Schneider Electric and Aramco announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on assessing emerging technologies based on the Open-Process Automation Standard (O-PAS). Testing will take place at a new built-for-purpose test bed in the Saudi Schneider Electric Innovation and Research Center in Dhahran Techno Valley, Saudi Arabia.
The new facility will test systems for multi-vendor interoperability, cybersecurity and advanced functionality, such as artificial intelligence and advanced analytics, in real-world applications. Technologies from Schneider Electric as well as other automation vendors will be assessed on how well various solutions work together to produce the high value expected for next-generation industrial automation. Engagement of academia, third-party suppliers and other owners and operators will be explored under this agreement to benefit Aramco and the automation industry in the Middle East.
“Schneider Electric has a long history of innovation and driving open industrial automation,” said Nathalie Marcotte, President, Process Automation, Schneider Electric. “Legacy systems have served us well and advanced us this far but now the time is right to accelerate the digital transformation of industry by taking a new approach to industrial automation with secure interoperable technologies. Aramco and other owners and operators around the globe are looking for ways to optimize their CAPEX and OPEX spend, while making step change improvements in their operational efficiencies and carbon footprint. Standards like O-PAS and IEC 61499 will ensure systems are interoperable, portable, scalable, future proof and intrinsically cybersecure. Emerging automation technologies based on these standards promise to improve uptime, add agility, enhance cybersecurity and enable new operational models at a much-reduced total cost of ownership.”
The new test bed is part of Schneider Electric’s ongoing commitment to build and develop local technical capacity close to its customers and supports Aramco’s ambitious In-Kingdom Total Value Add (IKTVA) initiative. The collaboration will allow Aramco to enhance its local capacity, technical knowledge and digital readiness for Industry 4.0 operational models supported by Schneider Electric’s global expertise and network.
“We are pleased to leverage Schneider Electric’s deep domain expertise to explore next-generation industrial automation architectures,” said Ahmad Al Sa’adi, Senior Vice President, Technical Services, Aramco. “Interoperable and portable systems will give us greater freedom to select and integrate the best in class technologies we need to bring step change advancements in our operations and future-proof our industrial automation system.”
Under the agreement, Schneider Electric and Aramco will jointly define areas of technical collaboration to assess and validate multiple emerging technologies and their benefits, explore real world applications and develop a prototype system.
Ultimately, both companies will jointly deliver an O-PAS-compatible field-test pilot that depicts a section of an Aramco plant with the goal of advancing its sustainability, digitalization and operational excellence capabilities.
Schneider Electric and Aramco are both members of The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), an international forum of end users, system integrators, suppliers, academia, and standards organizations who are working together to develop the specifications for utilizing open process automation technology in next generation process control systems. Schneider Electric has taken a leadership position in working with other members of OPAF to define the O-PAS Standard. Once fully defined, O-PAS will allow for construction of safe, reliable, secure process automation systems that are scalable from very small to very large, which do not require system shutdown to perform updates and extensions, and which can be applied to existing systems and to new construction.
By Mary Page Bailey
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