ABB Customer World: Virtualization boosts process control at NOVA Chemicals


HOUSTON -- Located about 180 miles (288 kilometers) southwest of Toronto, NOVA Chemicals' Corunna site is a petrochemical complex that produces 1.8 billion pounds of ethylene and up to 700 million pounds of co-products annually. The facility started up in late 1977 and was purchased by NOVA Chemicals in 1988. It was the first fully integrated refinery and petrochemical complex in North America and today employs 495 people.

NOVA had used ABB’s System 800xA for some of its operations at Corunna, but recently undertook a project to upgrade from version 5.0 to 6.0, as well as to replace OIS40s in the plant’s Material Flow section with System 800xA. The objectives were straightforward: lower maintenance costs, reduce physical footprint and increase reliability. NOVA looked to virtualization to achieve these objectives.

Virtualization refers to using a specialized Operating System (OS) to manage the multiple other Virtual Machines (VM’s) running on the same computer. This approach removes the hardware dependencies allowing old OS’s to run on new hardware.

It also uses a smaller footprint (e.g., two servers can run a full 800xA system worth of servers that would otherwise require 8-12 servers). Most applications are not designed to take advantage of multi-core CPU’s, but with virtualization, users can leverage the full capability of server hardware. NOVA settled on a configuration using shared storage devices for their virtualized environment. This arrangement allowed all servers to “see” all of the virtual machines (VMs) on the shared storage. It also offered greater reliability for the VMs and reduced maintenance costs by allowing NOVA to perform hardware maintenance outside of planned shutdowns, which only happen every five years.

“In our larger installation we have added a redundant storage array to the system that is a mirror to the primary,” says Rob Sitzes, IT System Specialist at NOVA. “So, a storage array can fail and the secondary is there and system continues to work. We have still left a couple key systems on local drives to ride through the bump if this happens.”

NOVA also installed a 44-client 800xA system at its olefins area and is currently adding a 53-client expansion that will be completed later this year. The results so far have been good.

“VMware templates speed up deployment of servers,” adds Sitzes. “After you have created the template you can deploy servers from it in approximately 5-7 minutes per server. You can also deploy multiple servers from the same template simultaneously.”

NOVA reports that recovery time after a hardware failure is between 10 and 60 minutes compared to hours or even days previously, and that reliability has improved.

For more details on NOVA’s experience, be sure to attend the conference session this afternoon at 3:30 in Room 330A.

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