ExxonMobil Reaffirms Commitment to Open Process Automation

Author photo: Harry Forbes
ByHarry Forbes
Industry Trends

ExxonMobil delivered one very important presentation at the 2018 Honeywell Users Group Americas (HUG). It concerned a new capability for emulation of Honeywell TDC 3000 equipment.

ExxonMobil has a huge installed base of Honeywell automation systems, many of them decades old, and many of the older systems are Honeywell TDC 3000. TDC 3000 was introduced in the mid-1980s, and while many ExxonMobil units still have TDC, many other companies also do, too. Time marches on, and neither love nor money can provide hardware support forever. ExxonMobil expected to run into serious parts shortages for TDC in 2025 and (to be frank) it would be extremely difficult to replace the large number of systems that ExxonMobil runs by that date. The need to update so many systems was the genesis within ExxonMobil of what has now become The Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), of The Open Group.

ExxonMobil's David Patin presents at Honeywell HUG 2018

But the same impending end of TDC component parts was also the genesis of the ELCN, Honeywell’s new emulation capability. Honeywell named it the Experion LCN R501.1, or just the ELCN for short. The emulation includes both hardware and software, and Honeywell stated its top design principle for ELCN as: “All existing customer-created TDC data objects will run without recompile, rebuild or reconstruction”.

ARC believes the ELCN was welcome news to many Honeywell customers, and the ELCN was lavishly praised by ExxonMobil’s David Patin at the podium of the HUG event. Immediately several ARC end user clients asked us the obvious question – What are the implications of the ELCN for the OPAF organization and the standards it is developing? What will happen to the market for OPAF compliant products? What will be the impact on ExxonMobil’s commitment to OPAF?

Good questions, all. So, I asked ExxonMobil directly and here is their response, via Chief Engineer for Process Control, Don Bartusiak:

ExxonMobil’s commitment to Open Process Automation is unequivocal. OPA directly addresses the root causes of the business problem that we and other operating companies are trying to solve. Nevertheless, we are pleased that Honeywell has responded to our requests for TDC 3000 life extension to give us another option for responsibly managing the lifecycles of our manufacturing assets.

Suppliers and industry, in general, should not interpret ExxonMobil’s long-standing work with Honeywell as a reduction in our commitment to the goals of OPA. We and our operating company collaboration partners are currently executing a plan to implement on-process prototypes using the OPA approach. Ultimately, ExxonMobil expects to issue procurement specifications that require certified conformance to the Open Process Automation Technical Standard that is being written now by the OPA Forum of The Open Group.

Enough said. As an analyst, I advise my end user clients to prepare for more products like the ELCN in the future DCS market. Emulation of TDC 3000 took some serious work. Emulation of more modern DCSes should be simpler, and I expect several other suppliers to introduce emulations or virtualizations of both their legacy and their most modern control products. Honeywell won’t be the last to do this by any means.


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