What do you think the major process industry developments will be in 2010?

What do you think the major process industry developments will be in 2010? Many of the current trends and press releases show the main pre-occupation, which is to improve plant efficiency. Advanced vibration monitoring systems, condition monitoring tools, and interrogating the intelligence within installed field devices will continue to be important. More recently the emphasis has been on better monitoring to identify waste, or leakage, for example with compressed air monitoring and leakage detection systems from E+H, and the energy efficiency workshop being hosted by Atlas Copco at the Carbon Trust Technology Convention later in January.

It is likely that this drive to eliminate waste and leakage will develop further in 2010, with systems that actually turn off plant and equipment, shutting them down to eliminate even the power needed in the idle mode, when projected plant activity forecasts the opportunity. This is being built into automotive production plant systems currently, using Profibus and Ethernet communication systems, and could even be introduced with wireless controlled switching systems.

Legislation will continue to require new monitoring and control systems, as Sierra point out this week, with their measurement systems for methane and natural gas that allow US companies to monitor greenhouse gas emissions more exactly, as required from 2 January. Further emissions and air quality monitoring products will improve the capabilities of atmospheric effluent monitoring systems, as for example offered currently by Metrohm. Perhaps the biggest process developments will occur in this area, where public and government pressure, and finance, will lead to demonstrations of new processes that enable carbon dioxide capture, or storage, of power station effluent, primarily. The opportunity here for the development of a new large scale chemical or even biological process offers the most exciting new area for process engineering, in an area away from the petrochemical and oil/gas production processes that have been the major emphasis for the last 50 years. Possibly the last such large projects would have been nuclear power stations or flue gas desulphurization. The nuclear power industry produced the need for spent fuel reprocessing, and ironically the removal of the SO2 gases from power station effluent typically produced an equivalent amount of CO2, which we now need to eliminate. The next step forward is needed in both these areas, and needs a similar amount of investment too – which inevitably will come from us all, in the form of taxes!

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