Optical TDLAS process analysers

A new PR from UK instrumentation distributor Quantitech provides a wake-up call, on many levels. Hopefully readers of the INSIDER will already have been woken up to the technology awarement level. Quantitech has been appointed the exclusive UK and Ireland distributor for Focused Photonics Inc, a supplier of process gas analysers based on tuneable diode laser absorption spectroscopy. TDLAS is one my favourite technology adaptations that has made significant recent progress in process industry instrumentation: maybe on fairly specific difficult applications it’s true. Yokogawa were out there in front, buying the technology developed by Dow Chemicals in 2008 (believe me I had to look this up on the NickDenbow.com blog); Endress +Hauser has invested in it for years, big time, and then bought SpectraSensors too, in 2012; predictably, Emerson bought someone in 2014 (Cascade Technologies, a UK technology start-up. And again I had to find the name from an earlier article on this blog). Quantitech MD Keith Golding sees much wider application for these products, on the basis that Focused Photonics already have a world-wide installed population of over 8000 instruments.

The only other report that has quoted decent numbers was one earlier this year, and someone quoted hundreds of TLDAS units offshore measuring the moisture content in North Sea gas, – but the blog has failed to tell me who it was, on that one.

Golding also adds: “Developed out of Stanford University California, the cradle of TDLAS commercialisation, FPi was established in China in 2002 and now employs over 3,000 staff. We have visited a number of LGA installations and were very impressed by the standards of quality and reliability being delivered by these instruments.”

Indeed the FPi website confirms the above comments: they have a factory in Hangzhou, China, and claim “FPi is the world leading integrated solutions provider of process control and environmental monitoring. Since being established in 2002 by two elite graduates of Stanford and UC Berkley, FPi has specialized in analytical instruments innovation and manufacturing.” The two key personnel appear to be Dr Jian Wang, the Chairman, General Manager and Chief Engineer, plus Naxin Yao, another General Manager and Director.

“As a world class innovator in gas, water and particulate analysis technologies, FPI has been acknowledged for its expertise in DLAS (diode laser absorption spectroscopy), DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy), UltraViolet, Near-Infrared, Atomic spectroscopy, Molecular spectroscopy, Chromatography, spectrophotometric colorimetry and electrochemistry.” The applications quoted include flue gas monitoring and CEMS systems, air and water quality monitoring, lab analysis and metal analysis systems, as well as process analytical instruments.

So here we have technology expertise developed by Western (US in this case) universities, then taken up by foreign research students, who, all credit to them, establish a business based on this in China, backed by Chinese investors, and the resulting products, and jobs, arise from this Chinese investment in start-up technology. Not quite what UK PM Cameron sees as the end result of UK University technology expertise leading to high-tech UK jobs. But just what China wants to invest in, to enhance their industry.

Typical FPi applications include ammonia slip control, HCl measurement for sorbent injection optimisation, furnace oxygen, flue gas monitoring in FCC catalyst regeneration, trace H2S and H2O in natural gas, H2S measurements in sulphur recovery, and cross-duct CO monitoring for electrostatic precipitator safety.

Why my eye needs a safety relief valve

I have no history of glaucoma, none in the family, and was initially, maybe 10 years ago, treated with drops to reduce my eye pressure, picked up in eye tests as being too high. This continued for many years, with more drops, stronger drops, but eventually the field tests showed that I was losing vision in the lower two quadrants of both eyes, initially the left lower quadrant in one, and the right in the other, so I did not lose any overall vision when using both eyes.

I eventually changed hospitals as the specialists in the first were just rubbing their heads, giving more eye drops, and sending me away for another 12 months – they never mentioned Glaucoma: but they lost my notes continually, so started again twice and did not treat the condition seriously. In the second Hospital I was told I had severe open angle Glaucoma, told to advise the DVLA, and take a driving fields test at an opticians – that led to my car driving licence being withdrawn.

The driving field test does not really demonstrate to you how badly your vision is affected. When I can see the effect of the combined blind spots, just under my eye line, it is when talking to someone at normal face to face distance, maybe 2 feet, when if I look into their eyes I can’t see their lips moving: in fact I can’t see their mouth at all. It’s also surprising how a significant part of effective hearing relies on also observing the lip movement.

After 3-4 years at the next Hospital I had moved up the priority list, having been using two different drops to try to reduce the eye pressure – ineffectively. So I reached the end of a waiting list for an operation called a Trabulectomy.

A Trabulectomy

It’s a frightening operation, more from the point of view of your own worries and not for any pain. The eye is immobilised, and anaesthetised, and my surgeon was very skilled. Nevertheless I would have liked some form of tranquiliser into the line they put into a vein in the back of my hand. Maybe I was so paralysed by fear, they thought I was calm. The objective is to put a slit into the eyeball, to allow the internal fluid to drain out through this slit, rather than through the normal route, which has probably furred up. (Maybe we should have bought a better water softener?) From the instrument engineer’s point of view, it’s a drain hole like a safety valve, an over-pressure valve, to let fluid out when the pressure gets too high. Say at over 20mm Mercury, to reduce the normal eye pressure – to the desirable level of 12-15mm Mercury.

