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ENEOS and PFN begin world’s first AI-based autonomous operation of crude-oil processing unit

| By Mary Bailey

ENEOS Corp. (Tokyo) and Preferred Networks, Inc. (PFN) announced that they started continuous autonomous operation of an atmospheric distillation unit for processing crude oil in January 2024. ENEOS also has an atmospheric distillation unit currently operated autonomously with an AI system is located in the Kawasaki Refinery.

ENEOS Kawasaki refinery

ENEOS Kawasaki refinery (Source: PFN)

Jointly developed by ENEOS and PFN, the AI system automates large-scale, complex operations of oil refinery plants that required human operators with years of experience. Since 2018, ENEOS and PFN have been co-developing AI systems for improving safety and stability of plant operations by reducing dependence on technicians’ varying skill levels.

With 24 key operational factors to control and as many as 930 sensors to monitor, the atmospheric distillation unit especially requires a high level of skills and experience. AI-based, continuous autonomous operation of an atmospheric distillation unit is the world’s first according to a consulting firm Globe-ing Inc.

The AI system for the atmospheric distillation unit continuously monitors 24 key operational factors and adjusts 13 valves at the same time to stabilize fluctuations resulting from crude oil switching as well as changes in crude oil throughput. The AI system has demonstrated higher stability and efficiency compared with manual operations.

ENEOS and PFN plan to deploy the co-developed AI systems to other ENEOS refineries and later provide them as a packaged solution to external parties as well.  ENEOS achieved previous milestones in autonomous operation at a petrochemicals processing unit last year.