“Technology deployment no longer remains a choice”: Views of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited’s R.R. Ghalsasi

R.R. Ghalsasi, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited

Project management, expansions and transitions are governed by digital deployment. In the oil and gas sector, a lot of uncertainties prevail regarding India’s switch to renewable auto fuels. Despite the emergence of new and sustainable technologies, the country is expected to continue using oil and gas as auto fuels in the near future. At a recent Indian Infrastructure event, R.R. Ghalsa­si, Executi­ve Director, Refinery Project Organisation, Bharat Petroleum Cor­po­ration Limited (BPCL), discussed the digital solutions being deployed in the oil and gas sector….

BPCL has a total of three refineries, Mumbai Refinery, Kochi Refinery and Bina Refinery. These facilities have a combined refining capacity of approximately 37 million tonnes per annum.

India is committed to achieving net zero targets by 2070. For this, the exchange of knowledge, information and skill-sharing amongst all the stakeholders is imperative. Digital deployment connects people across various geographies, enabling the sharing of experience and knowledge and facilitating collaboration among stakeholders.

In the past, when refineries were set up, various consultants were involved in the design, engineering and implementation stages. Th­roughout the execution lifecycle, documentation traceability was challenging due to the involvement of multiple stakeholders. Sub­se­qu­ently, the O&M of refineries was carried out based on the unit’s understanding. The deployment of digital technology in refinery infrastructure helps to retain and communicate important information related to refinery assets at every stage of the project life cycle, which can then be used for O&M. Thus, the issue of losing crucial project information and data can be resolved, improving O&M efficiencies. All three refineries under BPCL have deployed an engineering document management system and integrated asset management system, resulting in improved efficiency. In order to ensure future growth, a transition to digital solutions has to be undertaken in all processes of refinery operations.

Digital deployment also helps refineries analyse whether functions are being carried out as planned. When a facility is completed and commences operations, the integrated asset management system ensures that operations are being carried out within planned parameters, analyses value addition and creation, and assesses if operations align with the design. Even though a unit’s performance varies throughout the year, the system records all data and ensures that the refinery runs according to its design. BPCL then performs a risk-based inspection by using the gathered data, which aids in the annual analysis of unit turnaround. Another important aspect of digital deployment is the reduction in maintenance time. The turnaround time at a refinery is typically the time needed to shut down a specific asset or an entire operation in order to conduct maintenance or some other process. A typical turnaround occurs every three to four years and requires extensive planning and careful coordination of materials and labour. With the deployment of new and enhanced technologies, the turnaround time has witnessed a significant reduction and improved efficiency of turnaround arrangement. Nearly three decades ago, refinery maintenance shutdowns used to last for a considerable duration. Today, this has been significantly reduced to 15-20 days.

With the engineering document management system, the spectrum of documentation such as design, engineering operations, critical parameters and refining processes can be made digitally available to all stakeholders responsible for overseeing the refinery’s upkeep and operations. At present, BPCL has deployed multiple solutions from various technology providers for the shared common data platform to be used in the integrated management of its operations. With information technology and operational technology integration in place, it is expected that challenges related to these aspects in large complex projects will be effectively tackled.

Infrastructure development in India is changing. Today, technology deployment no longer remains a choice. At present, all stakehol­ders receive up-to-date project information via the enterprise resour­ce planning system deployed by BPCL. It is imperative that a single, digital project schedule is accessible to all stakeholders, including vendors and contractors. All pre-alerts must be set to notify project heads of any impending risks well in advance. Given the huge financial costs associated with projects, it is essential to deploy digital technologies to ensure real-time monitoring and reduce the loss of time and resources. Going forward, BPCL is planning to launch a co­mmon data platform customised to its requirements for all upcoming mega capex projects. The platform will cater to and help analyse qua­lity checks, enable cost control mechanisms, support planning, monitoring and risk assessments during project implementation, etc. It will enable BPCL to take prompt corrective measures to en­hance the efficiency and effectiveness of project management and subsequent operations and maintenance of facilities. Meanwhile, the concept of virtual twins is being explored to ensure the holistic development of the refineries.