Training best practice
Petroleum refineries must constantly evolve to remain competitive. Plants are expanded to increase capacity and add new processes. New technologies replace old. Process changes demand different equipment. Something as seemingly simple as using larger capacity delivery vehicles may mean that an entire portion of a process needs to be changed.
Change is a competitive imperative, but many petroleum facilities forget to update their training simulators when processes or technologies change. This can significantly slow training and reduce the effectiveness of the simulator, as well as the value of the investment.
One of the biggest challenges in keeping the simulator current with the plant is collecting, documenting and analysing plant changes. Creating a robust process for documenting all plant changes, both physical and procedural, is a best practice used by Norwegian oil giant Statoil to ensure that those changes are reflected accurately in their simulators.
Documenting changes as they occur not only reduces the time, money and effort needed to perform a simulator upgrade, it also maintains the value of the training programs by ensuring the simulator accurately reflects the real plant. This best practice allows simulator based training to effectively prepare workers for their jobs as operating conditions evolve. Statoil has seen significant benefits from following this best practice.
Beginning of a new era
Founded in 1972, Statoil is the largest company (ranked by profit) in the Nordic region. The Mongstad refinery has an annual capacity of nearly 12 million t of crude used to produce petroleum, diesel, jet fuel, gasoline and other products.
To keep up with plant expansions, Statoil in 1988 upgraded from its panel based analog control system to a Bailey Infi90 DCS System. Operating the new DCS was completely different than the unit it replaced. Mongstad’s operators needed to learn new operating procedures and processes prior to the DCS commissioning. This change made company officials realise their employees needed more effective, standardised training.
Until 1988, the company’s operator training used hard panels and printed manuals describing each unit’s design, values, programmable logic devices (PLDs), process variables, procedures and graphics. An assessment and vetting led Statoil to Singer Link Miles, the predecessor company to GSE Systems, for its first training simulator. The simulator not only reduced training time, it also increased effectiveness. Employees became more competent on equipment and processes, reducing errors that decreased plant upsets and provided faster turnaround and a more optimised production process. Read More
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