ExxonMobil FEP takes delivery of more than £1 million cutting-edge training simulator

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited: A bespoke simulator designed to replicate thousands of potential operational outcomes at ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) is helping to train future generations of talent.


The cutting-edge simulator, which represents an investment of more than £1 million, builds on the site’s existing training facilities and was developed by an FEP-led team of ExxonMobil engineers from around the globe, with support from strategic partner companies.

Andrew Buchanan, a process planner at FEP who was a key member of the project team, said: “This is the latest technology for dynamic simulation, based on mass and energy balance using thermodynamic predictions which allow for thousands of scenarios to be replicated. It is similar to the kind of training that air pilots undergo.

“How it has been engineered to make an exact replica of our very own ethylene plant is incredible. We have already trained members of our operations supervision team to become instructors for the simulator and they have been amazed at how realistic it is.”

The simulator allows technicians to train and react to different scenarios in a safe and controlled environment, equipping them with skills and experience in managing different situations. It can also be used proactively to assess plant operations and identify where enhancements to processes could be made.

Andrew has worked at FEP for 11 years. He first joined as a trainee chemical engineer and is now a member of the team focused on building the plant’s long-term future, and helped develop the simulator project concept. The overall project lead was Matthew Coates, an applications engineer at FEP, while Michael Carson, a process engineer at the plant, also performed a key role in the design and modelling of the simulator.

“This has been a largely specialised project which has involved colleagues and partners from around the globe,” said Andrew, of Cowdenbeath. “Michael and I went out to Houston for four weeks to work closely with the simulation leads and develop the simulator. When I returned later in the year, the simulator was being finalised and it was incredible to see the completed model. It was such a sense of satisfaction to see all the data and calculations we sent to the simulation team result in a functioning simulation of our very own ethylene plant.

“It also underlines FEP’s ongoing investment in its people and technology to ensure both the long-term sustainability and efficiency of the plant and the development of future generations of engineering talent.”

The simulator project also involved ExxonMobil Research and Engineering company (EMRE) with support from Schneider Electric, which is at the forefront of digital management and automation, and Honeywell International, which invents and manufactures technologies that address some of the world’s most critical challenges around energy, safety, security, and productivity.

The company has a long history of developing its own workforce through the apprenticeship scheme with more than 220 people completing apprenticeships since they were first introduced at the plant in the mid-1980s.

Around 180 employees and 50 core contractors work at FEP, with more than 60% living within six miles of the plant.

Photo – ExxonMobil FEP’s Andrew Buchanan (rear) and Richard Barclay using the custom designed training simulator.

Issued on behalf of ExxonMobil by BIG Partnership. For further details, please contact Jamie MacDonald on +44 0131 557 5252, +44 077745 982767 or Jamie.macdonald@bigpartnership.co.uk