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Aramco, Schneider develop advanced Automation testbed
- November 11, 2020
- William Payne
Saudi oil & gas producer Aramco is working with Schneider Electric to develop a purpose-built test bed to assess emerging technologies based on O-PAS, the Open-Process Automation Standard. The two companies plan to testbed next-generation open and interoperable automation technologies, with Aramco enhancing its local capacity and readiness to deploy advanced capability pilots.
The automation technologies that will be piloted will all be intrinsically cybersure. Aramco has suffered some of the largest cyberattacks on operational infrastructure recorded, with attacks being aimed to cause widespread destruction of oil production and processing facilities. The cyberattacks are considered to be state actor generated, with Iran being the principal actor.
Testing of new technologies will take place at a new built-for-purpose test bed in the Saudi Schneider Electric Innovation and Research Center in Dhahran Techno Valley, Saudi Arabia.
The new facility will test systems for multi-vendor interoperability, cybersecurity and advanced functionality, such as artificial intelligence and advanced analytics, in real-world applications. Technologies from Schneider Electric as well as other automation vendors will be assessed on how well various solutions work together to produce the high value expected for next-generation industrial automation. Engagement of academia, third-party suppliers and other owners and operators will be explored under this agreement to benefit Aramco and the automation industry in the Middle East.
Under the agreement, Schneider Electric and Aramco will jointly define areas of technical collaboration to assess and validate multiple emerging technologies and their benefits, explore real world applications and develop a prototype system.
Ultimately, both companies will jointly deliver an O-PAS-compatible field-test pilot that depicts a section of an Aramco plant with the goal of advancing its sustainability, digitalisation and operational excellence capabilities.
“Schneider Electric has a long history of innovation and driving open industrial automation,” said Nathalie Marcotte, President, Process Automation, Schneider Electric. “Legacy systems have served us well and advanced us this far but now the time is right to accelerate the digital transformation of industry by taking a new approach to industrial automation with secure interoperable technologies. Aramco and other owners and operators around the globe are looking for ways to optimise their CAPEX and OPEX spend, while making step change improvements in their operational efficiencies and carbon footprint. Standards like O-PAS and IEC 61499 will ensure systems are interoperable, portable, scalable, future proof and intrinsically cybersecure. Emerging automation technologies based on these standards promise to improve uptime, add agility, enhance cybersecurity and enable new operational models at a much-reduced total cost of ownership.”
The new test bed is part of Schneider Electric’s ongoing commitment to build and develop local technical capacity close to its customers and supports Aramco’s ambitious In-Kingdom Total Value Add (IKTVA) initiative. The collaboration will allow Aramco to enhance its local capacity, technical knowledge and digital readiness for Industry 4.0 operational models supported by Schneider Electric’s global expertise and network.
“We are pleased to leverage Schneider Electric’s deep domain expertise to explore next-generation industrial automation architectures,” said Ahmad Al Sa’adi, Senior Vice President, Technical Services, Aramco. “Interoperable and portable systems will give us greater freedom to select and integrate the best in class technologies we need to bring step change advancements in our operations and future-proof our industrial automation system.”
Schneider Electric and Aramco are both members of The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), an international forum of end users, system integrators, suppliers, academia, and standards organisations who are working together to develop the specifications for utilising open process automation technology in next generation process control systems.
Schneider Electric leads in working with other members of OPAF to define the O-PAS Standard. Once fully defined, O-PAS will allow for construction of safe, reliable, secure process automation systems that are scalable from very small to very large, which do not require system shutdown to perform updates and extensions, and which can be applied to existing systems and to new construction.