Increasingly Autonomous Operations in Energy and Chemicals. Aspen Technology on the next era of Smart plants

Future artificial intelligence robot and cyborg

In the next phase of the market, downstream operations will be self-sustaining, self-learning and self-optimized for autonomous success. The rise in tech talent and advances in analytics have driven Southeast Asia’s rise as an industrial AI leader in this flexible, agile future.

Ron Beck, Marketing Strategy Director at Aspen Technology describes how macro trends are driving digital change, an optimistic future for Southeast Asia’s tech talent, and how AspenTech’s three pillars of self-optimisation are supporting the Smart plant of tomorrow.

A flexible, agile future driven by macro trends

The futuristic plant, driven by industrial AI is no longer a sci-fi vision. It is an actionable business goal, which will shape the success of the next downstream generation. The approach is to combine basic ‘first principle’ digital models which make current oil and chemical assets operate safely with advanced analytics models (or AI machine learning), and industry domain expertise. The partnership of these three essential elements can break new ground in ability to model today’s hard sustainability problems, predictive insight into how to manage what will happen next, and  intuitive usability to make these advanced solutions accessible to regular industry workers. 

The need of industry to adapt to the rapidly developing energy transition will drive use of AI technology to  spur continued growth across the downstream sector. Simulation, advanced control, and planning models, introduced by AspenTech in the 1980s and 90s, created the foundation for the rapid growth and innovation in chemicals and oil and gas over the past few decades. As Xiao Yaqing, China Minister of Industry and IT, said in remarks on January 28th in Davos, AI will have a larger impact on the economy than the internet and industry needs to embrace it rapidly.

The market is expected to move faster than ever in 2021, driven by macro trends such as market volatility, energy transition, circular economy, and AI and data science.  Aspen Tech has been leading that wave in energy and chemicals over the past four years, with new advances in Industrial AI technology. Aspen Mtell, predicts equipment degradation 30, 60 or more days in advance, avoiding downtime. And  Aspen Hybrid Models combining simulation  modelling with AI, according to Reliance Industries, will “change the game in chemical engineering.”. The next step: a self-optimising, autonomous plant for a flexible, agile future.

The three pillars of self-optimising success

The smart plant or Self-Optimizing Plant of the future will have three key characteristics. Self-learning means the plant, as it operates, learns from each action it takes, including data streams reporting on the plant and digital twins providing operating insights. This improves its ability to operate at its potential  . Self-adapting refers to its ability to adjust to changes in the condition of the asset itself as well as external factors, to continuously change the objectives of the operation according to business need. Self-sustaining means the plant will intelligently monitor the health of its equipment, processes, and systems, based on data streams and its insights. It will then advise the corrective actions needed to ensure the sustainability performance, integrity of the asset, and the health of the equipment. 

Together, these three pillars of self-optimisation build a picture of a future where plants and refineries turn data into action, enhancing operational performance and maximizing sustainable value generation, all with minimal manual intervention for most assets. Some aspects of operations may become autonomous in the relatively short term. But broader autonomy is the savvy business leader’s long-term goal.

An optimistic future driven by self-optimisation

The current climate continues to be turbulent, but the future is optimistic, especially in Southeast Asia. All projections across the region show a strong GDP growth over the next 10 years. As the level of technical talent in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam grow, and countries compete to be the next digital hub, there is also a growing opportunity for digital progress. The ASEAN region holds the third largest population in the world and its nominal GDP has doubled over the last decade to $3.1 trillion.

As the downstream sector adapts and aligns to this new era of cautious optimism, innovation leaders like AspenTech are there to help operators sustain and optimize their current business, but also drive innovation for the future. Their missions is to support both growth and sustainable provision of energy and chemicals, equipping local talent with the technology to sustain, self-optimise, and succeed in a new era of autonomy.  As new technologies emerge to drive the future, such as advanced bio based chemicals and hydrogen economy, use of AI and autonomy will be keys to their success in a digital world.

Aspen Technology (AspenTech) is a global leader in asset optimization software. Its solutions address complex, industrial environments where it is critical to optimize the asset design, operation and maintenance lifecycle. AspenTech uniquely combines decades of process modeling expertise with artificial intelligence. Its purpose-built software platform automates knowledge work and builds sustainable competitive advantage by delivering high returns over the entire asset lifecycle. As a result, companies in capital-intensive industries can maximize uptime and push the limits of performance, running their assets safer, greener, longer and faster.

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