Profibus Conference 2009

The water industry has undoubtedly been one of the major UK application areas that have adopted Profibus control systems on automation projects and upgrades, and Yorkshire Water and United Utilities described similar experiences in introducing the technology, at the Profibus and Profinet User Conference in Stratford-on-Avon last week. For Yorkshire Water, the first intelligent networks were introduced within “Intelligent” MCC panels, but for field networks the EU Freshwater Fish Directive requirements were the main drivers to adopting Profibus systems. Over the last three years their ICA Profibus strategy has involved joining the PI support network, and putting all technicians through Installation and Maintenance Training Courses, conducted on their own premises. Eight ICA engineers were also taken through the Profibus Engineer Course: these were probably organised by Andy Verwer and MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University). UU described a similar development route, and highlighted that over 90% of site issues are down to the installers: Profitrace systems were used in both organisations to do hand-over checking and as an aid to project documentation. Within UU there are maybe 600 WWT sites and 100 waterworks, and Profibus systems so far have been applied to new builds and projects on approaching 200 of these. Mark Cargill, now with MWH Consultants, later described some of the points to remember when extending a network with a Profibus system, and the discussion following his presentation highlighted that there are no water industry overall standards for Profibus systems, so that it is important that the installation contractors and their staff can demonstrate competence or experience with Profibus.

Alongside the conference sessions, very similar recommendations were being made in relation to Profinet installations by Dennis van Booma of Procentec, who runs the Profibus Competency Centre in The Netherlands: Dennis commented that experience with Ethernet IT systems can be a positive disadvantage when considering undertaking a Profinet installation. In the busy exhibition area, the organisations providing such training courses were complemented by displays from suppliers of hardware and test equipment for all types of automation system. A new exhibitor this year was Watson-Marlow, who presented their three ranges of Profibus DP enabled peristaltic cased pumps, enabling a simple interface to achieve direct speed control from a PLC, for example for dosing. Watson-Marlow have already supplied various food industry projects with these Profibus interfaced pumps.

It was interesting that the water industry presentations admitted that to date there has been no significant use of the equipment diagnostics available over their Profibus networks: a presentation by Kai Atle Myrvang of AD Elektronikk, the Profibus Competence and Training Centre in Norway, showed just the reverse situation. Here control valve and sensor diagnostics on various offshore oil and gas installations were available via HART communications. Instead of reprogramming the whole platform control system to export the diagnostic data, Kai reported on a project where a secondary master was added into the Profibus network, which then used Profibus to collect the HART data, sharing the bus to send messages in between the normal control system operations, and then it exports this data over an Ethernet connection. In this way, a system has been installed to check the functions of the HART valves on the Ekofisk 2/4M (Conoco Phillips) and Snorre B (Statoil Hydro) offshore installations, as well as the Ormen Lange and Snohvit (LNG) onshore installations. Tests showed that the data refresh rate for the basic control system did not change significantly, when extracting this additional diagnostic data.

PI Chairman Joerg Freitag also presented the latest Profibus and Profinet installed base statistics: 2008 saw continuing growth of around 20% for Profibus DP and PA, but also significant growth in the numbers of Profisafe systems and nodes installed, at a rate exceeding 50%. Over the next two years the number of Profinet devices is also forecast to double, but a major effort by PI will be in the application of Profinet to energy management systems, tackling the problem that significant energy is currently wasted when production systems are in “Hot standby” mode. The development will be called ProfiEnergy, and should be launched before the end of 2009. Further background to the conference is available on Processingtalk (Link).

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