AspenTech recently held its OPTIMIZE China 2018 conference in Beijing, China, which highlighted the benefits of digital transformation. This was the second time the company organized this large-scale customer conference in China. More than 600 participants attended the two-day event; most were end users from upstream oil & gas, refining, chemicals, and other process industries. The event included nearly 80 presentations covering AspenTech technology updates, best practices, case studies, and AspenTech’s Process Engineering, Manufacturing & Supply Chain, and Asset Performance Management product offerings.
In his keynote presentation, Antonio Pietri, President and CEO of AspenTech, showcased the history of the company’s presence in China. This began early in 1983 when AspenTech sold two licenses to Sinopec. Today, the company is helping a variety of end users in China succeed with digital transformation to increase manufacturing cost competitiveness and drive higher levels of operational excellence by making assets more reliable.
Other key takeaways from Mr. Pietri’s presentation include:
- Aspen eLearning, the latest addition to the Aspen Knowledge offering, is available in both English and Chinese. Students will receive a certificate upon completion. Aspen Knowledge is a comprehensive training offering designed to help customers overcome a growing knowledge gap and accelerate their ability to solve the most complex engineering and operational challenges. Aspen eLearning is composed of on-demand, expert-led courses on specific applications that are organized into self-guided learning paths designed to accelerate the proficiency of a changing workforce.
- AspenTech recently introduced the aspenONE Asset Performance Management (APM) software suite that includes Aspen Fidelis Reliability, Aspen Mtell, Aspen ProMV, Aspen Root Cause Analytics and - most recently - the Aspen Connect family of edge and cloud software solutions. These are designed to create a sustainable Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) infrastructure that scales from pilot to production, delivering low-touch, high-impact analytics and machine learning applications to asset-intensive companies. The expansion of the aspenONE software product portfolio from engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain into maintenance addresses key business challenges that include process disruptions, low asset availability, and unplanned downtime.
- AspenTech announced a strategic framework cooperation agreement with China National Bluestar (Group) Co. to broaden the deployment of Aspen Plus software for process simulation and Aspen DMCplus software for advanced process control company-wide.
- AspenTech currently has more than 200 employees in China, which represents about 17 percent of the company’s total global headcount. The Shanghai R&D team is one of its three main global R&D centers. More than 100 companies in China are AspenTech customers and it has introduced Chinese language versions for 19 different software products.
- With more than 40 percent of global commodity chemical production based in China, AspenTech has successfully targeted this sector. In addition to tier 1 companies like Sinopec and PetroChina, its customers include tier 2 process manufacturers like Hengyi, Hengli, ZheJiang Petrochemical, Wonfull, Wanhua, and Chambroad Petrochemicals.
China’s Changing Commodity Chemicals Industry Sees Benefits of Digital Transformation
Following several decades of expansion, China now has a huge commodity chemicals industry, with leading positions in production volumes for many main products. But the industry is changing. Based on data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, in 2017 the total CapEx spending of China’s chemical industry was about $227 billion, a decline of 5.2 percent compared to 2016. At the same time, the total production volumes of main chemical products increased 2.7 percent in 2017. Clearly, the industry is shifting from being investment-driven to being operational efficiency-driven.
In her presentation, Paige Morse, Chemical Industry Marketing Director of AspenTech, expanded upon this. “Due to the many commodity chemical projects now in operation, in most segments, we’re seeing excess capacity in many emerging markets. For commodity chemical manufacturers, the biggest challenge today is to increase operational efficiency, and manufacturing cost competitiveness.” Dr. Morse went on to explain how, based on the many successful applications in developed regions, AspenTech’s advanced technologies and best practices can benefit China’s chemical industry today.
Users’ Presentations in Commodity Chemicals Industry
In addition to the presentations by AspenTech’s global and regional experts, many Chinese users shared their successful implementation experiences and best practices at the event. Brief discussions of several of these presentations follow.