The drops used after the operation are of two types: one seems to be an antibiotic, to stop germs getting inside; the other, a corticosteroid, is to ‘stop inflammation and swelling’. This also delays the healing process, so allowing the slit put in the eye to settle down without the edges healing together across the slit, keeping a drain slot open once the eye recovers. So the drop delivery immediately after the operation controls the slot width/gap, and the objective is to make this the right size to suit your condition – – and so it takes some tweaking. Hence the frequent return trips to the specialist to see what is happening.

What happens next?

Now I have one eye operated on, getting better after about three weeks, hopefully the pressure is going to be lower. I am now thinking about the next eye needing the same operation, but next time I’ll ask for something to tranquilise me. It’s a fairly long operation, about half an hour, with them working on the eye and you just lying there, so you can get a bit worried.

After effects are interesting. I’m an optical/telescope/photography guy, with a collection of over 200 telescopes, a few binoculars and other optical things: I’ve always worn glasses and could never bring myself to use contact lenses. I studied physics at University and specialised in wave theory, optics, refraction, etc. So I can see my own blind spots, know that the left eye (yet to be operated on) has a blind spot almost impinging on the centre line, to the right, such that I can check text reading backwards more easily than forwards, etc. Alternatively you can tip your head to the right so the line of text on the PC screen is angled above the line between the eyes.

Apparently the eye has a membrane over the outside surface: when the eye pressure is reduced, maybe this membrane does not shrink, like the outside of the eyeball does. So it is a little loose on the eye. The slot, that somehow in the operation they put in the actual eyeball, leaks fluid out as far as the inside this membrane (which somehow maybe they repair in the operation): it forms in a “bleb”, ie a bubble of fluid, like a lump, on the eye surface, and slowly disperses through the membrane. I think in the operation they inject something to form the basis of the ‘bleb’. Bleb is a real technical term.


But when like me you work on a PC, at night, with light radiated directly into your eye mostly, it appears that the folds or ripples in the surface of this membrane can appear to move across the pupil, and at certain angles the light is refracted into the eye, so you see occasional hair like white lines of light running across the field of vision. This presumably will stabilise/disappear as the membrane does shrink, and the eye diameter stops going up and down with pressure variations. I asked the Consultant about this, and he just commented that I was too observant. Trouble is, understanding what I could see, is what made me interested in optics to start with.

Just a final comment: how do you still use a telescope, with almost total blind spots in the lower two quadrants? I use them on aeroplanes, to see the registrations. These you read by almost taking a snapshot of a good sighting into the brain and processing it. The answer I thought was to use binoculars, but it’s not the same. The answer is that you have to use the top half of the eye view, the top two quadrants, for the snapshot, ie aim the telescope below the target of the registration, or whatever. Thank goodness for autofocus on digital cameras!

The future

If the eye pressure is reduced by the dual Trabulectomy, the damage will be arrested, and I will not lose any further vision. But what has been lost, is lost, as it is caused by pressure damage cutting the optic nerve where it leaves the eye: so until they can get little biotic nerve bridging robots to repair that break (and spinal chord breaks in people who have neck injuries), that area of vision will remain cut off. The technique is being developed, with the research on stem cells etc, but not that fast.

Maybe there will be a follow up blog later. But I have to work out whether this is a post that should be used on the process control blog, where I always promote the use of optical techniques, or the Telescope Collector’s blog (for optical equipment enthusiasts, http://www.telescopecollector.co.uk)!

New methanol plant automation

Yokogawa has received an order from Orascom E&C USA to deliver control and safety systems for the Natgasoline LLC methanol plant, which will be one of the largest methanol plants in the World. Currently under construction in Beaumont, Texas, this facility will have a capacity of approximately 1.75 million metric tons per year when it starts production in 2017.

For the process control and safety of the Lurgi MegaMethanol process technology and auxiliary facilities throughout this plant, Yokogawa will supply their Centum VP integrated production control system, ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system, Exaquantum plant information management system, and Plant Resource Manager (PRM) software package. The Yokogawa Corporation of America will be responsible for the engineering and delivery of these systems, and will provide support with installation and commissioning.

Yokogawa entered the U.S. market in 1957 and has grown the business across diverse markets, but have had particular success in the oil and gas refining and offshore production, LNG liquefaction and chemical manufacturing areas. We are proud to win the first order for a new US-based grass roots methanol plant that exceeds a million metric tons per year. This project allows us to build on our already extensive track record in executing and maintaining methanol production in North America”, said Daniel Duncan, President and CEO of Yokogawa Corporation of America.

