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Electrical solutions for the oil and gas industry

Electrical solutions for the oil and gas industry

When it comes to design their engineering processes. Ken Christie, director of EPLAN UK, explains how a modern and reliable CAE solution is tailor made for companies within the oil and gas sector.



Fluctuating oil prices and times of economic uncertainty have forced companies within the oil and gas industry to scrutinise their engineering design processes, in order to streamline or automate the most time consuming tasks facing engineers. With rising global energy demands, the industry is faced with a range of challenges and opportunities across the upstream, downstream, midstream and oilfield sectors. In a plant operation, for example, engineers are often dealing with large, complex equipment configurations, which create complicated processes and large amounts of data, often coming from multiple systems.

These procedures require an extensive number of installations to control and monitor the plant operation. Consequently, there is a high demand for efficient engineering tools and distributed control systems that focus on controlling costs, improving controls and managing risk. A high level of automation is built into a comprehensive CAE (computer aided engineering) software solution, which ultimately speeds up the design process. Automation of projects for offshore production facilities is necessary to stay ahead of the competition, as software automation is proven to improve project outcomes. This is especially true for the front-end engineering design (FEED) phase of the project, a period when relatively low cost activities can create significant positive results.

At the start of a project, when regulations and standards are reviewed and confirmed there is an extensive amount of detail to consider, which is not only time consuming, but can change numerous times throughout the process. When designing a new facility, environmental conditions and regulatory requirements may well be diverse. Once the project has started, a CAE solution accommodates any changes required, without having to go back to the start of a process and interrupting design in the meantime.

Applying revisions can be prone to disruption in production schedules. However, with CAE tools, project documentation can be exported to customers in formats like smart PDFs, and the changes re-imported and incorporated back into the project with ease. Once a design is finalised, the software will automatically generate a complete build package that includes all diagrams, lists and component IDs.

Modern CAE software like EPLAN's meets the challenges facing engineers. EPLAN solutions run from a central database known as the EPLAN platform, which forms the base for a number of specific integrated engineering tools. The platform is a major differentiating factor for engineers who have broken away from CAD software, as it can hold a large archive of recurrent content, ready for insertion into a project with a single keystroke. Once a project is started in EPLAN, it can be configured through the use of different systems such as the EPLAN Engineering Centre for automation and data control through to EPLAN Fluid for fluid power engineering.

The automatic error-checking features within this kind of CAE solution makes it almost impossible for mistakes. They eliminate time-consuming checks that were necessary with older, less comprehensive systems - improving project quality, shortening turnaround times and maximising productivity. Another important aspect of a CAE solution like EPLAN is how it can be fully integrated across engineering disciplines. Integrated systems provide a consistent basis for information and allow for effective, cross-disciplinary and parallel work processes, ensuring that engineering disciplines can work concurrently and collaboratively rather than separately. This enables electrical, fluid, mechanical and process control engineers to share data and information through the different systems (such as control planning and process engineering to electrical configurations) regardless of location.

Standardisation guidelines mean there is a smooth interaction between machines and systems, minimising coordination time. Alongside this, system interfaces can connect engineering to other commercial business management systems such as product data management (PDM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems ensuring the data consistency remains throughout. As the data is high quality within a centralised database engineers are able to trust what is presented to them. This is an invaluable asset for companies operating within the oil and gas sector as it helps to ensure costs are kept low and allows for major timesaving.

One of the biggest advantages of EPLAN is the built-in EPLAN Data Portal, which is a web-based document library holding supplier and manufacturer product information that can be easily added in any project. The Data Portal provides users with access to over 390,000 component and device data, controlled and managed by around 60 leading industry manufacturers. During the design process engineers can easily import data directly from vendor catalogues by drag and drop. The database also generates a bill of materials (BOM), which facilitates bidding processes with ready-made calculations.

For oil and gas industries, a CAE software solution provides innovative and practical workflow optimisation solutions, resulting in reduced costs, optimised and efficient processes, clearer documentation and ultimately a higher competitive advantage in the market place.
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