In conversation with: Mayank Patel, Siemens Process Systems Engineering
Mayank Patel, Siemens, tells readers how recent global regulations have created shockwaves around the refining and petrochemicals industry today, and how Siemens Process Systems Engineering (SPSE) is at the heart of the Siemens digitalization offering for the process industries.
Thanks for speaking with us! Tell us a little more about Siemens and what you do.
Siemens Process Systems Engineering (SPSE) is the developer of the gPROMS platform, an advanced process modelling platform, which aims to bring innovation through tools and workflows to the process industries. My role at SPSE as the head of the Application Engineering, is ensure close collaboration with our customers in the Energy and Chemicals space to maximize the use of our tools and workflows.
What does a typical day in your role look like? What are the biggest challenges of your role?
Supporting activities in the application of the gPROMS technology to our client’s processes. This involves a) working closely with both technical and sales operation teams during pre-sales and post-sales activities in order to develop business opportunities with clients in the Energy & Chemicals sector, and b) working with clients in supplying modelling advice through to delivering case-based workshops and turnkey projects.
Often, clients are interested in exploring technology solutions to support strategic objectives in decarbonization and / or sustainability. A key challenge we are facing is being able to generate a tangible set of requirements from our clients that associate to a business objective in context to the above interest. Continual engagement is required to progress a client on their journey in implementing model-based solutions that meets their sustainability goals.
I understand that Siemens covers quite an expansive range of services and solutions offered for the refining and petrochemicals industry. Could you tell us a little more about this?
Digital transformation is a major topic for the process industries. Siemens Digital Industries is an innovation and technology leader in industrial automation and digitalization, and Siemens Process Systems Engineering (SPSE) is at the heart of the Siemens digitalization offering for the process industries.
SPSE is the world’s leading supplier of advanced process modelling technology, in the form of our gPROMS advanced digital process technologies and related services and solutions. Advanced process models play a central role in both digital design and digital applications for operations, by enabling the deployment of deep process knowledge in a way that can generate value over the lifetime of the process.
Our customers achieve high-performance processes by using the process knowledge embedded in models to explore the process decision space rapidly, reduce uncertainty and make better, faster and safer design and operating decisions ahead of any capital outlay.
The result is accelerated innovation with faster time-to-market, optimized process and product design, enhanced operations, more efficient and effective R&D and experimental programmes, and better-managed risk.
Are there any case studies you might be able to share with us?
In the context of process design and operation are key technologies for accelerating innovation and optimizing day-to-day operation in the 21st century. Digital design using model-based technologies and methodologies makes it possible to explore the decision space rapidly and effectively, optimizing equipment, process and product design, accelerating innovation and managing risk. This helps companies develop better, less polluting processes faster.
For digital operations, combining high-fidelity predictive process models that embody deep process knowledge with current and historic plant data, to create digital process twins can add significant value to plant operation on a daily basis. Virtually all digital operations are aimed at making the process more efficient, reducing raw material usage and unit energy costs, with an impact on a daily basis.
The downstream oil and gas is currently navigating the post-pandemic era – in your opinion, where should operators direct their focus?
The focus after the pandemic will be on sustainability is what I expect. Operators are looking more into circular economies and reuse of waste, implying new processes that are quite complex from a physics and chemistry perspective. Awareness is growing faster than before. Another point that we have learned in the recent pandemic is that we have become very volatile in our complete global supply chain, which might lead to some rethinking and a greater demand for additional local flexibility – for example, polymer plants capable of producing a wide range of grades.
What are some changes in trends that you have observed, in the petrochemicals industry?
Recent global regulations, like the 2016 Paris Agreement, have created an urgency with heavy industries to achieve net zero by 2050. The global push for decarbonization solutions has rapidly increased the attention of carbon capture technologies and developments in the energy transition towards a sustainable energy future. For us, this has created a demand for digital design tools such as gPROMS to accelerate and de-risk the development of new processes.
Introduction of Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is a key focus area for most. AI and ML together with first-principles models can be used to structure, analyse and evaluate the huge volumes of data. This is likely to impact the chemical industry in a number of ways, such as shorten reaction times due to detection of anomalies at the earliest stage, improve yield as well as operational efficiency.
In your opinion, what is/are the main driver(s) influencing this shift in the oil and gas industry, and where do you think the industry will be in the near future?
The global push for decarbonization solutions has rapidly increased the attention of carbon capture technologies and developments in the energy transition towards a sustainable energy future. In the near future, I see further emphasis on maximizing the utilization of existing assets to push the envelope in achieving the 5-10% goals in energy saving or otherwise. This will come through intensified efforts in process optimization. This will allow time to evaluate and de-risk the decision-making process of introducing decarbonization technologies into existing processes and facilities.
We know that sustainability is increasingly becoming a corporate CSR and ESG concern – how can organizations adapt to stakeholders’ sustainability demands?
By setting goals. Many organizations have made serious and public commitments to net zero sustainability goals and report on regularly on progress. Of course setting a goal is the easy bit, and if anything has become clear at COP26, it is that we are behind on plans, and we need to accelerate towards net zero. When you start to look at decarbonization strategies, you quickly realise that carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) will need to play a key role in at least the short term, and probably longer term as well in a number of cases. Factoring the cost of carbon emissions into investment decisions as well as the products produced is a way to support an organization’s measure towards achieving their sustainability goals.
Organizations are looking more into circular economies and reuse of waste, implying new processes that are quite complex from a physics and chemistry perspective as are challenged with respect to process development and scale-up. Introducing of emerging sustainable and decarbonization technologies such as CCUS and Hydrogen generation may be challenging from a systems integration perspective. The global supply chain has become very volatile, since the pandemic and the recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This may lead to some rethinking and have a greater demand for additional local flexibility – for example, polymer plants capable of producing a wide range of grades.
Advanced process models are an enabler in exploring the process decision space to facilitate better, faster and safer decisions by reducing uncertainty.
Sustainability and the energy transition are also overarching themes at this year’s Asian Downstream Summit. What can we look forward to from Siemens at the conference and event?
Siemens Digital Industries is participating at the Asian Downstream Summit in a number of ways. We have a couple of talks, one being “Accelerating to Net Zero: Model-based engineering solutions for Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage” where we will aim to demonstrate how digital design and digital operation technology can help accelerate the application of CCUS technologies, by reducing capital and operating costs, illustrated by a number of case studies. You can find this talk on day 2 within the Technical Stream 4.2 – Advancements in plant technology. We are also Bronze sponsors of the conference and will be exhibiting in Booth #D4.