When is a VA flowmeter not a Rotameter?

A long time ago, in 2007, a press release from Emerson mentioned that Rotameters would now be sold alongside Brooks VA meters, an interesting twist in the trade name use on this style of product – this article looks at the use and possible histories of this VA meter trade name.

The use of the Rotameter trademark for the VA (variable area, typically glass tube) flowmeters has been fiercely defended in the UK by KDG Instruments, later KDG Mobrey, for many years. Following various acquisitions, this trade mark is now owned by Emerson Process Management.

The first variable area meter with rotating float was invented by Karl Kueppers in Aachen in 1908. This is described in the German patent 215225. Felix Meyer founded “Deutsche Rotawerke GmbH” in Aachen, recognizing the fundamental importance of this invention: this later became known as “Rota”. They improved the device with new shapes of the float and of the glass tube. Kueppers invented the special shape for the inside of the glass tube that realized a symmetrical flow scale. The meter was called a Rotamesser, and at some point they registered the trade name, presumably in Germany, as a Rotamesser, and maybe even a Rotameter.

As the original glass tube VA meter manufacturer in the UK, the GEC Rotameter company in Crawley called their product a Rotameter, and registered the name as a trademark in the UK.

The name Rotameter almost achieved the same status as the ‘Hoover’, with the German company calling themselves Rota, and supplying the Rotamesser, and the UK company supplying Rotameters.

Yokogawa acquired the Rota company, and quote the names Rotameter and ‘Rotamesser – das original’ on their German webpages: the instruments are still manufactured in Wehr, in Germany, and the company is called Rota Yokogawa GmbH & Co. KG. Recent communications suggest that their view is that Rotameter is a trademark of Rota Yokogawa GmbH and that in the United Kingdom Rotameter is a trademark of Emerson.

The brand name Rotameter was registered as a trademark in Britain by the British company GEC Rotameter Co, in Crawley, and still exists, having been passed down through the acquisition chain: KDG Instruments, Solartron Mobrey, and Emerson Process Management.

Other companies manufacturing and selling VA flowmeters

Gilbert Platon, who worked in the original GEC Rotameter company in Crawley, South London, then split away and started his own company G.A.Platon, (later Platon Flowbits and now Roxspur). Because of the trademark issues, Platon had to adopt a new name, the ‘GAPmeter’ for the VA glass tube flowmeters, later manufactured in Basingstoke. Acquired by Roxspur, production then moved to Sheffield in around 1999: http://www.roxspur.com.

Brooks, in the USA, in the past regularly used the trademarked Rotameter name accidentally, maybe on purpose, and had to withdraw the offending sales leaflets on several occasions.

Siemens is very careful to describe their VA meters as VA meters, but selling what appear to be the same things in the UK  in 2007,  icenta controls were seen to be calling this product a ‘Rotameter’: interestingly they also do feature some true Rotameters, made by the KDG part of Mobrey, on the same website! http://www.icenta.co.uk.

Emerson dual presence!

After several successive acquisitions, Emerson found themselves with both Brooks VA flowmeters, and Mobrey ‘Rotameters’ in their portfolio, and maintain the distinction of trade names. As commented on back in 2007, selling glass tube VA flowmeters is a totally different business and image to that of the mainstream Emerson Process Management market presence. They had sorted this out after the Brooks acquisition by spinning off the UK sales operation into an independent company, Flotech Solutions, to sell the Brooks VA flowmeter and some other flow products. When Emerson acquired Mobrey, the KDG Rotameter range was sold via Flotech Solutions in the same way.

So this was an opportunity for Bob Wrigley and his colleagues at Flotech Solutions, the independent UK flowmeter distributor, selling both the Brooks VA meters and the Mobrey Rotameters, to really mix up the trade names and generic names. See http://www.processingtalk.com/news/sla/sla129.html. Flotech was then acquired by the MJ Wilson Group in June 2010.

Emerson then solved this problem by selling off Brooks Instrument in January 2008, to American Industrial Partners – see http://www.brooksinstrument.com. But they retain the Rotameter trade mark for the UK!

