Shell Global Solutions in the Middle East – a panoramic view – part two:

Published November 21st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Trouble-shooting at Sadaf's MTBE plant: 

"The events that followed Sadaf's MTBE plant start-up are unique," says Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, General Manager, Operations and Maintenance.  


"The plant was supposed to be up and running in January 1997 but production was delayed until June. In the first year of operation, production was only 10 per cent of name plate capacity. 


"The problem with the plant was of a multiple nature. It required significant problem solving and well co-ordinated teamwork in multiple fields of science and technology - i.e. fluid dynamics, reaction engineering, heat transfer, fluid bed engineering, catalyst chemistry, plant design, plant operations and other fields. 


"By mid-1998, Sadaf had realized the complexity of the problem and set up a problem solving and project implementation team, which I headed. The team included resources from Sadaf's engineering and operations staff.  


The team obtained some help and support in specialized fields of science, engineering and project execution. The right mix of specialists were involved and were engaged in a teamwork environment. 


"Sadaf's MTBE plant uses a fluid bed reactor system. Shell has experience in operating fluid bed reactors, which are known in the Shell world as 'crackers'.  


So we decided to ask Shell for help in this particular area of expertise, and this was provided by Shell Global Solutions. 


"Phase One of the plant performance corrective action plan was successfully defined and implemented in a timely fashion. The MTBE unit is now significantly more reliable. The plant has run for over a year without mechanical damage, it is easier to run and control, the product is always on-spec and all other Phase One expectations have been met. 


"We have achieved a highly improved unit performance and improved the technology. Sadaf is pursuing work to further develop the plant's performance in a Phase Two plan, and this is progressing very well. 


"For Sadaf, this has been the most significant technology/technical and operating problem we have ever faced in the history of the company and I venture to say in Saudi Arabia's industrial history.  


We now look back at it with a great deal of pride and satisfaction and we look forward to Phase Two with great confidence for success," he concludes. 


Capitalizing on advanced process control technology in Sadaf's engineering processes: 

"At Sadaf, we established an initiative to capitalize on the Advanced Process Control [APC] techniques available in the market to improve the reliability and performance of some of our process units," says Ali Al-Mosalami, Sadaf's Control Systems Manager. 


"APC provides real-time manipulations of the process to maintain key process parameters at targets or within constraints. Computer models of the process are used to predict future changes and a software package calculates the manipulations necessary to meet the control objectives. 


"We decided to begin with the MTBE plant and have now successfully implemented APC in two of the three units in the MTBE plant. The plan is to complete the third one in the first quarter of 2001 after further process modifications. 


"We have also started the execution of an APC project in the ethylene plant and the plan is to introduce APC technology into all the other units in the Sadaf petrochemical complex in the future. 


"We have chosen to use an APC technology package which is being marketed by Shell Global Solutions, and which is a proprietary Shell product. 


"Until recently, this has only been used internally but Shell Global Solutions are now marketing this system to external customers, and are now competing against packages marketed by other vendors. 


"What makes the Shell Global Solutions offer so attractive, and one of the main reasons why we chose it for Sadaf, is that Shell Global Solutions offer support and training to their customers, including managers and engineers, who will implement and use the systems." 


Bruce Lundberg, Staff Engineer at Sadaf, goes on to explain, "The name of this particular package is SMOC, which stands for Shell Multivariable Optimizing Controller. Shell is recognized as a leader in advanced process control systems and was one of the pioneering companies in this field. 


"Overall, the help and support which we have received from Shell Global Solutions has been excellent and we are very pleased with both the package and the service," he concludes. 


Shell Global Solutions & Sasref: 

Saudi Aramco Shell Refinery Company (Sasref) is a 50-50 joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Shell. The refinery, which is based in Al-Jubail Industrial City in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is classed amongst the top 20 refineries in the world, and is one of the largest refineries in the Middle East. 


Cutting Costs After Conducting a Hydrocarbon Management Review: 

"Working closely with Sasref staff, Shell Global Solutions carried out a hydrocarbon management review, which yielded more than 472 ideas for improvement at the refinery," says Niels Fabricius, Sasref's Vice President. 


"Shell Global Solutions started by building a sophisticated model of the refinery then brain-stormed with Sasref staff and experts from around the world to generate these ideas.  


The 472 ideas were whittled down by the team with the support of Shell's 'back-room boys' in Amsterdam and The Hague to a shortlist of 13, which together could save Sasref some US $47 million per annum in the longer term." 


Shell Global Solutions & BAPETCO: 

"The Obayyed gas processing plant, which was built as a turnkey project, was started in August 1999, but it soon became abundantly clear that there were a number of design and operational problems in the plant," says Jan Van Buitenen, General Manager of the Bader Petroleum Company (BAPETCO).  


"These problems were beyond the competencies of the BAPETCO staff to solve due to their complexity. 


"BAPETCO staff have been trained very well indeed to run the plant, but they were not trained to design and build it. 


"From the latter part of 1999 through to today, Shell Global Solutions' personnel have been contracted by BAPETCO to assist us in the solving of these many complex problems. 


"The services that Shell Global Solutions have provided involved, in the first instance, the analysis of the wide variety of problems which we were experiencing across all fields of expertise involved in gas plant processing.  


The objective was then to solve these problems through the definitive use of cost effective measures. 


"We are very pleased with the work Shell Global Solutions has done and I am suitably impressed with the high level of technical expertise that they have brought to the table." 


Source: Shell Middle East 

© 2000 Mena Report (

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