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Clear communication

Published by , Digital Assistant Editor
LNG Industry,

Niki Thomas, Quorum Business Solutions, USA, explains how to improve the customer experience for LNG operations by streamlining communication between internal and external users.

With almost 20 LNG import/export facilities approved or operating within North America, and almost as many currently under evaluation with the federal government, LNG companies are working to maintain a competitive edge in a market that has an oversupply of product, a surplus in production, and depressed prices. While many North American companies are restructuring their business model from solely import to a bidirectional model that includes export capabilities, with the challenging market and increased competition, they are also exploring additional ways to differentiate themselves. Offering a superior customer experience has become a key focus.

Improving the customer experience involves implementing modern, online, mobile-ready tools that are intuitive and easy to navigate. Users need readily available information in real-time so that they can efficiently manage their energy business.

There is not a standard operating method for LNG facilities, and they can be structured in a variety of ways. However, finding efficient ways to maintain effective communication with customers is a key concern. With the LNG tolling scenario, for example, facilities engage with multiple external parties, such as the natural gas shipper, the LNG buyer, and natural gas liquids (NGL) offtakers. Managing information and transactions between all of these parties and the facility can be complicated. In the past, spreadsheets would be used for communicating with these parties, but by the time the spreadsheets were constructed and sent out, the data would be out-of-date or overly complicated with multiple parties providing inputs and needing information. A user-centric, all-in-one, web-based solution was the answer.

An essential requirement for this solution was to ensure external users, such as the LNG buyers and NGL offtakers, could have contract implementation and real-time production information available to them at any point in time. It also needed to have daily and monthly reporting capabilities with a function that allowed for customer feedback. Shippers needed the ability to submit nominations and receive confirmations in real-time to manage their daily energy business more effectively.

Recently, forward-looking plant operators implemented customer activity solutions as their collaboration tool to manage communication and information between internal and external users. It includes a tailored user experience designed to meet the needs of how, where, and when work activities happen while also integrating third party data into a single location. These solutions provide the critical information that users need to efficiently run their business on a daily basis.

Figure 1. myQuorum customer activity website (image by Quorum).

The solution

A customer activity solution provides a central location that allows external users to view information and submit feedback to operators of the LNG facility. This tool can manage multiple processes. For example, the LNG facility is required to provide annual, monthly, and daily reports regarding the forecasted power load allocations. The customer activity solution automates this process and makes this information readily available for customers. Another example is the annual delivery plan (ADP), which is a critical process used for capacity planning, forecasting, and customer lifting programmes. The ADP is a fluid process and requires consistent updating of information through collaboration among project participants, such as the tolling parties. The customer activity solution tool is used to receive updated information from the customer, as well as provide an up-to-date view of the plan. Additional functions managed through the customer activity solution include the following:

  • Shipper nominations and operator confirmations – a persona-based customer activity solution can easily manage all transportation needs to drive productivity and simplify processes. Users can strategically adjust operations using personalised dashboards that provide real-time data and alerts so that day-to-day activities, such as nominations and confirmations, are managed quickly and efficiently.
  • Firm 30-day plan within a 90-day delivery schedule – the customer activity solution also allows an easy process to communicate a 90-day delivery schedule. This method uses the ADP as a base each month, and the result is a 90-day plan taking into account capacity and shipment constraints. Inventory management – with required inputs such as feed gas receipts, volume, and meter gas flow to liquefaction, inventory management is more accurate and easily maintained within the customer activity solution.
  • Vessel compatibility and acceptance – with each ship, it must be deemed operationally compatible and operationally acceptable to call at the terminal. Through the customer activity solution, vessel operators can submit specific ship information and documentation so that operators can review ship data to determine compatibility for each dock.

In addition to these key functions, the customer activity solution of choice provides a user-centric experience commonly known as a persona.

This is an excerpt from an article that was first published in LNG Industry April 2017. To register and receive your free copy of the magazine, click here.

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