Queensland LNG projects in Australia

Honeywell systems for Bechtel Australian LNG project (23 Nov 2011)

Honeywell has been selected by Bechtel International to design and implement automation and safety solutions for a new multi-train liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility under construction as part of the Australia Pacific LNG Project in Queensland.
The Australia Pacific LNG Project — a joint venture between Origin Energy, ConocoPhillips and Sinopec — will create a long-term industry utilising Australia Pacific LNG’s coal seam gas (CSG) resources in the Surat and Bowen basins. Bechtel selected Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) to provide vital Integrated Control and Safety Systems (ICSS) at the new facility, which is designed to convert CSG to LNG. The Project will produce coal steam gas for commercial markets both locally and overseas and already supplies gas to power stations in Queensland, major industrial customers and homes and businesses in south east Queensland.
The solution consists of components including Experion PKS, Honeywell’s award-wining process distributed control system that unifies people with process, Safety Manager, which delivers enhanced safety assurance for operators who oversee industrial processes, and also includes Honeywell’s Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS), their Fire & Gas Systems (FGS), and Enterprise Building Integrator, which serves as a platform for both fire detection systems and security systems, integrating seamlessly with Experion PKS to provide operators with total situational awareness.
“Honeywell solutions will provide Australia Pacific LNG with a safe and reliable system from day one” said Frank Whitsura, vice president-HPS Projects and Automation Solutions: “We design our systems to integrate seamlessly with other Honeywell and third party products and solutions. This increases efficiency and reduces risk on a project so that it is completed on time and on-budget, which is the best possible outcome for all”.

Yokogawa starts FEED project for Arrow LNG (8 January 2012)

On the East Coast of Australia, the Arrow LNG project team, in a 50/50 JV between Shell and CNPC (PetroChina), is planning the development of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on Curtis Island, which is directly off the coast from the city of Gladstone in Southeast Queensland. The LNG plant will receive coal-bed methane (CBM) from the Surat and Bowen basins and will process, treat, and liquefy the gas for export. In phase 1 of this project, two 4 million ton per year LNG trains will be constructed. Yokogawa Engineering Asia has been selected as the main automation contractor (MAC) for this project by Arrow Energy, and the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor, which is a JV between Chiyoda, CB&I and Saipem, led by Chiyoda.

Yokogawa commenced work on the FEED in November 2011. Following completion of this preliminary phase and a decision to go ahead with the project, Yokogawa will proceed to supply its Centum VP integrated production control system and the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system, as the MAC.

Encouraged by this new order, Yokogawa will make every possible effort to expand its global LNG business, especially in Australia and countries in Southeast Asia, where many LNG projects are underway.

ABB buys Envitech Energy to expand in North-American rail market

ABB, the power and automation technology group, is to acquire Canada-based Envitech Energy, to expand its technology offering in the electrical equipment and solutions sector for rail infrastructure. Envitech Energy, of Pointe Claire, Quebec, Canada, has 36 employees and supplies rail electrical equipment and solutions for urban transportation applications, including traction rectifiers, traction power components, trackside braking energy absorption devices, automatic grounding and energy storage solutions.

ABB’s customers will benefit from advanced rail energy efficiency solutions through Envitech Energy’s expertise in power electronics and energy storage.

“This acquisition is in line with our divisional strategy to expand our technology platform and solutions offering in the attractive global and regional rail market,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer, head of ABB’s Discrete Automation and Motion division. “The Envitech Energy team will bring a wealth of engineering expertise and a strong entrepreneurial spirit to our North American power electronics and rail businesses. Their deep application and solutions expertise as well as their great products will be a valuable addition to our existing rail portfolio.”

ABB has grown its rail activities considerably in recent years, evolving into a major supplier to numerous train manufacturers and local network operators. ABB’s rail business revenue has grown significantly over the last years at a compound annual rate of about 30%. In 2010, ABB secured more than $1Bn in orders.

“We are excited to join the ABB Group,” said Réjean Larouche, President of Envitech Energy. “Combining our forces with ABB is a logical next step for the growth of our business. It will expand our reach and help create optimal solutions for customers.”

WEG acquisitions in power + oil and gas

1) WEG acquires Watt Drive, Austria.

