The Petrobras Zarate facility boosted production by 3 to 5 percent and cut maintenance costs by 10 to 12 percent once it completed a multi-year control modernization plan.

A multi-year digital automation project at Petrobras Brazil's Zarates polystyrene manufacturing facility near Buenos Aires, Argentina, resulted in production gains and reduced plant downtime. Through the modernization:
  • Production rose by 3 to 5 percent, to 66,000 tons per year.
  • The plant's availability rose to 99 percent.
  • Product reliability increased by 2 percent to 3 percent.
Petrobras credits each of these gains to a digital automation project completed with the help of Austin, Texas-based Emerson Process Management.

The Zarate plant, which produces high-impact, general-purpose crystal and bi-oriented sheet polystyrene, is part of Petrobras Energia, an integrated energy company in Buenos Aires. Working with Petrobras, Emerson installed its PlantWeb digital architecture, AMS Suite asset management software and DeltaV automation system as well as provided consulting and staff training services. According to the two companies, the project modernized Petrobras' high-impact and crystal polystyrene facilities, including the water, steam and air utilities, as well as reactor operations.

The transformation to digital was implemented in stages between 2002 and 2005, according to Roberto Gorbaran, instrumentation supervisor at Petrobras. The processor saved $1.13 million in 2005 when plant personnel completed the final hot cutover of operations control to the DeltaV system without stopping production.

Annual plant stoppages have been reduced by half, to once every two years, because plant staff can now make decisions based on more reliable data about their operations.

The Zarate plant uses Foundation fieldbus communications to network Emerson's digital control systems; flow, level and temperature instruments; coriolis flowmeters; and valves with digital valve controllers. The plant also added a wireless network that allows operators to perform asset maintenance in the field. Plant personnel can use laptops computers to access operational and diagnostic data through remote-access functionality provided by the software suite.