At a Glance: Closing the digital divide at YPFB’s refineries

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, August 13, 2019
At a Glance: Closing the digital divide at YPFB’s refineries

Although much of Bolivian state hydrocarbons company YPFB’s efforts are focused on its export-oriented upstream and industrialization push, actions are also underway to shore up domestic operations.

Such is the case of the company's refining arm YPFB Refinación which operates the Gualberto Villarroel (side photo) and Guillermo Elder Bell (pictured below) plants in departments Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, respectively, that help cover local fuel demand.

Gualberto was built in 1948 and is the country’s largest refinery with current capacity to process 40,200b/d of crude and Guillermo came online in 1979 with current capacity to process 24,600b/d of crude. Both refineries produce gasoline, diesel, LPG and kerosene while Gualberto also boasts a lubricants plant.

After carrying out a number of overhauls at the facilities, YPFB now looks to migrate its systems to more automated infrastructure to guarantee operational continuity and increase reliability.

The plans for the refineries’ technological revamp aims to improve the precision of measurements in processes through the implementation of digital distributed control systems and the modernization of pneumatic system instrumentation to digital signals, as well as the incorporation of tank overfill and monitoring systems.

Advancement to date at Gualberto includes work to modernize the motor control center, contractual close of the compressor control system and a scheduling review of the burner management system FEED.

At Guillermo, actions have targeted safety instrumented systems, with basic engineering complete for the tank overfill and monitoring systems, and optimization of the MESH communications technology network, with the EPC complete to unify the network, and the extended basic engineering ready for the new control room ahead of a call for bids for the EPC.

A digital refining survey by Accenture revealed that the loss of competitive advantage due to a lack of investment in digital was the number one risk cited by refiners.

Also Read Bolivia to widen hydrocarbons tech footprint

The technology shift comes amid YPFB’s expansion into biofuels with the rollout of gasoline with ethanol mixes of 8% and 12% in Santa Cruz, Tarija, Cochabamba and La Paz in a bid to reduce dependence on fuel imports. Plans envision the launch of gasoline with a 25% ethanol mix.

Numbers from local foreign trade institute IBCE show that Bolivia imported 954,540t of fuels and lubricants in the first five months of 2019 for US$754mn.

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