Our Earth faces increasingly grave environmental problems. Although more people have realized the significance of environmental protection and have chosen shared bicycles and electric cars as part of their low-carbon lifestyles, yet we still rely heavily on non-renewable energy such as petroleum. How much oil is left and how long will it last?
According to estimates from conservative experts, the sustained oil reserves left may last only 30 to 40 years at present rates of consumption, and the next oil crisis may happen much sooner than expected. Governments and socially-responsible companies worldwide are intensifying efforts to develop new energy and optimize technologies in order to improve the exploration, production, and utilization of energy such as oil.
Traditional technologies no longer meet the needs of enterprises. However, the advent of the Industry 4.0 era and the rise of smart manufacturing are bringing great hopes for energy conservation and emission reduction for the Earth.
Manufacturing is a traditional industry and it covers oil refining, automobile manufacturing, appliance manufacturing, power grids, steel mills, chemical plants, and others. ICT systems in the manufacturing industry used to function as support systems, but now they are shifting to work as production systems. Smart manufacturing, which comprises smart factories, smart logistics, and smart services, has become a new direction for digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. The successful implementation of smart manufacturing is impossible without the support of leading new ICT technologies such as cloud computing, Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group) is China’s largest integrated energy and chemical enterprise. It ranked No. 3 on the 2017 Global Fortune 500 list. In 2013, Sinopec Group started its smart plant initiatives and selected its Yanshan, Maoming, Zhenhai, and Jiujiang companies as pilot smart factories.
Petro-CyberWorks Information Technology Company Limited (PCITC), a joint venture of Sinopec Group and Pacific Century CyberWorks Limited (PCCW), is the contractor for building these pilot smart factories. PCITC chose Huawei to make smart factories a reality. Big Data and machine-learning technologies are used in smart factories. By facilitating the gathering of refining and production information, these technologies help streamline the chemical reaction processes during refining and production, and dynamically adjust the volumes of crude oil, fuels, and catalysts necessary for the refining process.
The benefits include optimal productivity at the lowest energy consumption, without compromising the oil quality. Additionally, experiential models for running equipment and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) are set up. These models help monitor equipment in real-time and anticipate the abnormal status of equipment to implement predictive maintenance, reduce O&M costs, and mitigate the risks of unplanned downtime.
At present, these four pilot smart factories report remarkable results and constitute Smart Factory 1.0 in Sinopec Group. In the four pilot smart factories, the utilization rate of advanced control technology increases to over 90 percent; the automated production data collection rate reaches over 90 percent; and all pollution sources are automatically monitored. Production optimization used to be performed on a few processes and in offline mode, but now it is extended to all processes and conducted in online (in-service) mode. All these improvements increase labor productivity by over 10% and contribute to better quality and higher efficiency.
ICT has brought tangible benefits to companies in the petroleum and petrochemical industry and helps them maximize Return on Investment. Key benefits include better production-to-consumption ratios, higher oil recovery rates, lower operating costs, higher labor productivity, and long-time stable running of equipment.
In April 2017, PCITC and Huawei jointly announced a smart manufacturing platform, which isn’t only the two parties’ first significant joint innovation since they inked strategic partnerships, but also the core part of Smart Factory 2.0 within the Sinopec Group.
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