Foundation Fieldbus World General Assembly 2008

The Fieldbus Foundation this year conducted their 2008 Worldwide General Assembly in Antwerp, in February: Nick Denbow presents a review of the presentations.

Attended by around 230 delegates, including suppliers, contractors and end-users, the theme of the assembly was to show “Why FOUNDATION has become the technology of choice” for process automation in both greenfield and brownfield projects.

FOUNDATION Fieldbus was quoted as preferred by a growing number of end users worldwide – in oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and power.

Quoting a recent ARC Advisory Group survey, Rich Timoney, President and CEO of the Fieldbus Foundation, presented the facts and figures to the assembled European press.

He claimed that over a million FF field devices are now in service worldwide, in the intelligent networks for the process industries, leading to a 68% market share for this sector for FOUNDATION Fieldbus, with 27% being taken by Profibus PA, and 3% on other protocols.

Challenged to provide support for this claim, the distribution of the devices was explained to be 44% in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), 27% in the Americas, and 24% in Asia Pacific.

The significant growth in the EMEA share was mainly attributable to a number of major projects in the Middle East, but in the last year FF has also seen major installations in India and Brazil, the newly developing and maturing areas, as well as in China.

While the early adopters of this technology were indeed the oil and gas industry, Rich Timoney also said there is now rapid growth in the uptake of FF in the utilities, with the first nuclear plant using FOUNDATION Fieldbus currently in start-up mode.

Another significant user of fieldbus technology is the pharmaceutical industry, with 22 plants on San Juan, including those of Amjet, Genzyme and SmithKline Beecham, all instrumented using FF systems.

Novartis, both in Singapore and Europe, was quoted to have adopted FF technology, following the experience gained in the major pharmaceutical plants recently established in Ireland.

End-user presentations at the General Assembly described the installations and benefits achieved with FOUNDATION Fieldbus at the Stork GLT natural gas fields and distribution system in the North of Holland, and also at the Serbian Natural Gas Distribution system; at the INEOS Chlor plant at Runcorn (a separate Processingtalk Special Report will present a description of this application); and at the oil distribution terminal run by Vopak for the Shell Pernis refinery and petrochemical complex in The Netherlands.

These were followed up by two presentations from Jacobs Engineering and Bechtel on major and mega-projects, who confirmed that all new work referred to them is now specified as “Fieldbus-based” or at least “Fieldbus systems should be considered”.

An interesting approximate analysis of the 230 strong General Assembly audience, which could have been expected to be mainly enthusiasts over the technology, showed that around 30% were suppliers, 66% were existing FF users, and the remainder consisted of 6 contractors/installers and 3 potential new users.

The independent keynote address at this year’s assembly was provided by Dr Norbert Kuschnerus, President of the NAMUR Board of Management, Senior Vice President of Bayer Technology Services, and a member of theInterkama Advisory Board since 2002.

His keynote address was entitled “User’s Experiences, Requirements and Expectations”, which concluded that Fieldbus is a key technology, and needs to be an enabling technology for Asset Management, Advanced Process Control and Performance Monitoring”.

However, after 20 years of use, Dr Kuschnerus states that we are still at the beginning of the real use of fieldbus technology, and there is room for improvement.

Firstly the problems evident in product replacement, such as the incompatibility hazards arising from different software revisions in outwardly the same devices need to be solved: and secondly the selection of field devices must no longer be determined by issues of device integration – rather devices should be able to be selected according to their suitability for the process application.

The strong message was that the devices must offer vendor independent functionality, with Dr Kuschnerus making the comparison with the standardisation achieved using the 4-20mA protocol that has worked so well, for all transmitters.

The FOUNDATION Fieldbus organization announced various initiatives that will address these aspects of the technology during 2008, as developed following advice from their various End-User Councils.

These include the co-operation with HART and Profibus in an effort to develop a common interface to a wireless gateway, and rigorous host testing and registration according to FOUNDATION standards, (ie making the control system interface interchangeable) to strengthen fieldbus interoperability and system integration.

The Foundation Fieldbus End User Committees are a major strength within FF in guiding the development and promotion of fieldbus techniques, and now new committees have been established in India, Brazil, Mexico, Norway, S Africa and Sweden, plus one covering the CIS and Baltic States.

Further, the FOUNDATION Safety Instrumented Function demonstrations, now being created at various user sites around the world, use asset management diagnostic information to confirm the health of safety valves and various pressure and temperature devices, and improve the availability performance of safety loops.

Planned to operate up to SIL3, Protocol Type Approval has been achieved with the help of TUV Rheinland Industrie Service.

These demonstrations will be created in 2008 at BP Gelsenkirchen, Germany; Shell Global Solutions, Amsterdam, Saudi Aramco, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and Chevron in Houston, Texas.

Also expanding the European profile for FOUNDATION Fieldbus, a number of training seminars are scheduled across Europe and the Middle East.

The need for training, and the ageing of the experienced workforce was a major discussion topic, and the third day of the conference was devoted to FF training courses at ACTA, a local FF Certified Training Centre: these are now established in Holland and Belgium.

One such customer training and user applications discussion seminar is scheduled in Reading UK for Wednesday 9 April.