ABB Customer World: Intelligent projects model is the future of oil and gas project execution

March 14, 2017

HOUSTON -- Oil and gas projects have been conducted the same way for decades. According to an EY report, 64% of projects face cost overruns and over 70% are reporting a schedule delay. This has inevitably led to the pursuit of rethinking the way oil and gas companies conduct projects. This idea was the main topic of Tuesday’s plenary session “Innovation in project execution is causing the chemical, oil and gas industry to think differently” at ABB Customer World 2017.


The session was moderated by Harry Forbes, research director for ARC Advisory Group, and included esteemed panelist Per-Erik Hosten, managing director for ABB Oil, Gas and Chemicals, and Sandy Vasser (retired), IC&E manager for Exxon Mobil Development Co. (Fig. 1). The session included a short presentation by Hosten and Vasser, as well as lively discussion on the implementation of automation in oil and gas projects.

Hosten provided insights into how digitalization can improve project speed and performance. With the significant drop in oil prices, operators needed to “rethink” how they conducted large-scale projects–including the need to decrease operating expenditures (OPEX). He highlighted that the oil and gas industry needs predictable costs and schedules, effective use of resources, increased safety and security, and reduced complexity through reducing interfaces.

Responding to the need for innovative project execution, ABB created its intelligent projects model. This next-generation model is powered through digitalization, and can increase the speed of executing oil and gas automation-based projects. “Utilizing the intelligent projects model can provide a quicker completion of the schedule by 25% and reduce CAPEX/OPEX by 20%-30%” said Hosten, “as well as provide space savings of 60% and a reduction of startup and installation hours by 40%.”


The intelligent projects approach encompasses intelligent engineering with intelligent infrastructure. The combination of these factors leads to a more streamlined approach to project execution. This approach is shown in Fig. 2, and includes the following:

  • Cloud engineering – virtualization, emulation and simulation enable applications software testing to be conducted without hardware

  • Standardization – leads to a common approach to automation engineering across engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies and geographies, simplifies design and eliminates the need for FAT testing of hardware

  • Automated data management – cloud computing transfer engineering, data and autogenerating application software and project specific documentation

  • Soft marshalling – decouples software engineering from hardware engine, eliminates the need for project-specific junction boxes

  • Flexible I/O – makes more use of I/O interfaces that are based on fieldbus or industrial Ethernet, as well as allows I/O signals to effectively become marshalled in software.

Vasser echoed the benefits of utilizing ABB’s portfolio to optimize project execution for Exxon Mobil. “We had to rethink automation systems,” said Vasser “initial attempts to change the mindset were things like using tighter specifications, larger company project teams, improve existing processes, but the result was little to no improve. The answer came into thinking differently.” This notion began Exxon Mobil’s search to review problems with automation providers and find a path forward.

The answer came with ABB’s optimized solutions. The company developed intelligent project solutions, such as select I/O for control and safety systems, standard field cabinets for “universal I/O”, tightly coupling process control systems and electrical controls, etc. These tools allowed Exxon Mobil to cease the “old way” and were empowered with solutions by ABB for smarter project execution.

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