Refinery Benefits from Electronic Logs

Site has achieved better shift changes and improved operating performance.

By George Threadgill III, Ergon Refining, and Cory Engel, CapuTech

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Ergon Refining, Inc. (ERI) operates a 26,500-bbl/d facility in Vicksburg, Miss., that is the world’s largest producer of naphthenic specialty oils. The site includes two hydrotreaters, atmospheric and vacuum distillation towers, three hydrogen gas plants, a sulfur recovery unit and a propane deasphalting unit.

Unfortunately, shift changes weren’t as effective as desired. Missed communications and differing accounts of activities that were provided during problem investigations frequently hampered operations.

The legacy systems used for shift communications were a mixed bag of independent tools. Night orders and the daily write-up were done in e-mail and Word; Excel was used to account for inventory transfers; lab samples were contained in a proprietary database; environmental notifications were recorded in OnBase; and other functions were tracked via paper. This led to a number of issues.

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ERI realized it needed a robust, fully auditable system to eliminate these challenges and provide a central point of communication for all relevant staff. So, in the first quarter of 2013, the company started a project to switch to electronic logbooks; it selected Event Log from CapuTech.

The vision for an electronic log involved more than just the process operators and related supervision. ERI desired a tool that the entire organization could use — with various roles utilizing the log in unique ways (Figure 1).


Event Log fulfilled ERI’s functionality needs and CapuTech’s deep domain expertise provided a combination that suited ERI well.

CapuTech handled the implementation in phases. The first phase involved on-site meetings with ERI’s operations leadership to develop the functional design. This phase was completed fairly rapidly and allowed CapuTech to gather all the necessary information for the design of the system. Decisions made included the number of logs required and the entry types to be used for each log. With CapuTech’s advice, ERI decided on a unique logbook for each of the four work progressions in addition to a supervisor’s log. Entry types included safety, environmental, transfers, samples and routine entries, among others. CapuTech built a prototype system and installed it on ERI’s hardware.

After a brief evaluation of the prototype and some refinement of the user experience, ERI approved the design and CapuTech completed the implementation. This was followed by installation on ERI’s local servers and comprehensive user and administrator training. Total time from start to finish was about six weeks.

Event Log is built around Microsoft SharePoint technology. This allows for a highly customizable web solution with native features for security, scalability and integration with other systems. Examples of this integration include interfaces with the SAP equipment database and OSIsoft PI historian. Each log entry is connected to a functional location that is consistent with the SAP functional location code. The use of functional location codes aids in consistency, searchability and organization of entries. Event Log also allows creating rules for deploying PI tags and calculations to generate automatic log entry, send e-mails or produce reports.

Detailed shift reports are generated to assist with shift change; various other reports are used for purposes that were not even envisioned originally. Two such examples are transfer management and lab samples. Transfers very recently have been fully integrated with Event Log. Each transfer recorded is initiated and completed within the logbook, and includes a pre-check to determine if the destination vessel for the transfer has enough volume available.

Also recently implemented was a mechanism for tracking lab results that are deemed critical control points. While these results always have been contained in a lab historian, ERI wanted the operators also to track the results in the logbook. This allows the operators to have integrated access to recent samples and to easily visualize the results along with targets and limits for each control point. In addition, it ensures that a regular review of all samples was conducted during shift change. The reports generated from the lab entries in the log have improved transparency with engineers and supervisors, and boosted product-quality consistency.

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