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Petrochemical Company Launches Refinery of the Future With IoT

Texmark Chemicals is using technology from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Aruba to automatically collect real-time data regarding the function of critical pumps on the plant floor, with long-term goals of managing assets, as well as employee safety and access, via video and other wireless technologies.
By Claire Swedberg
May 01, 2018

Petrochemical company Texmark Chemicals has completed the first phase of a deployment to create what it calls a "Refinery of the Future." The solution starts with Internet of Things (IoT) technology to track wireless sensor data on two of its most critical pumps.

The deployment consists of an IoT solution provided by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Wi-Fi connectivity from HPE company Aruba. The deployment is one part of a holistic plan to manage safety and efficiency using cameras, Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies, all on a single platform. The company intends not only to use the solution at its own plant in Galena Park, Texas, but also to assist with the adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions by other companies in the petrochemical industry.

Texmark is the largest North American producer of dicyclopentadiene (DCPD), a chemical used in resins, inks, adhesives and paints. DCPD results from the production of ethylene and is recovered through the use of fractional distillation. A considerable amount of heat is applied during the manufacturing process. These hazardous or flammable materials must thus be carefully regulated and managed.

Traditionally, the company has managed the safety and efficiency of its production by dispatching physical inspectors across the plant floor on a regular basis, who must visually check equipment and conduct vibration analysis to ensure that the plant's 130 pumps and other devices are in good working condition. This requires approximately 1,000 hours of manual labor annually.

Throughout the past few years, the company has been investigating multiple business needs to improve on its existing operations management, as well as to automate and boost safety and efficiency. The firm had two primary initiatives: first, it needed to replace its distributed control system (DCS). Second, it sought to create a new, formal, mechanical integrity plan that could provide an inventory of its assets—such as boilers, tanks, piping and other process equipment, including pumps, control valves and meters—and their maintenance, service and use history. Such improvements, says Linda Salinas, Texmark Chemicals' VP of operations, would help Texmark to meet OSHA standard compliance needs, reduce insurance costs and, to put it simply, "do the right thing."

The company began discussing solutions with HPE and, in November 2016, visited the technology company's IoT Innovation Lab, located in Houston. No technology deployment would work without the support of the company's own staff, says Doug Smith, Texmark Chemicals' CEO, so the focus from day one, he adds, was to bring together Texmark participants from multiple departments. Any solution implemented by Texmark had to be driven by those who operate that plant, he says. Therefore, the firm transported about a dozen employees to the lab.

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