Sinopec Engineering Incorporation is the largest Engineering & Construction (E&C) company in China. It deploys AspenTech Engineering software to help decrease FEED package preparation time, rework, and energy consumption. By selecting the best alternative process and identifying the best equipment option – the time spent on the FEED process can be reduced from months to weeks.
Using aspenONE Engineering software suite, Sinopec can optimize its refinery plant operations. By simulating and optimizing the crude distillation unit (CDU) and fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) distillation process, Sinopec can optimize 26 operational parameters to derive benefits exceeding $7 million per year.
East China Engineering Science & Technology Company is one of China’s main international chemical engineering companies. Its project-oriented digital transformation strategy is designed to help its customers “go digital.” The company uses AspenTech process engineering software products, such as Aspen Basic Engineering, Aspen Capital Cost Estimator, Aspen Flare System Analyzer, Aspen HYSYS Dynamics, and Aspen Plus to help its own clients realize digital transformation.
In a more specific application example, PetroChina needed to increase the production capacity of an air fractionation unit in one of its plants from 38 tons/hour to 45 tons/hour. With help from AspenTech and a regional partner, PetroChina applied Aspen HYSYS software to build a process model of the unit, which enabled them to determine the bottleneck. Then they used Aspen Exchanger Design and Rating software to redesign the heat exchanger. The increase in production capacity resulted in an economic benefit of approximately $6 million per year.
Manufacturing and Supply Chain
With total production capacity of 400,000 tons per year, Jiangxi Xinghuo Organic Silicon, a subsidiary of China National Bluestar (Group) Co, is Asia’s largest organic silicon manufacturer. The company implemented AspenTech Advanced Process Control (APC) software in two distillation units (100,000 and 200,000 tons capacity, respectively) and achieved approximately $6 million in benefits per year from raw materials and energy savings. This APC implementation also helped improve safety and product quality.
Wynca Group is one of the world’s top 20 enterprises in agricultural chemistry. The company’s main products are crop protection products and organic silicon materials. Wynca has implemented a successful smart manufacturing pilot project that focuses on supply chain management and manufacturing. In this pilot project, the company applied Aspen Collaborative Demand Manager, Aspen Supply Chain Planner, Aspen InfoPlus.21, and aspenONE Process Explorer software solutions to improve its manufacturing cost position. Now, Wynca plans to work closely with AspenTech to focus on industrial analytics, APC, and asset performance management software applications.
Hengyi Petrochemical, the world’s largest purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) manufacturer, invested $3.45 billion to build a petrochemical plant in Brunei. Scheduled to begin production in 2019, the plant will have a paraxylene (PX) production capacity of 1.5 million tons. In the second half of 2017, Hengyi applied Aspen PIMS software to build a refining planning model, optimize crude oil purchasing and develop product blending solutions. Following startup, the company plans to implement AspenTech process simulation and APC software solutions after operation.
The focus for commodity chemical manufacturers in China has shifted from expanding production to increasing operational efficiency and manufacturing cost competitiveness. As a result, technologies that support digital transformation are becoming increasingly more valuable.
ARC Advisory Group has observed that, in recent years, China’s commodity chemical manufacturers have become more open to investigate and implement newer technologies that support advanced, digitally enabled advanced manufacturing and supply chain approaches. As pioneering companies with clear strategies and roadmaps for digital transformation begin to see economic benefits from their pilot implementations; other companies are also starting to get “on board.”
ARC believes that leading technology suppliers with a long and strong presence in the country can help guide and support China’s process manufacturers in their respective digital transformation journeys. In addition to its proven commitment to developing and delivering advanced technology laser-focused on driving higher levels of operational excellence, AspenTech also brings best practices and domain knowledge to China’s commodity chemicals industry and other process industries.
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Keywords: AspenTech, China, Commodity Chemicals, Process Industry, Process Engineering, Manufacturing & Supply Chain, Asset Performance Management, ARC Advisory Group.