The benefits & challenges in implementing IIoT in the Refinery of the Future


This month two members of IIoT World have been invited by HPE to visit their IoT Innovation Lab in Houston and two separate sites where IIoT implementation is already a reality, leveraging the benefits of the intelligent edge.

Together with my partner, Lucian Fogoros, had the chance to visit Texmark Chemicals, Inc., a petrochemical processing and manufacturing company that provides custom contract manufacturing (tolling) of specialty and high-volume chemicals to many of the world’s leading chemical companies. Only with 53 employees, Texmark is the #1 merchant producer of DCPD in North America, a polymer precursor used to make everything from inks to bathtubs.

A couple of years ago, Texmark has undertaken a three-phase IIoT journey, combining HPE and Aruba solutions with services from HPE Pointnext and HPE partners to create an industry-leading Refinery of the Future.

Benefits that IIoT might bring in the Refinery of the Future type of projects

According to HPE, the main player in the IIoT deployment in this project, Texmark’s new IIoT solution would help make its workers safer. For examples, the solution monitors fluid levels and therefore reduces the risk of spills. It can alert Texmark immediately if a system starts to malfunction, enabling the company to respond before workers or production are endangered. In the event of an emergency, it can help protect workers by ensuring Texmark knows their precise location and movements within the facility.

Improve the company’s bottom line. Texmark can use data from IIoT sensors to identify which systems require hands-on evaluations so that it can conduct physical inspections in a more focused and efficient manner.

The new IIoT solution makes it easier for the company to plan inspections and maintenance. To work on distillation columns, Texmark must often take systems off-line and erect costly scaffolding. Improved maintenance planning will reduce these associated costs by at least 50%.

Texmark can also leverage IIoT data gathered during research pilots to determine project feasibility, streamlining its business development timelines quickly. Read more here.

We also asked Doug Smith, CEO, Texmark Chemicals, what are the most important three outcomes as a result of implementing IIoT solutions in the Refinery of the Future project and he specified that these are:

  • Increased worker safety
  • More efficient operations which mean better process analytics, increased uptime, uninterrupted productivity
  • Safety and security inside the plant

For more details and examples, watch our short interview with Doug here.

If companies such as Texmark could understand the opportunities inherent in adopting IoT technologies, their future surely looks bright, but there are at least three significant concerns:

  • Cybersecurity as your plant will be exposed to vulnerabilities
  • Significant costs – transfer of your data to the cloud can cost a lot of money
  • ROI

At least some of these concerns were addressed or reduced in the Refinery of the Future project as the company decided to implement the edge computing solution. According to Tom Bradicich, Vice-president, and general manager, servers and IoT systems Hewlett Packard Enterprise, “edge computing lowers cost, reduces threats, avoid duplication” which can be translated into ROI in a sense. Dr. Bradicich explains what intelligent edge is and gives seven reasons why to compute at the edge. It can be accessed here.

The role of the partners in the IIoT projects

In the Refinery of the Future project, HPE involved several partners: Intel, CB Technologies, PTC and Deloitte. We interviewed Mitch Hall, Deloitte Senior Alliance Director to find out what’s the best way, from his perspective, to help industrial players to see the opportunities that IIoT brings, what are the first steps that were implemented in the Refinery of the Future project and what were the most significant challenges as there were multiple partnerships.

As Mitch explained, Deloitte always starts with the digital strategy first, then the teamwork with the client’s CTO to map out a playbook and identify where are the most impactful use cases based on the business outcome.

Listen to Mitch’s insights in our 5 minutes interview.

Also, we had a short interview with Stan Galanski, SVP, Customer Success at CB Technologies, about lessons learned from the implementation of the Refinery of the Future project. Watch our interview here.

The Texmark’s case study can be accessed here and here is Texmark’s video about how the organization worked with regulated hazardous materials and turned to HPE and Aruba to build a Refinery of the Future featuring Industrial Internet of Things capabilities for improved process analytics, uptime, customer satisfaction, and worker safety.

We’ve also visited the CenterPoint Energy, a company that has been in the energy delivery business for over 140 years and implemented IIoT solutions, resulting in a speedy recovery during and after times of crisis, like Hurricane Harvey, but about this in a future post focused on what we’ve experienced at CenterPoint Energy facility.


This article was written by Carolina Rudinschi, PhD, the co-founder of IIoT World. 

The benefits & challenges in implementing IIoT in the Refinery of the Future