In December of 1988 a joint venture led by Freeport Sulphur Company discovered a major brimstone deposit of 67,000,000 long tons twenty miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. At a production of 2 million tons of sulphur per year this facility will be in operation for the next 30 years. This paper will cover the process of automating the frasch sulphur mine including design and planning, redundancy, reliability, training and configuration. A description of system architecture which allows information for production to be gathered and handled at the facility from process control, production and drilling will be presented. The ability to monitor and control the offshore platform from an onshore facility via satellite communications and the ability to network the process control system with a local area network of host and personal computers will be discussed.


Main Pass Block 299, is located (Fig. 1) in 210 feet of water, 20 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. The production facilities will incorporate the latest technology based upon previous applications, the company's expertise in offshore sulphur mining and on proprietary mining techniques that use seawater in sulphur mining. The offshore production facility will be installed on a series of offshore platforms (Fig. 2) linked together by more than a mile of bridges. The Main Pass facilities are scheduled for completion in late 1991 with sulphur production beginning soon thereafter.

One of the greatest tools in assisting operations achieve high safety and efficiency goals is through production automation. Improved productivity as well as improved management of production information can be realized from a modern process control system. Through automation and remote monitoring, operating costs can be reduced and production revenues increased. The strategy was to implement a completely integrated information system - one that gives the association of the process operations data with management and business systems data.


There are a great number of factors to consider when developing a plan for plantwide process control and flow of information. The needs and requirements of production planning, engineering, maintenance, material handling, scheduling and overall management are unique when it comes to process control data and business information systems. The first step in the planning of the control system was assembling a team of people from the various areas listed above. The company had to make a decision to make available the best that the company has to offer in the areas of production, maintenance and engineering to be a part of the team. Because of their other responsibilities in construction of this facility as well as running existing facilities it is almost impossible for them to spend a majority of their time on process automation alone. Once a team was established then the next step was to set the criteria for controlling the process and the handling of production data.

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