2M Automation: oils well that ends well

Posted on 9 Oct 2016 by The Manufacturer

2M Automation Ltd’s Sahar Mirshafiei explains the firm’s unique approach to upgrading oil industry pipework cladding systems.

Imagine old machines, no longer performing to modern standards. The original machine constructor says the control systems are obsolete and brand new machines are the only solution. At £120,000 each, the thought of replacing six is overwhelming.

Sahar Mirshafiei, operations manager, 2M Automation Ltd.
Sahar Mirshafiei, operations manager, 2M Automation Ltd.

Now imagine this – upgrade just the control systems, maintaining all of the mechanics, at a third of the price per machine. The result is a superior product, surpassing the functionality of brand new machines offered by market leaders.

This is the story of 2M Automation’s cladding range.

So, what does 2M’s cladding range actually do? The International Energy Agency estimates that 70% of the world’s remaining oil reserves consist of crude oil with either high sulphur or CO2 content that requires high quality, corrosion-resistant materials for extraction.

The same is true of gas, where around 50% is highly corrosive. The answer to corrosion is cladding of the steel pipework, where protective material is fused onto the pipe’s interior and/or exterior surface.

Cladding enables the steel to last up to six-times longer, minimising the risk of leaks and costly maintenance and downtime.

However, there is a shortage of cladding service suppliers – the machinery involved is not only expensive, but also difficult and time consuming to use. Operator control systems are complex and often old fashioned.

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Furthermore, older, legacy machines do not have the electronic data logging capabilities users need to meet modern quality and traceability standards.

2M Automation was challenged by IODS, a Scottish cladding service provider for piping and valves, to retrofit a new control system on an existing cladding machine.

The mechanics were sound, but the control system was inadequate – no traceability and the ancient feeder printers produced reams of paper that had to be filed away.

2M accepted the challenge and chose B&R, an innovative Austrian manufacturer of industrial automation equipment. B&R’s flexible and scalable hardware platform and the power of its single engineering environment – Automation Studio – were the key deciding factors.

2M also took full advantage of the remote access capabilities of the B&R control system, which enables remote and secure diagnostics, troubleshooting and upgrading of any cladding control system around the world directly from its Manchester offices.

The human-machine interface supplied by 2M used state-of-the-art technology, creating an intuitive operator interface that delivered a huge improvement in usability.

Current solutions require operators to attend an eight-week training course, while 2M’s innovative cladding system delivers a best-in-class solution with operators fully trained within a week.

Last, but not least, modernising the legacy system allowed full electronic tracking and storage of operator data, which ensured traceability for IODS and its end users.

It was a challenge entering into a long-established market with core players, but with a superior product and word-of-mouth recommendations 2M quickly has grown into a major global provider.

Today, more than 60 of its cladding control systems have been designed and delivered to clients across the world, from Scotland and Ireland to the United Arab Emirates, India and the US.