ExxonMobil strives to achieve open automation joins UniversalAutomation.Org







Interview: ExxonMobil Strives to Achieve Open Automation Joins UniversalAutomation.Org

Exxon Mobil has certainly done more than its fair share of heavy lifting in contributing to open interoperable process automation systems initiatives (see related article links below). UniversalAutomation.Org (UAO) is an independent association that maintains a reference implementation of a shared-source industrial automation standard IEC 61499 runtime software engine based on Schneider Electric’s nxtControl runtime code. I had a chat with Ryan Smeltzer, OPA Program Manager for ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, about the company’s commitment to open automation and his motivation to join the UniversalAutomation organization.

Smeltzer is part of the ExxonMobil Engineering and Technology group which provides technical expertise to existing facilities and the development of new projects around the world and drives the continuous improvement and advancement of control, automation and optimization technologies. He endorsed UniversalAutomation.org saying, “ExxonMobil is excited to join and collaborate with fellow members to advance what we believe is an industry-standard runtime environment for control logic and control applications. .”


Smeltzer explained that this was part of ExxonMobil’s streamlining of its business structure announced on April 1, 2022, combining chemical and downstream businesses, and centralizing technology, engineering and other support services. Darren Woods, President and CEO of ExxonMobil, explained it this way: “Our transformed business structure allows us to take full advantage of the scale, integration, technology advantages of the business, as well as the skills and capabilities of our talented workforce, to better serve our customers.”

“We view IEC 61499 and UA.org as core to our open process automation program to deploy our advanced control and optimization intellectual property on open platforms at the industrial edge where appropriate. , including analytics and machine learning,” said Ryan Smeltzer.

Smeltzer’s vision is to have an open IEC 61499 industrial control ecosystem to select and use best-in-class components from different vendors without the constraints of custom integration, thereby increasing the efficiency of manufacturing operations through application portability.


IEC 61499 prime time readiness criteria ?


Since the UniversalAutomation.org organization will have runtime available in the future, I asked Smeltzer what criteria ExxonMobil will use to decide when the UniversalAutomation.org runtime and engineering software is truly commercially viable and open in terms of the number of vendor runtimes and engineering software for users to build applications?

Smeltzer said that will happen when the market is mature enough to have sufficient standards-based competition, noting, “In our open process automation program, we have a set of criteria that we’re working on to measure what we call commercial readiness, which is really a point where we are actually ready to incorporate the requirements into our global projects, indicating that these are the requirements if you want to compete for investments such as a MIC (Master Instrumentation Contractor ) or an automation vendor (MAC-Master Automation Contractor) on our global projects. We have recently refined this by developing the MIC strategy primarily targeting DCS majors; later this will be used with other players.

ExxonMobil is not willing to share these criteria at this time as they are under development.

Smeltzer pointed out, “We want to drive innovation in this space, which means you need some competition in the marketplace to create the environment and vendors to support their business model for a win-win dynamic. “


IEC 61499 history


Originally published in 2005 as the IEC 61499 international standard, it has recently gained renewed interest with recent developments including the IEC 61499 Eclipse Foundation 4diac open source project and UniversalAutomation.org training. The history and renewed interest are explored in this article: Will the IEC 61499 programming standard become widespread?


Publisher’s engineering tool and licenses


Schneider Electric license license The EcoStruxure Automation Expert edition software is the only engineering tool to date for the UniversalAutomation.org runtime engine. John Conway described UniversalAutomation.org members who can currently license EcoStruxure Automation Expert edition software that supports Schneider Electric’s IEC 61499 standard. Going forward, Conway has confirmed that UniversalAutomation.org members will be licensed for the Universal Automation runtime source code, but this is undocumented at this time. UniversalAutomation.org does not intend to create an IEC 61499 editor or compiler. It also stated that Schneider Electric, including nxtControl, will define licensing requirements and all information allowing UniversalAutomation.org members to create editors at some point in the future.

John Conway described the intent: “We’ll be helping other companies build other IDEs, so we either have to provide the information or maybe even provide a component. We have to figure out how we’re actually going to do it, the expertise today is inside Schneider Electric. »


ExxonMobil Advanced Controls


Since ExxonMobil has done quite a bit of work creating advanced controls and optimization, I asked if they plan to contribute IP to UnoversalAutomation.org for organizing standardized building blocks. Smeltzer explained that this was out of scope as it is part of their competitive advantage. UniversalAutomation.org membership should help foster the development of products and offerings based on the IEC 61499 standard.


Field test benches


He pointed out that ExxonMobil is trying to accelerate time to market at scale with things like field testing using the IEC 61499 standard, helping to foster the industrial open architecture ecosystem. Field trials help ExxonMobil define requirements for future automation investments, “the intention is to use IEC 61499 as the primary driver for running control applications and OPAS-compliant control logic ( Open Process Automation).

Smeltzer explained, “ExxonMobil has been willing to share its hands-on experience and continue the collaborative experience by promoting wider adoption of IEC 61499, supporting the development of additional products that ensure a non-confidential way to share success in the form of use cases, the value proposition that we are. afterwards as part of a collaboration with other members. And finally, having a say and influencing the development of the reference standard around IEC 61499.”


First field test: Yokogawa System Integrator


Yokogawa was selected by ExxonMobil as the system integrator for the first field trial of an open process automation (OPA) system with over 2,000 I/O points designed to run an entire production facility which is expected to go live in 2023. The field trial will be running on a product running the UniversalAutomation.org runtime software. The field trial will take place at an ExxonMobil manufacturing facility located on the US Gulf Coast, replacing the existing Distributed Control System (DCS) and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) with a single integrated system that meets the Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS). The project will incorporate enhanced control capabilities through the implementation of OPA (Open Process Automation) technologies and interfaces.

Ryan Smeltzer said, “ExxonMobil is delighted to have reached this important milestone with Yokogawa and to advance the first field trial of an OPA system at an existing ExxonMobil manufacturing facility. The project will leverage the significant progress made in testing OPA components and O-PAS standards in close collaboration with Yokogawa. The OPA field trial is the next step in bringing OPA to market and capturing additional value from our automation and control systems. »

Over the past two years, ExxonMobil and Yokogawa have developed, tested and improved OPA technologies through the joint operation of an OPA test bed located near ExxonMobil’s campus in Houston, Texas. This collaborative work developed and qualified many of the basic OPA functions for field testing. In addition to field testing, engineers at the Houston Area Development Office testbed will continue to implement and refine OPA technologies in accordance with the latest version of the O-PAS standard.



About the Author


Bill Lydon brings over 10 years of writing and editing expertise to Automation.com, as well as over 25 years of experience designing and applying technology to the automation and controls industry. Lydon began his career as a designer of computerized machine tool controls. in other positions he applied Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) and process control technology. Working at a large company, Lydon spent two years as part of a five-person workgroup, which designed a next-generation building automation system including controllers, networking, and monitoring and control software. . He also designed software for the optimization of chillers and boilers. Bill was product manager for a multi-million dollar line of control and automation products, then co-founder and president of an industrial control software company.

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