What does the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) have to do with the Shell Cracker?
We have heard a great deal about the $6 billion construction of the Shell ethane cracker underway in Beaver County. The construction phase of course brings to mind the erection of a huge physical plant complex:
Some 6,000 workers from a myriad of construction trades will bring the cracker to life. Once online, this highly complex facility will first “crack,” or break apart, ethane’s large molecules and re-arrange the carbon and hydrogen atoms to create ethylene. The facility will further process the ethylene to create different types of polyethylene for a variety of manufactured plastic products.
However, perhaps the most critical part of the cracker’s build-out will emanate from the IIOT. It is estimated that a significant percentage of the plant’s total capital expenditures will evolve around IT services, software, data analytics and physical equipment and systems, all connected digitally to a secure and failsafe industrial process control network and plant business systems and entirely integrated into the global Shell Chemical enterprise.
The entire design, engineering, construction, start-up and finally operations and maintenance of the cracker entails the convergence of cutting-edge information technology, engineering technology and operations technology whereby robust process control systems monitor 24/7 smart connected instruments, process equipment and subsystems all under the umbrella of secure web based software platforms and tools. This convergence results in the digitization of the entire process manufacturing complex via the IIOT.
Once built, anyone can marvel at the impressive physical plant but it is this digital transformation within its infrastructure that provides the data and analytics ensuring the plant’s safe and secure daily operations.