ABB acquires K-Tek

ABB Process Automation has added Louisiana-based K-Tek, a manufacturer of liquid level detection and measurement systems, to their Measurement Products Business Unit. Veli-Matti Reinikkala, head of the Process Automation division, commented that “K-Tek is well established, particularly in the oil and gas industry, which is a growth area for ABB”.  K-Tek is quoted as being recognized as a global leader in magnetic level gauges, magnetostrictive level transmitters and laser level transmitters, with sales of USD50 million and 250 employees. They also manufacture guided wave radar and ultrasonic level measurement systems, RF capacitance level systems, vibrating fork level switches, bulk solids level measurement products and pressure / temperature switches: no overlap is quoted with the current ABB product portfolio.

Liquid level switching and level measurement systems seem to have been the ‘poor relation’ in terms of the technology adopted by major US process control companies. Indeed the main players in this field seem to have been European, with Bestobell Mobrey, Endress+Hauser and Vega being in the forefront of the industry there, and the main US supplier being Magnetrol. Then with the advent of radar systems, Saab in Sweden joined the European majors, only to be acquired by Emerson: Mobrey followed that route later and both now operate within their Rosemount Measurement Division. K-Tek started in 1975, and has grown significantly, although 350,000 installations in 35 years does not make them a major level controls supplier. The E+H Liquiphant sold a million units in the 17 years after its introduction in 1983, and another half million in the three years after that.

So will there be any further acquisitions in this part of the industry? Vega might join a European consolidation of instrumentation companies, but would not be a likely target for a US company. Will one of the majors like Yokogawa, Invensys or Honeywell wish to add more of the basic sensor manufacturing and snap up Magnetrol? It looks more likely that ABB would consider this as an interesting additional option to expand their level capability. But then maybe Magnetrol itself will consider a product expansion and move further into Europe, alongside the likes of Krohne?

BP in the Gulf of Mexico

Ever since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon ocean rig, we have been accustomed to regular, and now almost daily reports from BP. These, with the associated websites, have shown the extent and professionalism of the BP and Transocean teams dealing with the response to this problem. Very quickly the BP commitment to the problem, in terms of people in Houston, in developing engineering solutions and in delivering the supplies needed, and involved in oil barrage and clean-up operations, passed 20,000, and is now closer to 30,000. Anyone who works for BP is either involved, or scheduled to be sent out to the project teams. The fact that this organized effort is in place and effective is demonstrated by the way that successive solutions and ideas for the well leak containment and collection have been rolled out, and installed 40 miles offshore and 5000 feet down. As this is written it looks like the lower marine riser package containment cap is successfully diverting a significant proportion of the oil flows to the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship, but even then the next section of the plan, to combat any problems in hurricane or storm conditions, is being instigated.

The measured and well executed response from BP is in marked contrast to the sometimes ill-informed and sensationalist statements and reporting from politicians in the USA. As ever, those who live by the culture of blame and compensation shout loud to stir up a frenzy, whereas BP just keeps on working, and spending money to sort out the problems as they work through them. It is reassuring that there are others, such as Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who rejected calls for the armed forces to take control, confirming that the best technology available is with the oil industry themselves. BP has confirmed they are there for the long term, long after the reporters have found a new prime target to attack, so our best wishes go with them.