Exxon Mobil has signed collaboration agreements with six other companies to accelerate the development of Open Process Automation (OPA) systems on July 18.

The companies currently included in this collaboration are Aramco Services Co., BASF, ConocoPhillips Co., The Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering Co., Georgia-Pacific LLC and Linde PLC.

Advances in computer hardware, software, networking and security, coupled with increasing global competition and cybersecurity risks, have driven the process industry to consider ways to update the design and maintenance of process automation systems, which serve as the eyes and ears inside industrial manufacturing facilities.

The ultimate goal of this collaboration is to accelerate the creation of a standards-based, open, interoperable, and secure automation architecture that addresses both the technical and commercial challenges of current systems. This transformation is imperative for the competitiveness of both end-users and suppliers in this new digital age.

A test bed is being developed for use and testing by the collaboration partners for the OPA systems, which will act as the foundation for testing the performance and operation of individual components and standards. Once the test bed is fully functional, the collaboration partners will nominate and prioritize new components, standards, and system features to be added and tested. Exxon Mobil’s OPA systems test bed is targeted to be operational by year-end 2019.

The results from the test bed will be shared with all collaboration partners and the learnings will support independent field trials. All partners are encouraged to develop their own independent field trials.

The collaboration partners are members of the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), a group established by The Open Group, with the purpose of identifying and selecting standards to be used for OPA technology and systems. The Open Group works with customers and suppliers of technology products and services, and with consortia and other standards organizations to capture, clarify, and integrate current and emerging requirements, establish standards and policies, and share best practices.