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By Gregory Hale
Visibility of control system data remains a top priority for refineries these days as the entire enterprise needs to see what is going on throughout the process.

“We are constantly getting pressure to get the data as visible and transparent as possible to a variety of different groups,” said Jason Bottjen, manager of control systems engineering at Valero Energy Corp., during his talk Tuesday at the PAS Technical Conference in Houston.

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While some of the early talks were visionary and dealing the way things could and should be, Bottjen talked about some of the ways things are in refineries today.

With a boatload of different systems installed within the refineries, Bottjen said there are challenges to ensure plant reliability and safety.

Cyber Security

Some of those challenges are:
• Control system challenges
• Management of complex automation systems
• Complexity of open systems and legacy systems
• Cyber security
• Control loop performance

One of the important things he has to deal with is the traceability of data and figuring out which pieces fit together.

When talking about the cyber security challenge, Bottjen said they had to deal with intrusion detection, inventory of cyber assets and physical and network access.

In addition, control loop performance always becomes an issue with underperforming loops, loop tuning and high operator interactions.

“Tuned loops mean greater productivity, which lead to greater profitability,” Bottjen said.

He also said operators need access to information to make informed decisions, especially when it comes to alarms and alarm management.

“Proper alarm management is a key for plant reliability and safety,” he said.

Operators, he said, need greater data visualization so they need to see data with more meaning.

One of the constants that never changes, Bottjen said, is the idea that “things change and that makes this a never ending process.”

That is why to improve reliability, everyone must strive to continuously improve and upgrade the process and manufacturers need to invest in new technologies to solve challenges, he said.

“We need to demystify the black box,” Bottjen said. “We need to increase visibility into the system.”

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