August 2022, Vol. 249, No. 8


Symmetry Platform Optimizes Smart Gas Plant Network Performance

Sponsored Content

In the U.S. alone, the natural gas pipeline network has approximately 3 million miles of mainline and other pipelines that link natural gas production fields and storage facilities with consumers. The gathering systems within move raw, natural gas from the wellhead to a natural gas processing plant or an interconnection with a larger mainline pipeline. On occasion, midstream operators own the gathering networks that transport the natural gas as well as the treating and processing facilities converting the raw product into multiple finished products. This advantage provides them the unique ability to have more control over facility operations and uptime, and therefore, a broad view of areas that can be optimized to increase revenues.

Gathering and processing are at the heart of midstream operators’ focus because of their central role as the treating and process hub, receiving raw gas and removing contaminants such as H2S, CO2, and water, before separating NGLs and other finished products. Because of feed imbalances coming in from the wellhead; the shifting costs of methane, ethane, and propane; and the demand for certain products, maintaining uptime while simultaneously monitoring multiple facilities in a variety of locations can turn into a constant juggling act for any midstream operator. Challenges associated with gas plant performance include optimizing uptime and equipment to ensure consistent, high-quality gas and NGL production rates, while also monitoring composition ratios and fluctuating commodity prices.

One Fortune 500 midstream company operating 61 gas plants, 12 fractionating facilities, and more than 64,000 miles of NGL, gathering and transmission pipelines across the U.S., wanted to improve its gas plant performance and facilitate the creation of a smart gas plant network through an enterprise-wide PI system, a solution that would increase its operating margins and improve asset decision making in real-time.

While the company had a deep understanding of its operational data in context, its existing data architecture was siloed and focused almost exclusively on process control and operations, with analytics and reporting almost as after-thoughts. Additionally, there was no centralized and normalized set of operational data across the company, generating multiple versions of the truth. These challenges, coupled with those outlined above, contributed to a low level of collaboration, an inability to make timely business decisions, and average asset performance at best.

Enabling a Smart Gas Plant Network, In Real-Time

The operator determined that its current process simulator lacked mission-critical functionalities, such as accurate cryogenic gas plant modeling, multiphase pipeline modeling, acid gas treating, and sulfur recovery, and therefore the company needed a new solution that could deploy quickly to ensure minimal disruptions to its operations. It also sought a technology that could support the company’s vision of a real-time, smart gas plant network. In other words, a fully-realized operational digital twin of the plant and its network of pipelines that could allow the midstream company’s executives to monitor all of its assets in one program needed to be deployed.

The company also wanted the ability to look beyond traditional asset optimization and maximize its most profitable feedstocks amidst changing commodity prices, in real-time.

Schlumberger presented its Symmetry platform to the midstream operator and detailed how the company could realize a return on its investment within 12-months of working with its software solution.

Symmetry Yields Big Results

Before implementing its smart gas plant network, the customer had to establish benchmarks. Optimal operation for any plant depends on several key factors, including feed compositions, operating modes, and plant and equipment designs. Additionally, target operating setpoints (temperatures, pressures, etc.) were not readily accessible and had to be determined. Linking process simulations to SCADA systems and layers of analytics provided operating parameters for the plant at optimal conditions. Real-time or live commodity pricing allowed for current and potential values of plant operations.

Because Schlumberger’s Symmetry platform presents data in real-time, operational, process and financial information could be realized in a matter of minutes, with the executive team viewing the same information and allowing for business decisions to be made at a faster pace. By having all facility data coming into one centralized location (Integrated Control Center), where subject matter experts were based, the company was able to address any issues that arose immediately, rather than having to send data to corporate or request personnel onsite. The cost savings attributed to problem-solving within a matter of minutes can be linked to hundreds of thousands of dollars a day – and sometimes even more.

Another key benefit of the Symmetry platform is that it also allows everyone the ability to customize their (data) views, giving decision-makers the option to view their KPOs without having to sift through large amounts of information.

Providing Mission-Critical Process System Modeling Functions and Integrating the Symmetry Platform With SCADA Systems and Financial Data

The operator chose Schlumberger’s Symmetry platform to provide missing critical functionalities for cryogenic gas plants, multiphase gathering and pigging pipeline modeling, acid gas treating, and sulfur recovery. More than 200 existing models were converted from one of the legacy process simulator packages and user training was completed in less than 60 days.

Following the initial deployment, the Symmetry platform’s technology team worked closely with the operator to facilitate its vision of a smart gas plant network that would deliver insights to users in real-time. The Symmetry platform was integrated with streaming data from field operations and other data sources such as real-time market prices and financial systems. This enabled the operator to manage multiple virtual facilities using real-time data. During the integration process, the Symmetry platforms technology deployment team worked closely with the operating team to supply stable and accurate models and ensure compatibility of the Symmetry platform with the company’s other systems and software.

Smart Gas Plants and Improved Gas Plant Operations

The Symmetry platform helped achieve optimal plant performance in several ways:

  • It quickly provided robust models and missing critical functionalities that the former process simulators did not have.
  • It helped the company realize its vision of building a real-time smart gas plant network. Due to the consultative work of the Symmetry platform’s technology team in collaboration with the operator throughout the initial deployment and integration processes, the operator ensured only minimal disruption to its operations and was able to build numerous real-time digital models of its gas plants.

In 60 days, Schlumberger’s Symmetry team installed its software and trained all the operator’s technicians. Additionally, it converted more than 200 models from legacy process simulation technology with minimal disruption to operations and it enabled the creation and rapid deployment of 36 digital models of gas plants that delivered real-time insights to the operator’s engineers, increasing operating margins and improving decision making.

The operator now has software to control repetitive process simulations so current operational data and simulation results are continually viewable, detailing how each plant is running as well as simulation targets for optimal financial performance.

To learn more about Symmetry, click HERE.


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