WEG announced on 8th November 2011 the acquisition of Watt Drive Antriebstechnik GmbH (“Watt Drive”), an Austrian corporation that designs and manufactures gearboxes, gear motors, drives and control systems, thereby enhancing the WEG presence in power transmission.

Founded in 1972, Watt Drive is based near Vienna, Austria. Regarded as a traditional European player in power transmission, the company counts on industrial plants in Austria and assembly units in Germany and Singapore, in addition to having an extensive distribution network. Watt Drive’s revenues for 2011 are expected to reach Euro30 million.

“The market has been demanding power transmission solutions that integrate electric motors, frequency inverters and gearboxes, since these solutions allow major improvement on operational performance and energy savings. Our strategy is to offer a complete portfolio of products and solutions. On doing so, we become more flexible to supply our customers’ needs and expand the company business” says Mr. Siegfried Kreutzfeld, Managing Director of WEG Motors.

2) WEG acquires the electric machinery unit of GE’s Converteam Business

On 3rd November 2011 WEG signed an agreement with GE Energy to acquire the Electric Machinery (EM) unit of Converteam. The acquisition is expected to close before the end of the year and is subject to customary closing conditions and approval by the US Department of Justice. WEG’s acquisition of Electric Machinery follows the acquisition of Converteam by GE on September 2nd, 2011 – as part of the merger review process prior to the acquisition, GE agreed with the US Department of Justice to divest the Electric Machinery unit of Converteam after closure.

Electric Machinery, founded in 1891 and based in Minneapolis, custom designs and manufactures motors, generators and brushless exciters that serve thousands of customers worldwide primarily in the oil & gas and power generation industries. The business also provides a complete range of aftermarket services including installation, field support, parts, repairs, upgrades, stator rewinds, high-speed balancing and technical support.

EM has an installed base of more than 5,500 units in operation and is a technological leader in the development of high value added products, such as 2-pole turbo generators and slow speed synchronous motors. Revenues in 2011 are estimated to reach US$56 million.

“We are very excited with this acquisition. EM has 100 years of history in large machines, strong reputation for high quality products and great brand recognition in key market segments, such as oil & gas and power generation” said Harry Schmelzer, WEG ceo. “From a global perspective, this acquisition complements WEG’s offering, with state of art products and technology. In addition, our production platform in North America now combines the plant in Minneapolis with our plants in Mexico, allowing us unsurpassed flexibility on providing integrated solutions in the region”.

PlantPAx process automation system order in Australia

Nyrstar Hobart, a leading global multi-metals company, has awarded a $2.5 million+ order to Rockwell Automation and its Global Solutions team to replace a distributed control system (DCS) at the company’s zinc smelting operation in Hobart, Tasmania, with the Rockwell Automation PlantPAx process automation system.

“Our current DCS would be cost-prohibitive to upgrade. Hardware was failing and repairs were becoming expensive and requiring longer lead times. The Rockwell Automation solution will provide us with better integration between different process areas, improved diagnostics, maintaining plant uptime and delivering improved plant performance reporting,” said Jeremy Kouw, general manager, Nyrstar Hobart.

Rockwell Automation won the order by developing a three-year phased integration with a back-up option that uses custom input/output cabling to ensure process continuity, coupled with technical support for the existing installation. NHP Electrical, a Rockwell Automation authorized distributor, provided long-term committed support to the project, which also weighed in the favor of Rockwell Automation.

“This win represents a milestone for us given the size and complexity of the DCS conversion,” said Terry Gebert, vice president and general manager, Rockwell Automation Global Solutions. “We won the order over two major process automation companies, based on the excellent support we provide for the existing operation and a clear vision of control conversion to a long-term sustainable operation. The order includes project management, application engineering, system cutover engineering, hardware and software. Our experience, domain expertise and global resources will help Nyrstar Hobart in this critical conversion from a legacy DCS system.”

Nyrstar Hobart’s Australian facility is one of the world’s largest zinc smelters with a capacity of 280,000 tonnes. It produces zinc and zinc alloys that are exported primarily to Asia. The existing DCS operates process control for roast-leach purification electrolysis, acid plant and water treatment.

