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Supertanker – super savings

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World Pipelines,

Liquid bulk shipping requires complex planning and scheduling. For many oil, gas, and chemical companies, getting the business in shape to manage incoming and outgoing shipments drives competitive edge. As prices fluctuate on a daily basis, understanding the options on large crude oil vessels and having up-to-date market information is vital when bidding on spot cargo to accurately schedule your fleet. Being able to take all unassigned ships to a legal berth, with all constraints considered, is a logistic and economic challenge. So, how can companies maximise profitability and avoid unnecessary demurrage costs?

Scheduling jetty logistics presents many issues, including determining a programme of delivery dates at specific ports and their associated tank farms. Where traditional static spreadsheets can be inefficient, automated scheduling software simultaneously aligns the schedule and helps companies to easily manage shipments and feedstocks receipts from the refinery gates right down to the docks – the perfect one-stop-shop for ship-shape scheduling.

Overcoming tradition

The majority of the world’s crude oil is transported by tankers and barges from producing regions such as the Middle East and Africa through to refineries in Europe, Asia, and the US. The majority of supertankers are not owned by oil companies. Instead, they are chartered from transportation companies, which specialise in operating these super-sized vessels. Consequently, operating modern tankers efficiently requires each vessel to be at sea for extended periods of time with only short intervals in port to load or unload cargo. Hence, avoiding unnecessary demurrage charges is essential to optimise dock scheduling.

Dock scheduling is traditionally a complicated task, requiring the scheduler to ensure an available berth upon which the vessel can dock and also that the dock has a pipeline line-up to the correct tanks, accounting for the physical characteristics of the dock in relation to the ship’s DWT, beam, loading arm height, etc. and for its cargo to be compatible with the dock.

Approximately 60% of the world’s refineries are waterborne and 50% of all crude oil and petroleum products are transported via waterborne vessels. These tankers arrive at the docks of refineries and unload or load cargo destined for a specific customer. The ships are typically owned by a third party and chartered for each voyage. As part of that charter agreement, the chartering party commissions the use of the ship for a specified period of time. If the hiring company exceeds this agreement, the vessel’s owner charges demurrage. This demurrage is an opportunity charge imposed on the leasing company. The largest of these very large crude carriers can make a profit in excess of US$ 60 000/day. The resulting costs will rapidly erode profits for the refiner. Therefore, managing their loading and unloading facilities efficiently is vital to optimise the entire process.

For many companies, the scheduling process is inefficient. Terminal or refinery schedulers often use traditional printed copies of dock schedule that quickly become out of date leading to serious issues, including containment issues, product downgrades, delayed shipments, undesired crude blending, berth availability and much more. In doing so, dock schedulers focus on short-term feasibility and may ignore demurrage reduction opportunities. With this in mind, it is imperative that refiners remove inefficiencies between the refinery and the dock in order to maintain competitiveness.

Integrating the refinery operation

By empowering planners to create actionable plans with appropriate tools they can take full account of vessel, hatch capacity and last cargo restrictions. Essentially, with automated scheduling software, schedulers can minimise cleaning costs and delays whilst maximising capacity utilisation.

When tools such as Excel are used for dock scheduling, they effectively become disconnected static solutions and do not provide visibility to storage capability, product availability, physical constraints and demurrage charges. The latest cutting-edge automated scheduling software, however, significantly improves liquid bulk carrier planning. Scheduling automation is the main link between an optimal plan and implementing an efficient operational execution. A notable part of the scheduler’s job is to execute the plan profitably whilst respecting refinery constraints - against the backdrop of a dynamic environment and increasingly complex supply chains.

Oil companies can now easily automate dock scheduling by taking all unassigned ships and automatically assign each to a legal berth, taking into account the constraints and economic feasibility, as well as the physical characteristics of both ships and berths.

Cutting-edge automated petroleum scheduling software provides a multi-user environment and can deliver refinery-wide visibility into the schedule for multiple users, enabling better collaboration among schedulers and other departments. The dock screens extend the scheduling envelope past the refinery gates down to the docks, essentially decreasing any disconnect between refinery operations and logistics to operate closer to the optimum refinery plan.

Many companies have adopted AspenTech’s Aspen Petroleum Scheduler as their one-stop shop for all refinery scheduling needs. The software helps schedulers to align the schedule with logistics to easily accommodate berth availability, physical constraints and available products and storage. Features embedded in the software also enable staff to easily manage incoming and outgoing shipments, while automatically creating and updating events in the refinery schedule. Over 200 refineries worldwide leverage the power of Aspen Petroleum Scheduler to manage refinery-wide schedules in a multi-user environment. This new dock scheduling functionality enables schedulers to monitor demurrage costs while simultaneously maintaining schedule feasibility for the refinery’s crude runs, product blends and unit operations.

Aspen Petroleum Scheduler provides flexible automated dock scheduling benefits, including the following:

  • Avoid disconnect between refinery operations and dock operations.
  • Reduce demurrage costs by as much as US$ 60 000/day for a single supertanker.
  • Eliminate product downgrades and unplanned blends.
  • Better align the refinery schedule with logistics.
  • Eliminate the need for spreadsheets that are inadequate for managing dock operations.
  • Easily manage incoming and outgoing shipments all the way down to the docks.
  • Automate assignments and line flushing.
  • Enable the user to specify which materials are allowed at each berth and the different physical constraints (i.e. draft, beam, length, etc.).

Super savings

By improving the scheduling of dock operations and integrating the refinery schedule, companies can realise millions of dollars annually in benefits. Cutting-edge automation scheduling software provides the important bridge between an optimal plan and operational execution as well as reduces the damage of demurrage. The tide has turned for many refiners who have the opportunity to integrate refinery operation with dock scheduling. Static spreadsheets are simply outdated tools for the job and cost refineries big money in the long run, resulting in lower refinery margins. Automated dock scheduling software is the charter of choice when it comes to ensuring ships dock on the clock. The ability to quickly and easily update events across the refinery schedule down to the docks allows for better collaboration and more informed profitable decision making.

Written by Allison McNulty, AspenTech. Edited by

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