Ike Brackin is a senior process engineer for Flint Hills Resources. He’s been with Koch more than 40 years. He’s also the proud owner of a small ranch near Sinton, Texas, about 35 miles north of FHR’s refinery complex in Corpus Christi. Ike’s house, just off the county road, is a nice place, with a couple of pickup trucks parked in the driveway and an occasional airplane overhead taking off from the nearby San Patricio County airport.
You’d never know it from driving by, but Ike’s ranch house played an essential role in helping keep the Corpus Christi complex up and running during the COVID-19 lockdown last year. Thanks to software FHR rolled out in 2019, Ike was able to log in to the process control network securely, analyze process variables in real time and discuss adjustments to control schemes with operators on-site in Corpus without ever having to make the 70-mile round trip.
“Remote interfaces like that which also meet our critical cybersecurity needs have become a big thing for us,” said Brook Vickery, plant manager for the FHR complex in South Texas. “It’s like having an encrypted tunnel so people can remotely interact with the control system when necessary.” Vickery noted a similar arrangement with engineers at the John Zink facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (John Zink is a Koch Engineered Solutions company.) “They can monitor, program and adjust our thermal oxidizer unit, which they designed and built, from hundreds of miles away.”
“Transformational technologies like these are redefining how we maintain, operate and support our processes,” said Paul Houslet, FHR’s vice president of transformation and services. “For years and years, we constrained ourselves to what we could do at the site. With remote technology, we can integrate the best capabilities regardless of location.”