The order incorporates 7,000+ distributed input/output connections. According to research performed by the ARC Advisory Group, the global process industry loses approximately $20 billion annually, or about five percent of annual production, due to unscheduled downtime from aging DCS systems.

Invensys half year results.

Invensys plc recently published half year results to the end of September 2011, with some comments from the ceo Wayne Edmunds. While the Invensys Operations Management (IOM) position was discussed with IOM president and ceo Sudipta Bhattacharya at the OpsManage11 event in Paris from 2-4 November, as reported in the INSIDER Industrial Automation newsletter for November, it is interesting to look at some of the other financial details in the published group report.

The major items of interest surround the factors that were discussed extensively last winter, when there was speculation about a JV or take-over of some or all of Invensys, possibly from China, sponsored by the China Nuclear Corporation, or the Chinese rail industry, or both.

Nuclear power plant business

Significant orders were received in H1 2011, ie the previous year, from China Nuclear, for IOM work on nuclear plants under construction in China, which boosted order intake figures and led to the later speculation. This year we are told that non-nuclear order intake, ie excluding these Chinese orders last year, grew 20%, to the £599m figure. A simple bit of maths shows the Chinese orders in the first half of last year must have totalled £91m.

A second measure of the nuclear business is the statement in the recent results that it represented 9% of IOM revenue this half, ie 9% of £618m, or £55.6m.

Inevitably my conclusion is that the nuclear business is worth £100 – 120m to IOM, which at a likely total divisional turnover of approx £1250m (US$2Bn) is just under 10% of this business. Assuming this is classed in the “Utilities and Power” industry sector, which was declared at 17% of the IOM business, it leaves 8% for other activity in power industry control and automation, which only serves to stress that at 28% the “Oil and Gas” sector is particularly important, since also “Petrochemicals” adds another 6%.

However, the nuclear business has significant future market prospects currently, not just in China. So IOM has decided to split this business off into a separate operation (still within IOM). The statement says: “Recognising the significance of the nuclear industry to the division, with a number of contracts being executed and bid for in China and the potential elsewhere in the world, we have formed a separate nuclear business within Invensys Operations Management.  This business will be responsible for the global nuclear business, including business strategy, all commercial activities and the operational delivery of major nuclear projects around the world.”

That will be handy, if a nuclear JV does arise with another party in the industry to enable combined bids on future business. Such a JV with the right partner might also discourage a full Invensys group take-over by some of the potential purchasers.

Business in China

Another bit of sorting out occurred in China in this half-year too, stated as “During the period, we acquired the 30% minority interest in our Chinese subsidiary, Shanghai Foxboro Company Limited for £10 million.  This company will now become the focus of all the division’s business development activities in China.”

While this is not a lot of money, it will mean a lot to the ex-JV partner, and might imply an interest in expanding the activities in China from what might have been solely a Foxboro product operation to one that covers other business development plans too.  But having separated the nuclear business out in the rest of IOM, it would not seem to be right to add the Triconex and other spares and service for the China Nuclear business too closely into this operation in China.

The geographical business split for IOM can be expanded to give figures as: North America 28%, UK and Europe 26%, Africa/Middle East 14%, South America 7%, China Nuclear 9%, Asia/Pacific 16%. So there is significant business in that area.

That’s a good move, in sorting out their operations in a significant market area.

Other areas of business

The IOM strength is perhaps reflected in the industry sectors presented for the revenue percentages in the half-year report. With oil and gas and petrochemicals taking 34%, and China Nuclear 9% plus power and utilities 8%, the total of general industries, discrete manufacturing and “Other” is 49%, reflecting the spread of the Invensys software applications across most industries.

The only other figures available are quoted for their business revenue split by product offering, which gives control and safety systems 61%, advanced applications 19% and equipment 20%. This leads to their comment that “The advanced applications business is seeing faster than expected recovery in areas such as optimisation, Human Machine Interface (HMI) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) as users continue to improve the efficiency of existing assets.”

