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“One or two days a week were used up managing the data in Excel® spreadsheets.”


“If you keep up with things, all it takes is a few minutes a day of quick checks and coding, then end of quarter reporting is easy.”

The Problem

The amount of time taken up managing compliance data each week was high, and getting higher with new CEMS requirements. The data was being imported into spreadsheets, where it was reviewed, calculations applied and reason and action codes added by hand. Generating quarterly reports was labor-intensive. Compliance calculations in the Distributive Control System (DCS) were also inaccessible and incomplete.

Jeremy Meeks took over the post of Environmental Engineer at the McPherson refinery after the ESC|StackVision DAS had been installed. The change-out from the previous Data Acquisition System (DAS) vendor happened in 2012 and Jeremy started in 2013.

When he started at McPherson, however, the process for managing compliance data was still the same as it had been while using the old DAS. It is helpful to examine here, because it was very similar to what other refineries are still using. Though many refineries rely on the plant historian for data collection, rather than a DAS, in this case the DAS was being used as though it was just a data collection device.

The old DAS would dump daily text files which then had to be brought into specially designed Excel® spreadsheets. There the data was manually checked for validity, the calculations were run and the averaging applied. Reason and action codes were being added entirely by hand to account for monitor downtime and other events. Logs from the technicians were written in notebooks in the CEMS shelters.

Unfortunately, this manual process had been continued even after the ESC DAS was installed. When Jeremy took over, “One or two days a week were used up managing the data in Excel® spreadsheets.” End of quarter reviews and reports were handled in the same laborious way.

Compliance Calculations in the DCS

Data also went into the DCS. For example, raw NOx, raw SO2, NOx lb/MMBtu went into the DCS, then calculations were built and used there for compliance limits and operational adjustments. Jeremy however, being in Environmental, had limited access to the DCS to make changes to those calculations and couldn’t adjust them easily.

“When you are running one or two CEMS, that is no big deal, but with all the new regulations; F-factor changes, flares and so-on, getting process and control engineers to make changes is like pulling teeth.”

Process and control engineers have their own concerns and often aren’t as concerned about environmental regulations, so this situation is understandably common. But Jeremy was faced with a batch of new permitting requirements which had substantially increased the number of the refinery’s CEMS units. He looked at the time-consuming and error-prone manual process with the spreadsheets and at his lack of control over the DCS, and decided something had to be done. He chose to dig into ESC|StackVision, to see what it could handle beyond data collection and export.

The Solution

With StackVision being used fully, the burden of data management is now mostly automated. Invalid and suspect data are flagged, QA processing steps and reason and action codes for common issues are applied. Compliance calculations are built-in, and under Environmental’s control. Reports are generated with a few clicks or scheduled and emailed automatically.

“If you keep up with things all it takes is a few minutes a day of quick checks and coding, then end of quarter reporting is easy.”

It wasn’t easy at first. Jeremy was unaware of the resources available to him from ESC for learning StackVision, so he was on his own. He did a fair amount by trial and error, then met one of our engineers during a project and learned from him. The engineer connected him with ESC Support.

“Now, sometimes with simple questions I figure them out for myself, but sometimes it is just easier to ask for help. I’ve never gotten ‘I don’t know’ for an answer. Once I got, ‘That’s interesting, I’m going to have to think about that.’ and we’ve brainstormed together on some stuff. I’ve never been left hanging with no response.”

Jeremy has actually become pretty advanced in his use of StackVision, but let’s take a look at the results of his efforts in this case. According to Jeremy, “We review the data weekly and can see in the LogBook what has happened and add a comment with the reason and action codes right in DataLab.”

LogBook is a tool within StackVision, the notes are time-stamped and identify the user who entered them. DataLab is one of the main feature areas. A user can call up ranges of data, based on custom filters and time settings, then investigate, summarize, chart, edit or annotate the data.

“The CEMS shacks still have notebooks lying around, but now the technicians enter everything into LogBook. Everything is networked, so I can VPN from home and see what is happening in my absence.” Jeremy says that the only hard part about using LogBook to code the data was getting the technicians used to doing it that way.

What about the Calculations in the DCS?

"Now I have my own ‘mini-DCS’ for CEMS in StackStudio."

ESC|StackStudio is the configuration editor provided for StackVision administrators. “All calculations are in StackVision and I can change which values are being sent to the DCS from within StackStudio.” Jeremy also uses StackVision’s alarms, reports, consoles and flagging to keep up to the minute with the status of CEMS units. Calibration and QA test management are built-in. His experience has also lead ESC to more proactively help new users be aware of resources after the initial implementation project is over.

Though Jeremy wasn’t aware of it to start off, ESC works hard to make it easy for customers to have success with their systems. A StackVision Implementation project normally includes initial configuration of the data controller and software, with all of the compliance calculations required by the facility permit, plus a factory acceptance test for approval before installation. Two days of training, engineering assistance on-site for the installation, complete documentation and the first year of 24/7 support give most folks a good base to start from. Ongoing, we offer renewable support contracts, free and paid training opportunities and two user group meetings a year. We also offer services such as reporting, configuration or IT, to cover situations where customers are understaffed, lack know-how or just want us to handle something.


    Published: 11/17/2016 5:09:00 PM

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