News | May 17, 1999

BASF-Fina Selects Aspentech Plantelligence For World's Largest Single-Train Olefins Plant


  • Software controlled plant systems

  • BASF Fina Petrochemicals LP has chosen Plantelligence software from Aspen Technology, Inc. (Cambridge, MA) to optimize production at its new $1 billion olefins plant and its feedstock supplier, Fina's 180,000 bbl/d Port Arthur, TX, refinery.

    When it comes on stream during the first quarter of 2001, the jointventure naphtha steam cracker will be the world's largest single-train olefins plant. It will have nameplate capacity of 1.83 billion lb/y ethylene and 1.9 billion lb/y propylene.

    Integrated software suit (back to top)
    Aspen's Plantelligence is an integrated suite of software suit designed to fill the gap between Fina's SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which optimizes the movement of orders, feedstocks, and products moving through a business, and the control system that governs plant operations.

    Aspen Technology says its Plantelligence software suite fills the gap between enterprise resource planning (ERP) and plant operating controls.

    "Plantelligence automatically adjusts plant operating conditions to reflect the ERP sales and product plan," says Aspen process design and optimization SVP John Derbyshire. "It takes three pieces of information—what to make, how much to make, and when to make it by—and translates it into variety of variables that the production team can play with to optimize profit."

    That's especially important to BASF Fina. The cracker is BASF's first in the United States, and will likely open into a soft ethylene market. Fina's refinery, which will supply feedstock, is counting on demand from the joint-venture to improve its disappointing profitability.

    The new cracker will use naphtha feedstock, rather than the more common natural gas liquids (NGL) used by most US ethylene producers. NGLs are often viewed as the least expensive way to make ethylene, especially in the United States where NGL supplies are plentiful.

    To outperform modern NGL-based plants, the BASF Fina cracker and Fina refinery must operate as a single, integrated unit. They must also work together to buy the least expensive types of feedstocks while optimizing product stream output to achieve the best mix of olefins and refinery products.

    "They're aiming to get the benefits of running two businesses as one entity, as far as how they operate the facilities," says Derbyshire.

    BASF Fina plans to use Aspen's Plantelligence software to operate its $1 billion naphtha olefins steam cracker and Fina's Port Arthur, TX, refinery, pictured, as a single entity.

    "When we started talking to them about planning systems," Derbyshire continues, "they saw a gap between their enterprise system and plant-level controls. They saw the need for an integrated production management system that could tell them, in a single day, whether they were really implementing their production plan, and how their actual margins compared to the plan. They couldn't afford to wait 15 days to see if they ran the refinery right for the cracker."

    According to Derbyshire, BASF Fina will use a distributed Plantelligence system to operate the plants. Monthly ERP planning, feedstock purchasing, and simulations of optimal plant performance will take place in Dallas.

    Software controlled plant systems (back to top)
    The cracker and refinery will operate Plantelligence subsets. At their simplest level, the software will download a series of plant control system set points that govern feed rates, reaction conditions, and volumes. They will also adjust to variations in actual plant feedstocks and operating conditions, updating the ERP program with new information.

    "A lot of times, companies will buy oil while the tankers are still on the ocean, and what they actually unload may vary somewhat from the specs they originally purchased," Derbyshire explains. "It's difficult to match exactly what's in tanks." Plantelligence will analyze the actual feedstocks in the tanks and feed the information into the ERP system, which then updates and optimizes the production plan to ensure the most profitable mix of products.

    "If you're buying hundreds of millions of dollars in feedstocks on the spot market, even small improvements in how you buy or use them have a huge impact on the bottom line," says Derbyshire.

    "We originally began talking to BASF Fina about separate planning, information management, and training systems," he continues. "At one point, we had five different projects going. When we began to talk about Plantelligence and they realized that a single system put all the pieces together, they took the plunge."

    BASF Fina's naphtha-based ethylene plant will have broad feedstock flexibility, but it must optimize feedstock purchases and operations to compete with facilities, such as this one, that use liquid natural gas (LPG) for feed.

    BASF agrees. "We selected Aspentech's Plantelligence because it is the only fully integrated production management system that will assist us in becoming an industry leader and will enable us to sustain a high level of performance in the competitive Gulf Coast ethylene market," says Rudi Schnur, BASF Corp. VP of special projects. "The system not only maximizes the margins of the plant, but also tightly integrates with our corporate IT system which is a critical requirement for this joint venture."

    BASF Fina was formed in September 1997 as a joint-venture between BASF Corp. (Mount Olive, NJ), which owns 60% of the business, and Fina, Inc. (Plano, TX), which holds the remaining 40%. BASF will operate the steam cracker while Fina manages all related equipment outside the cracker fence line.

    Aspen specializes in process design and automation. In addition to BASF Fina, it has sold Plantelligence software to BP Amoco/Lavera, Westlake Chemical, Equistar, and Norway's Statoil. Aspen employs more than 1400 people and has offices in 22 countries.

    For more information: John Derbyshire, SVP, Process Design and Optimization, Aspen Technology, Inc., 9896 Bissonnet, Houston, TX 77036-8220. Phone: 713-313-5000. Fax: 713-313-5200.

    By Alan S. Brown