Other good news

Invensys Rail reported fairly poor order intake for the first six months of this FY, at £250m, 10% (or £27m) down on last year. But then, frustratingly for the financial whizzkids, in October they received two orders totalling between them £590m, so the 7 month order book would have been 203% up on the previous year H1. Not only does this guarantee a record order book for this FY is already achieved for Invensys Rail, it suggests the rail business has emerged from the bad period experienced last year.

Then another apparent bit of good news: the pension fund deficit was reduced by £140m, it is now down to £327m: but none of this money was provided from the existing business. The reduction “reflects the success of our strategy to minimise the impact of market volatility on our balance sheet”. What happened apparently was that they achieved an actuarial gain of £147m by a “reduction in discount rates used for the actuarial valuation of pension liabilities and a reduction in inflation assumptions”. It sounds like the review and advice that saved them £147m on paper only cost £7m.

That’s all very handy: for their pensioners and for anyone looking at buying the whole group, that is.

Eaton Corp starts media promo campaign

The Eaton Corporation has launched a media campaign, aimed at increasing their profile in the markets outside the USA, which have grown to be far more significant for the group in the last few years. With four events in 2011 the campaign steps up to 14 events in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa) next year, but globally there will be 40-50 events. The “Oil and Gas Technology” day presented at Mercedes-Benz World at the historic Brooklands circuit, a haven of automobile, racing car and aviation history southwest of London, was a combined customer/media event, but being targeted primarily at oil and gas production customers, the presentations did not cover the 38% of the estimated $16Bn 2011 Eaton group total sales from the aerospace, truck and automobile divisions.

Current turnover splits

Back in 2000, 90% of Eaton sales came from the US market, but in a pattern similar to that reported by GE Energy (INSIDER Oct 11 page 11), 55% of sales last year were outside the USA, and for Q2 in 2011 the results showed that 26% of current business has emerged from developing countries. Much of the European business growth and many of the 55 manufacturing sites in Europe have arisen from several acquisitions, notably perhaps that of Delta in 2003, which brought in the MEM (Midlands Electrical Manufacturing) MV and LV businesses serving the petrochemical and utility markets, with major factories in Birmingham and Hengelo. A more recent significant acquisition was of the Moeller Group in 2008, which was then complemented by the purchase of the remaining shares in Micro Innovations AG in 2009. So while $4Bn, or 25% of group sales come from EMEA, the approximate 2011 figures for the Electrical Division in the USA are also $4Bn, Electrical outside the USA, meaning EMEA and Asia Pacific, are at $3Bn or 19% of group total, and Hydraulics Division sales worldwide are also at £3Bn.

“Powering business” includes hydraulics, but HMI systems are growing:

Gardiner Henderson, global director for oil and gas at Eaton, but a relatively new recruit, having joined from a similar role in ABB around five months ago, opened the discussions pointing out that the Eaton logo has been updated to include the phrase “Powering business worldwide”. Henderson explained that Eaton positions itself as a diversified power management company, helping customers to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs, above all by helping to build a reliable infrastructure. The examples quoted of applications and recent Eaton new technology developments laid particular emphasis on the hydraulics business, reinforcing the impression that their catch-phrase is meant to include a significant amount of high power and advanced technology hydraulics.

Frank Campbell, president for EMEA of the electrical sector, balanced this by explaining that he sees the electrical business as split into four sectors, ie power distribution and switchgear, power quality and UPS systems, power control (as in machine tools, motor starters, drives and switches) and the service business, which includes project design and installation, particularly for the developing solar power business. A major task for this service business had been in helping the plants in the southern parts of Louisiana to recover after hurricane Katrina, in particular in the support that Eaton provided to ConocoPhillips to restore their power systems, which led to a major national (US) service contract.

The Moeller acquisition in particular had been beneficial in adding IEC versions of the main product ranges to the Eaton portfolio.  Moeller brought a 50% stake in Micro Innovation AG to Eaton, and this was fairly rapidly converted into a 100% holding in 2009: this brought a stronger involvement with the automation and control market, since Micro Innovation manufactures human machine interfaces, programmable logic controllers and input/output devices – at the acquisition they were employing 80 people, and had had a turnover of £33m in 2008. Currently this product range is said to have expanded to include touch screens, and Eaton has introduced the SmartWire interfacing technology to the USA this year. SmartWire was launched at SPS/IPC/Drives in 2009, and uses an 8 track flat green cable to make a quick, simple link between components and devices within control cabinets or machine tools, and to provide 15V power to devices, and 24V power to contactors: this is able to eliminate the cost and complexity of the interconnection wiring looms and screw terminations within the cabinet. Campbell mentioned that Eaton had formed a collaboration with Phoenix Contact to extend the use of SmartWire to interface to their Contactron motor starter, as announced at Hannover Messe earlier this year, and further such announcements will be made at the SPS 2011 Expo coming up shortly.

