” adds Mr Sanins.
Ensuring project data accessibility
With FIW playing an increasing role across globally dispersed gas projects, there is also an increased need for data and application interoperability. The scale of today’s projects means they will often have long design lives, sometimes spanning several decades. Given that this is the case, Mr Sanins says that it is important to ensure that the project data created today is still compatible and accessible in the systems and applications that will be used in the future, meaning that there is good data and application interoperability.
According to Mr Sanins, the two main challenges associated with achieving good data and application interoperability is having a consistent data format standard that current and future applications can read, and the life expectancy of the software.
“A practical example of this is trying to open a text document created using word processing software originating back to the 1980s with today’s latest word processing software,” says Mr Sanins. “Chances are, you may be able to open the file as simple text but other formatting details may be lost due to incompatibilities between file formats and embedded data (metadata) created by the original program. The same principles apply to engineering data created during the 1980s to those created today – potential data compatibilities or inability to open original files.”
Mr Sanins says that Bentley is committed to and utilises industry standards supporting a broad range of information management, operating systems, and graphics standards. As an example, Bentley developed and now markets the first commercially available, intelligent process and instrumentation diagram application, OpenPlant PowerPID V8i, based on the ISO 15926 open information model. This is as part of a growing family of OpenPlant applications based on open data exchange and interoperability. According to Mr Sanins, ISO 15926 is the “vehicle by which we protect our user’s digital asset data”.
The company is currently developing technology to support data and application interoperability for all project stakeholders based on MicroStation-based interoperability models (i-models). Mr Sanins says that i-models are the “currency” for information exchange supporting federated workflows. Each i-model contains digital project content from a known source, at a known time, created from a known application, in a known state, of a known scope addressing a range of functional and engineering requirements. The underlying i-model technology represents a “self-describing container of information”which may contain graphical, engineering or business data and properties.
“In practical terms, this means that it knows what the data is, who created it, when it was created and what tools were used to generate the data,” says Mr Sanins.
Bentley is currently encouraging people to exchange these i-models and Mr Sanins says that other third parties are now working collaboratively with the company to generate high models from their respective applications, allowing the use and deployment of i-model data to be extended across a growing range of third party software applications.
Bentley Systems in practice
Bentley’s software has already assisted in the successful delivery of a number of major Australian and regional gas projects, including the North Rankin Redevelopment Project in Western Australia.
The North Rankin Redevelopment Project recovers low-pressure gas from the North Rankin and Perseus gas fields off Karratha, WA. The project involved installation of a second platform – North Rankin B (NRB) – with gas compression facilities, low-pressure separators, utilities and accommodation.
The ‘Eos’ joint venture – a 50-50 joint venture between KBR and WorleyParons – was contracted for the front-end engineering and design, detailed design, and procurement management for the NRB integrated deck float-over topsides and substructure. To better co-ordinate information across the many parties and to improve handover of information into operations, an information management strategy was put in place that called for a single integrated information set throughout the asset’s lifecycle. Bentley’s ProjectWise data warehouse served as the central asset register for the whole NRB facility.
Mr Sanins says “The resulting benefits were considerable, with the real-time information and other project tools being made available on the project dashboard/portal, allowing enhanced decision-making.”