Software Solution

Advanced planning, optimum results

Refineries have a lot going for them with the latest version of the aspenONE suite

To achieve maximum profitability in today’s volatile market, refineries must be able to make fast, accurate and optimal planning decisions. With rapidly changing market conditions and furious competition, refinery planners need to tackle a multitude of challenges, including feedstock selection, price volatility, process runs and product mix. At the same time, quickly reacting to discrepancies between the plan and schedule is vital to fully exploit profitable decisions in the supply chain and capitalise on newly available feedstocks as products of global shale play. The race to maximum profitability is well underway.

So, how can refinery managers and planners react to the pressure of developing the most profitable operating plans, of running even more scenarios faster than ever, evaluating feedstock basket limitations, and easily determining the global optimum plan? The answer is that shorter run times lead to faster and more effective analysis. Equipping planners with advanced planning software tools helps make profitable planning decisions more rapidly than could be imagined just a few years ago. Companies can now run more cases and evaluate more scenarios faster than ever before by employing parallel processing and also using multi-start to assure that they have found the global optimum.

With increasing commercial pressures and a faster moving economic environment in the refining industry, more and more people within the organisation need access to the data generated by the planners in order to make informed business decisions. Equipping staff with leading-edge software helps address this challenge by not only enabling even the less-experienced planners to become effective quickly, but also allowing the output from their effort to be accessible to and understandable by others in the organisation.

Many refineries can choose to take their planning to the next level and improve downtime planning, risk and inventory management whilst increasing profitability. In doing so, using advanced planning tools containing additional layers with added functionalities will help them capitalise on market opportunities and improve the overall performance of their plant. With the best tools, companies can more effectively stabilise operations by simplifying their crude basket, resulting in greater overall profitability. In essence, there are three key benefits to using advanced planning tools compared to standard applications:

• Performance: run more scenarios faster than ever

• Stability: evaluate feedstock basket reduction

• Optimum: easily determine the global optimum for the best possible solution


Ossama Tawfick

Ossama Tawfick

Refiners want to lower their crude feedstock acquisition costs by using new techniques to analyse their options. Crude costs remain high relative to finished product prices and this exerts downward pressure on margins. Over time, most refiners are being forced to broaden their crude slates in an effort to lower average acquisition costs and increase refining margins.  

For many refineries the move to advanced planning software beyond standard planning applications results in tremendous returns. This is particularly true for those refineries with access to coastal facilities where spot crudes are both available and important, as well as for those locations that have tankage constraints where reducing the crude basket can help to reduce crude blending issues and overall logistics.

The capabilities within advanced optimisation planning software deliver greater results than standard tools. For example, by reducing the number of crudes being stored and processed, the planner can reduce inventory and switching costs and propose an overall more profitable crude slate. One leading refinery alone reduced their crudes from seven to five and estimated that they are saving 15 to 20 cents per barrel. By adopting leading edge tools, companies gain the ideal macro and micro view of the plant to help deliver significantly improved profitability.

Today, three quarters of the world’s refining crude feedstock is planned using AspenTech’s Aspen PIMS solution. By using newly developed collaborative tools, this software system enables planners to deliver optimal plans faster and easier. They can visualise and evaluate multiple scenarios along with plant data to make better, more profitable decisions. It de-mystifies the plan by providing clearly displayed data with an easy-to-use interface on a common platform available to all key stakeholders.

With the latest version of the aspenONE suite, integrating PIMS-AO with aspenONE PIMS Platinum software, companies are able to achieve a competitive advantage by responding to traders’ enquiries more quickly and can evaluate more options when crude opportunities arise. This combination allows traders to interpret the data and share their findings with key stakeholders across the organisation. The tools now also include a revolutionary assay management capability, which makes it easier than ever to add, modify and re-cut assays, helping refinery planners deliver more accurate plans to yield greater profitability. Additionally, the software allows the use of both linear and non-linear modeling and constraints to create an even more accurate representation of their plants and operations than was ever possible before.

With software such as Aspen PIMS-AO, refiners can achieve the following:

• Run more scenarios faster than ever: evaluate multiple scenarios simultaneously in a fraction of the time used by traditional methods. Shorter run times lead to faster analysis, which results in better decision-making

• Evaluate feedstock basket reduction: rapidly determine how many crudes can be eliminated with minimal impact on the objective function allowing the planner to reduce inventories and switching costs and propose an overall more profitable crude slate

• Determine the global optimum more easily: easier identification of local optima verses global optimum

• Employ parallel processing and multi-start capabilities: leverage multiple CPUs on a single computer to run multiple scenarios in parallel, increasing the number of scenarios and speed. Run a single case multiple times from various starting points allowing users to more easily eliminate local optima and identify the global optimum resulting in more informed decisions

• Get a clearer understanding of your solution: evaluate crudes and determine the minimum and maximum purchase quantity of each with Ranging Analysis, while focused on both the objective function and operational stability

• Companies across the globe are experiencing significant benefits: Many customers have achieved additional savings of up to 10 cents per barrel once they make the switch to advanced planning software. For a $39 billion multi-national corporation, it used to take four hours to get an answer for a trader in Singapore and now it takes only 14 minutes. For a multinational oil and gas company, a 300 case run went from 3.5 hours to 12 minutes.


Better planning performance delivers better profitability. Today, companies can take their refinery planning to the next level with leading-edge planning applications – software that is tried and tested with proven results. Fluctuating feedstock and production costs make it difficult to predict profit margins. To remain competitive, refiners need to equip both the experienced and the new generation of planners with intuitive, dynamic solutions that integrates and optimises planning and scheduling across the entire supply chain.

By running more scenarios faster than ever, planners can leverage advanced software to evaluate multiple scenarios simultaneously in a fraction of the time used by traditional methods. Consequently, shorter run times lead to quicker analyses resulting in better decision-making. In turn, better decision-making results in improved bottom-line profitability. The race is fast and furious to achieve a competitive edge. It’s time to advance and take your planning to the next level.