Though the chemical industry in the USA has long relied on imported methanol, the amount of methanol produced locally is steadily increasing, because of the ready availability of ethane produced from domestically sourced shale gas. Yokogawa won this order because of its excellent track record in completing projects, and its demonstrated ability to deliver comprehensive, integrated solutions that help optimize operations.

Finland LNG terminal automation

Honeywell Process Solutions will provide its Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) automation controls, with tank gauging systems, to Finland’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal. The imported LNG will be used to supply natural gas to marine vessels and industrial facilities in Finland, helping to replace other fuels that have higher emissions.

The cleaner-burning natural gas will help these vessels and facilities meet emissions regulations in the Baltic Sea and Nordic areas. Honeywell technology (including Enraf tank gauging) is currently being used in about 40 similar LNG import and export terminals around the world.

Additionally, Honeywell’s Enterprise Buildings Integrator (EBI) will connect and power comfort, safety and security systems within the terminal itself, creating a productive environment for workers. With tight integration between the Experion PKS and EBI, operators will have one interface to access and manage all process and facility technology, which improves site-wide visibility and efficiency.
“Honeywell’s technologies offer Skangas Oy an all-in-one solution that will help make their new facility be efficient and productive from day one,” said Pieter Krynauw, vp and gm of the Honeywell Process Solutions Projects and Automation Solutions business unit. “This fully integrated technology will help the terminal maximize its operations with accurate and on time information, precise measuring technologies, safety and security.”
This will be the third LNG terminal equipped for Skangas, one of the largest suppliers of small-scale LNG in the Nordic countries. The company operates similar facilities in Sweden and Norway to provide customers with natural gas for shipping, industrial and heavy-duty land transport needs. The Pori LNG terminal will have a capacity of 30,000 cubic meters and will be completed in the second half of 2016. Honeywell’s tank gauging systems will be used on tanks provided through the Spanish engineering company FCC Industrial e Infraestructuras Energeticas S.A.U.
“Demand for LNG in Finland continues to rise for industrial, shipping and heavy-duty land transport companies,” said Tommy Mattila, Sales and Marketing director, Skangas. “It is critical that this terminal operates at the highest level of efficiency.”
Honeywell technologies that will be used at the facility include:
  • Experion® Process Knowledge System (PKS), the heart of the Integrated Control and Safety Systems (ICSS), which offers more than traditional distributed control systems (DCS) by unifying people with process, business requirements and asset management by enabling integration of all process control, safety systems and automation software.
  • Enterprise Buildings Integrator (EBI) is a building management system that provides a single point of access to information and resources that help monitor, control and protect a facility. EBI will connect fire detection, intrusion detection, access control, video surveillance, and heating and cooling equipment at the new Skangas Oy terminal, and seamlessly share data with Experion PKS.
  • Terminal Manager automates all operations at a bulk liquid terminal, including key monitoring and controlling functions such as product receipt, gate access control and loading.
  • Safety Manager integrates process safety data, applications, system diagnostics and critical control strategies, and executes defined safety applications in a fully redundant architecture.
  • SmartRadar FlexLine is one of Honeywell’s portfolio of high-end radar tank gauges for the assessment of tank contents, tank inventory control and tank farm management.
  • Portable Enraf Terminal is a portable device that enables access and reading of Honeywell Enraf tank gauges regardless of weather or operating conditions.

T24 Wireless Telemetry Sensor System from Mantracourt

Mantracourt of Exeter has launched a new, upgraded version of its T24 wireless telemetry sensor system for multiple data acquisition in real time. The latest improvements include a 4x increase in transmission range, improved security features and smarter diagnostics.
Listening to the needs of OEMs and integrators who require a system designed to suit the many and varied applications they encounter, modularity is the key feature of the T24: it can easily replace wired data collection systems, reducing both installation and maintenance cost and complexity.
Latest upgrades include an increase in transmission range, allowing the system to transmit data up to 800 m (1/2 mile), far exceeding the range of other systems on the market. For added security, always a concern with wireless systems, Mantracourt has improved the existing toolkit software to enable users to assign security keys to the system and have also improved functionality to allow smarter diagnostics. New features include improved monitoring of the channels and as well as the ability to check radio link quality, execute commands and view and alter parameters.
Engineers at Mantracourt have also redesigned the integrated radio module and antennae to improve signal strength and integrity resulting in improved performance and coverage in the challenging environments where the systems are often used.
The system comprises a range of transmitters, interfaces, displays and output modules that can be simply and easily configured to suit individual applications. The transmitter modules have been designed to collect data from a huge range of industrial sensors including load, pressure, torque, strain, temperature, pulse, potentiometer and 4-20 mA/0-10 V conditioned sensors. The T24 still offers the original exceptional performance, including high measurement/low noise electronics, long battery life of up to 5 years and proprietary license-free 2.4 GHz DSSS radio technology.
To further add to the versatility of T24, Mantracourt is also providing free data logging and visualisation software. This allows users to log up to 100 channels and build visual mapping displays. Alarms can be set that can indicate under and over range and can alert users to loss in communication, low battery and error reports. In recognition that we now work in an increasingly mobile world, Mantracourt has also included a built in web server that provides a summary view page to other computers, tablets and smart phones, both Apple and Android.
See the Mantracourt T24 system on http://www.mantracourt.com.

