Working in unusual locations

  • 31 October 2022
  • 5 minutes

As a specialist in industrial automation, ICT Group visits many unusual locations. Although a gas production platform at sea has long since ceased to be an exception for ICT Group subsidiary Raster.

“After all, we have been active in this field of work for more than 20 years,” says managing director Martijn Kooij. “Our engineers are used to spending a few days offshore on a gas production platform about three times a year. When we hear the word ‘taxi’, we think of a helicopter rather than Uber.”

Whereas in the past Raster’s focus was on automating newly built gas production platforms, it is increasingly shifting to the digital transformation of existing platforms “Today’s production sites were all built at a time when you couldn’t remotely read industrial equipment. Today, of course, this is possible and it’s what you want. And that’s why current assignments often involve the modernisation of existing platforms,” Martijn explains. The actual implementation of the new customised process control always takes place during an established maintenance week. Martijn: “This means that we have a very limited time frame and have to test and plan everything well in advance, on shore in our workshop so that we implement it ‘first time right’. After all, you can’t just take the helicopter up and down if you have forgotten something.”

Phase in energy transition

“The modernisation and expansion of existing production platforms at sea fits in with the Dutch energy transition policy: in due time, oil and gas will be phased out, but in the intervening phase we can’t do without them. In order to spare the Groningen gas field, the smaller fields further away in the North Sea need to be exploited to the maximum. This requires the necessary technical knowledge”, says Martijn. “When a new gas field starts producing, the gas often flows naturally. However, when the gas pressure starts to drop, you need to apply various process measures to the system and operation in order to achieve safe and efficient production. Our Integrated Control & Safety System (ICSS) takes care of this complete control.” An ICSS has several tasks, including:

  • The operation and fully automatic process controls;
  • Functional safety, which ensures that process controls operate within the specified bandwidths;
  • Rapid detection of fire or leakage so that immediate action can be taken by automatic extinguishing systems.

“Production platforms are high-risk systems. Ensuring safety is extremely critical. The platforms are full of sensors that can detect risk factors such as gas fumes and mist. The combined systems provide an accumulation of safety features ensuring that operators can never be surprised by an unsafe situation.”

Martijn Kooij
Managing director, Raster
Martijn Kooij

Working on a production platform

“Being active in such a challenging environment while at the same time realising complex systems from A to Z is what makes the work so attractive”, says lead software engineer Jennie Snijder. She has been working in industrial automation for many years. “I visit many environments where you cannot afford to make any concessions to safety, for example in chemical plants. You figure out how to control a system, design the software and eventually you get to install, test and deliver it yourself. It’s really cool to see that what you have thought up eventually works well in practice”. Julian van Basten, Manager Engineering adds “At Raster, you work on projects that really matter. Moreover, the software often remains in use for up to twenty years, and it’s not just some app that becomes redundant after six months. And you get that helicopter flight for free. How cool is that?”

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Martijn Kooij