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Top process automation developments and trends

03.20.2006  |  O'Brien, L.,  ARC Advisory Group, Dedham, Massachusetts

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It has always been ARC's position that technology itself has no inherent benefit unless it provides a measurable value proposition to the end user. The drive toward business value and the path to operational excellence (OpX) on the part of process manufacturers was the primary driver behind many of the leading developments in the process automation marketplace for 2005. From the demand-side perspective, pacesetting spending growth for automation has begun to shift away from industries such as pharmaceuticals and food and beverage to the energy sector – specifically oil and gas, refining and power generation. Of course, the impact of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina will have long-term effects on the North American automation marketplace, particularly in the hydrocarbon industries.

Hurricane Katrina's permanent impact on process automation. The oil and gas and refining industries in the US are continuing to recover from the devastating effects of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), the US refining industry utilization rate in November averaged 88% for the month, which was a considerable improvement compared to a utilization rate of 69% for the last week of September. API goes on to state, however, that there are 1.3 MMbpd of refining capacity that remained offline or running at a reduced rate. API also reported that domestic US crude production also remains at levels 15% below prehurricane level, and there is still considerable work to be done to repair the rest of the Gulf offshore infrastructure.

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