Maintenance-free Non-contacting Bulk Fuel Tank Monitoring

Pulsar Process Measurement have supplied non-contacting ultrasonic volume measurement equipment with associated remote plant mimic software to help solve an issue for Northern Rail at three sites; their Newton Heath LMD (Light Maintenance Depot) near Manchester, Blackpool LMD and Barrow LMD, allowing them to control the ordering, delivery and usage of fuel more efficiently.

Northern Rail’s contractor Austin-Lenika, who were engaged in a wider project on site, had identified that the existing level indicators were not suitable for the application and were, therefore, not reading the level correctly. Austin-Lenika approached Pulsar for a solution. They specified that new equipment should provide a measurement of the volume of fuel in the bulk tanks with a target of ±1% accuracy, allowing staff on site to monitor fuel usage and transfer and pinpoint the optimum time to re-order fuel. They also wanted to have both local display of level on the storage tanks and to be able to remotely monitor levels across the entire tank farm of eight fuel vessels, plus three additional bulk tanks.

Pulsar supplied Ultra 3 non-contacting ultrasonic level measurement controllers with associated dB series transducers. The transducers were mounted into flanges at the top of the fuel tanks, and operate on a ‘time of flight’ principle, an ultrasonic signal reflecting back to the transducer from the surface of the fuel. The measurement is reliable and accurate, with sophisticated signal processing by Pulsar’s dedicated DATEM software system. In addition, the Pulsar Ultra Controller can calculate volume based on almost any standard tank shape, taking the tank dimensions and making the calculations necessary to convert them into the volume of fuel in the tank.

Pulsar on-tank hardware and remote display screens

Pulsar ‘on-tank’ hardware and UltraScan display screens

Pulsar also supplied UltraScan software, which uses the RS485 Modbus output of the Ultra to provide a screen display of both levels and alarms. UltraScan can operate either on a site basis or can bring together measurements from a variety of sites.

Staff at Northern Rail are using the system very effectively. Austin-Lenika tested the system by comparing delivered fuel from a tanker to measured levels from the Pulsar system, finding a variance from a 6000 litre delivery of ‘within 60 litres’, achieving the ±1% target.

Low power, low voltage circuits

Keith Taylor, Vice President of Licensing and Acquisitions for InventionShare, has announced that InventionShare is now looking for licensing partners to license ‘Circuit Seed’ circuit designs as an alternative to traditional low power analog devices.

Taylor said that traditional analog devices can be made to function at very low power levels, however, there are many short comings with these devices as these circuits are complicated and difficult to design and manufacture.  They require a large area with matched pairs and current mirrors while they use very large transistors.  They will generally not work on the small sub 40nm integrated circuits where analog IC process extensions do not exist or there is sufficient voltage swings available with power supplies in the sub 1-volt range.

He also suggested that most circuits are also slow, susceptible to parametric changes and higher noise impacting accuracy, yield and performance.  They generally have insufficient dynamic analog signal swings and operate much slower than digital devices they are associated with.  These analog circuits are designed for specific narrow purposes and manufacturers of these devices often need a large product family due to the limited performance and frequency ranges.

In contrast, Circuit Seed circuits will operate down to less than 0.1V using a 100% digital process.  The circuit designs are much simpler and do not require matched pairs or current mirrors and will function on 40nm and smaller Integrated Circuits.  The overall circuits are also extremely insensitive to parametric changes making precision designs without precision parts a reality.  These circuits also run at logic speed, are self-biasing, and are not subject to parametric changes.  They generally work over a very large frequency range, sensitivity, and accuracy reducing the number of designs necessary by supporting a wide range of applications.

Taylor said “we have a game changer with Circuit Seed, Instead of designing low power analog circuits that barely work in a very limited range, you could be using Circuit Seed, a simpler design with fewer limitations, better performance, higher stability, and greater dynamic range that will reduce the time and cost to design, test, manufacture and support low power circuits.”

InventionShare is now looking for companies that are currently using traditional analog design processes and looking to for a better design, lower cost process for analog circuits.

About InventionShare
InventionShare provides inventors with funding, talent, expert processes to accelerate innovation, patent creation and monetization. Respecting that each of our inventors is the architect and the mastermind behind the invention, we work with our inventors in a professional manner as partners helping them take their inventions to market.


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