Maybe the modest culture is changing?

Henderson explained that Eaton was culturally a modest company, as a reason as to why there previously had been none of the press releases relating to major offshore contract awards and application announcements, that are normal from such companies as ABB and GE Energy. This modest cultural aspect and the similar attitude of the management at Eaton had been the first major factor that made him decide to join the company, but he did imply that the culture was being sharpened up a little, to create the necessary press announcements, which should be expected more frequently in future. Presumably the planned series of technology presentations is another aspect of the more forceful, less modest image planned for Eaton. Incidentally the flashy style of the video presentations used to back up the technology day did not seem to reflect any of the modesty in the company culture!

The second factor that had impressed Henderson when he was considering joining Eaton was their solid range of products and technology, followed closely by the opportunity he could see for these products in the oil and gas market. With no “feel” available from the published material for the existing Eaton footprint for electrical supply systems in the oil and gas market, the major impression was that most of the quoted Eaton applications actually involved hydraulics. True, Campbell had quoted the Salam gas trains for Khalda in Egypt as an application presumably of MV switchgear and maybe the Eaton Flashgard or Arcon LV arc flash prevention systems, and also the manufacture of switch gear and control panels for emergency generators by their Abu Dhabi factory. Henderson had also said that Eaton did indeed compete with ABB in terms of the supply of offshore power supply infrastructure equipment, having the advantage of equipment with a smaller footprint and lower weight, to give effectively a higher power density capability per unit of weight and footprint for offshore applications.

Major hydraulics applications offshore

The hydraulics applications offshore quoted by Henderson included the supply of umbilical lines for delivering and controlling hydraulic power on the sea-bed, and the use of large – up to 65 feet – hydraulic cylinders for stabilising drill decks or other platforms on semi-submersible or floating platforms. Using this form of compensation for deck movement enables platforms to operate in poor weather conditions, where previously operation would not have been possible. For a similar objective, Eaton have developed a special cladding for piston rods, a laser assisted coating technique, appropriately known as Eatonite, which allows a significant increase in the working life of the rod under the bad corrosion conditions found offshore.

Also on display in the associated exhibition was their latest hydraulic hose condition monitoring development, LifeSense, which uses measurement of the electrical resistance of wires embedded in the hose surface, to provide an alarm when the hose has reached the end of its useful life, to enable a change-over before a failure. The interesting comment about this hose monitoring system from the salesman’s point of view was that the presentation to the oil and gas customers had been criticised slightly, for showing the hose monitoring system in application on a rubbish collection cart, rather than an oil rig hydraulic system. More interesting for the salesman was that their plan is to develop LifeSense as a wireless sensor, so that the hose condition could be alarmed direct to the operator’s Blackberry or iPhone. But the response to the inevitable question about an intrinsic safety was equally revealing, after it had been explained that these words related to safety approvals in hazardous areas with potentially explosive atmospheres. Apparently already someone attending the oil and gas technology day had mentioned the word “ATEX” to them, and they were going to have to look at that.

Another corner of the exhibition area was devoted to the new Eaton range of AxisPro proportional control valves for electro-hydraulic axis control applications, which offer CANopen fieldbus communications, on-board temperature and pressure sensors, and a wide range of control capability, up to offering a valve that can be uniquely customized by uploading application code created using Pro-FX control software based on IEC 61131-3 programming. Using the close coupling of this control software in the valve, and adjacent AxisPro slaves, the resulting fast response enables a dynamic bandwidth of 150Hz. One of the major Eaton solenoid and control valve factories is in Havant, in the southern part of Hampshire, UK.