Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Google and Repsol bring big data to Spanish refinery

Steve Rogerson
June 7, 2018



Spanish energy company Repsol is working with Google Cloud on a project that will use big data and artificial intelligence to optimise management of the Tarragona refinery in Spain.
 
Refineries are among the largest and most complex industrial facilities.
 
Repsol’s executive managing director of downstream, María Victoria Zingoni (pictured right), and Google’s country manager for Spain and Portugal, Fuencisla Clemares (pictured left), participated in the launch of the project, which will be carried out in the Tarragona industrial complex.
 
This initiative puts the latest cloud technology from Google at the service of the refinery’s operators. Repsol’s objectives are to increase efficiency, both in energy consumption as well as consumption of other resources, and to improve performance of the refinery’s overall operations.
 
To achieve this, Google will make available to Repsol its data and analytics products, the experience of its professional services consultants and its machine learning managed service, Google Cloud ML, which will help Repsol’s developers build and bring machine learning models to production in their refinery environment.
 
The management of a refinery involves around 400 variables, which demands a high level of computational capacity and a vast amount of data control.
 
Until now, the highest number of functions integrated digitally in an industrial plant has been around 30 variables, demonstrating the challenge this project presents. It aims to increase the number of variables being managed by more than ten times. Repsol chose the Tarragona refinery to develop this initiative because the online configuration of its production schematics facilitates testing and implementation.
 
This project, as well as the collaboration with Google Cloud, is part of Repsol’s ongoing digitalisation, innovation and technology projects development in all its business units to improve its competitiveness and efficiency.
 
The project has the potential to add 30 cents on the dollar to Repsol’s refined barrel margin, which could translate to $20m annually for the Tarragona refinery, with significant upwards growth if all optimisation objectives are achieved.
 
“This is an efficiency project in all senses,” said Zingoni. “It seeks to consume less resources, reduce energy consumption, which is the highest cost of a refinery, increase the unit reliability and, by extension, improve economic performance. This initiative belongs to a more comprehensive plan to take advantage of the possibilities afforded us by the latest in technology, and improve industrial processes. We are not afraid of aiming for the stars, even if some projects will fail. This is about learning as fast as possible and that machines help people in their work.”
 
This project, as well as the collaboration with a partner such as Google, is part of Repsol’s on-going digitalisation, innovation and technology projects development in all its business units to improve its competitiveness and efficiency.
 
"This project demonstrates the commitment from Spanish companies to digital transformation and the application of machine learning in industrial processes, of which Repsol is a pioneer,” said Clemares. “At Google we are deeply committed to sustainability and ensuring that we have a positive impact on the environment, and we see technology such as machine learning and data analytics playing an important role in helping our customers maximise their own efficiency. We are proud to collaborate with a company such as Repsol, which has been a leader for many years in leveraging technological innovation to reduce its environmental impact.”
 
This project is compatible with other digital initiatives that are already in use at Repsol’s industrial facilities, such as Siclos, with which Repsol’s refinery control panel operators learn, in real time, the economic implications of operating decisions; or Nepxus, which increases planning, analysis and agility in decision-making in the control rooms of these industrial installations.
 
Tarragona is one of the six refineries that Repsol operates in Spain and Peru. This plant has capacity to distil 186,000 barrels of oil a day and is Repsol’s third-largest unit.
 
The facility occupies over 500 hectares and is as large as the Tarragona's city centre. The refining unit processes 9.5 million tons of raw material a year and the storage tanks can hold a million cubic metres.