Company | Innova

Present and future centralised facility operations
Loading road tankers at CLH Group facilities is one of the operations handled remotely.

The Facility Control Centre remotely manages the operations of more than twenty CLH Group terminals in order to enhance the efficiency and safety of the processes.

CLH has 40 facilities in Spain in its logistics system which enable the storage of oil products and their later distribution. Each one has its own features and the activity varies based on a number of different factors such as the size, location and connection to other companies. However, more than half of them have something in common which is the management of a portion of their operations remotely from the Facility Control Centre (CCI as for its Spanish acronym), a commitment to innovation and technology aimed at improving the efficiency, quality and safety of the processes.

The Manager of the CCI, David Muñoz, explains that the mission of the centre, located at the Torrejón de Ardoz-San Fernando de Henares facility, “is to remotely perform all operations that had been done from the facility control room locally such as assisting road tanker loading areas, fuel movements and coordination with the Pipeline Control Centre (CCO as for its Spanish acronym), among other tasks. This allows the company to become more efficient and ensures homogeneous operations at all of the Group’s facilities”. Moreover, “it is responsible for resolving first-level automation issues and coordinating with other areas of the company such as Facility Automation and Maintenance, to resolve the most complex of incidents,” he adds.

“The model replicates the operations at the plants and standardises the activities to optimise the resources”
“This management model, which will be implemented at other facilities in the future, replicates the operation of its plants and standardises their activities, thereby optimising the resources available, increasing the flexibility of the services and fostering flexible and immediate responses when needed,” says the Assistant Manager of Centralised Operations, Ricardo Ribó. This brings added value to CLH but also to all of its customers as it streamlines and improves their interaction with the company.

New duties In order to carry out the remote plant operation, close collaboration is needed between the plant personnel and the CCI. The operations are planned daily at the facilities and this scheduling is done at the CCI in coordination with the plants.

Moreover, the CCI is involved throughout the entire road tanker loading process as it is responsible for ensuring the requirements for controlling access to CLH, managing inspections of new road tankers which begin operating at the facilities, assisting drivers during loading and obtaining delivery notes prior to departure from the facilities. Likewise, the CCI constantly monitors the signals from the fire alarm system and security systems.

Technological update The remote operation of the facilities has been made possible thanks to the work done by various areas at CLH, but especially the possibilities offered by the new technologies. “The facilities now operated by remote control have updated a lot of their equipment and have included them in the control system for local management, even introducing units in the platform which were not possible to view from the control room,” says Juan Luis Serrano, General Maintenance Technician. Added to this is the improved communications with the use of networks and fibre optics, which has allowed the CCI to connect to the facilities and access the information relating to their systems so control and management can be done from a distance. “We’ve created a unified control centre,” explains the Head of Facility Automation, Emilio Cortés, who says “the model is reversible which means the plants could go back to taking control of the operations locally if necessary”.

The Facility Control Centre manages operations which had been done at the plants until now.

There are now more than 20 plants with the capacity to operate remotely. Over this time, the processes and work methods have been optimised although there’s still room for improvement in some areas, “such as handling the flow of information and controlling access, but different alternatives for doing so are under study,” says Ricardo Ribó, Assistant Manager of Centralised Operations.

The A Coruña facility was one of the last ones to adapt its operations and the manager there, Fernando Paredes, says that one of the areas that must be reinforced to foster the change at other terminals is the communication between the CCI and the plants: “Lorry drivers, for example, work directly with the centre and not with the facility control room. The difference is that we knew about the incidents before through the control room and now through the CCI”. In any case, he assures “there is total trust in CCI”.

Improved facility maintenance quality
The remote operations at the CLH Group facilities have changed part of the duties performed at the plants before, especially in the control room where specialists spent a good part of their workdays. The Area Manager for the south, Zaloa Alonso, explains that “with the new model, people have changed their main tasks and can now dedicate more time to maintenance work which leads to better quality and safer operations”.

Francisco Gallego, Head of the Córdoba facility coincides with this: “Since we no longer have to be in the control room, there is more time to do things within the plant and improve on the preventive maintenance times and responses to corrective actions that are needed”. Likewise, many plants are now supervising the integrity of the pipelines. In order to handle these new duties, which help improve the facilities’ activities, the company has offered specific training for the people involved.