Process plant safety hazards – and sensors

The following summary of recent hazardous events was the subject of my column in the May 2018 issue of the South African Instrumentation and Control journal, published by technews.co.za . See the whole issue here.

This March saw the North of Europe suffer with the ‘Beast from the East’, with freezing Siberian wind and rain, plus snow – even in the South of the UK. The high winds brought an unexpected benefit: the power generated by the many UK wind turbines reached 14GW, or 34% of the UK power demand, during several periods. The wind power capacity installed feeding the UK grid is now 19GW, the third highest in Europe: Germany has 56GW, and Spain 23GW.

Cyber attacks in the Middle East

The major concerns for Saudi Arabia are the continuing cyber-attacks.  More information is emerging about the Triton malware attack, reported in this column in February. The latest news, published on the Cyberscoop and CyberArk websites, suggest the Triton attacks failed because of a ‘flaw in the coding of the malware’. Because of the sophisticated nature of the malware, and because many of the coding indicators have not been seen before, or used by any known hacking group, the conclusion is still that extensive resources were involved in creating and testing Triton, which could only have been provided by a nation state actor. Saudi Aramco assisted in the investigations, but say the plant attacked by this virus was not a part of their operations. Triton is confirmed to be specifically targeting the Triconex safety override systems, in an overt attempt to cause catastrophic damage. The Schneider Triconex controllers are used in about 18,000 plants around the world, including nuclear and water treatment facilities, oil and gas refineries, and chemical plants. The reports also revealed that attacks in Saudi Arabia using the Shamoon virus have continued, with Sadara Chemicals and the Saudi National Industrialisation Company (Tasnee) both being attacked last year.

USA, the CSB, and Russian hackers

In the USA, the impression is that major plant incidents fall into three main categories: dust explosions, maintenance welding errors and transport pipeline fractures……

[But here it is necessary to update this “impression” after the later announcement from the US administration  – the Dept of Homeland Security recently reported that Russian hackers had been observed on machines (computers) with access to critical control systems at power plants (both nuclear and conventional). American agencies have been aware of these intrusions/attacks for the past 18 months, and they have screenshots showing the hackers had the foothold needed to manipulate or shut down power plants – both in the US and in Europe, it seems….. Plus it is also linked to the suspected Presidential election meddling.] Returning, however, to dust explosions and welding errors….

The US ten year average for grain dust explosions is 9.3, so actually 2017 was below average with only seven explosions and five fatalities in the USA. The number is steadily declining, as better training and housekeeping take effect, and with the wider use of dust explosion venting and suppression systems.

It is my personal impression that maintenance welding errors seem to be a major cause of the plant and tank explosions reported in the USA, firstly during maintenance under hot work permits, but also in plant changes, when working on tanks where flammable materials were previously stored. Despite this apparent laxity in grain handling and petrochemical plant operations, the US has a world leading accident investigation organisation, the Chemical Safety (and Hazard Investigation) Board. The CSB was established in 1998, and produces brilliant accident analysis reports, covering small hazardous events up to major disasters. They are the people that are responsible for detailing the causes of the major BP Texas City refinery explosions in 2005, and the Macondo blowout in 2010, both of which caused major loss of life. The CSB can only make recommendations for legislative changes, which then have to be considered by OHSA and US State legislative bodies. Perhaps typically, President Trump promised to abolish the CSB when he came to office last March, presumably thinking it was a barrier to free enterprise etc, but thankfully he seems to have changed his mind!

Developments in Sensors

Returning to sensors, and the current development trends, it seems there is no specific focus for developments currently. Perhaps because of the US accidents with pipeline leaks and fractures, there is considerable attention being paid to corrosion and crack monitoring, but the development of point sensors seems to not be relevant for long pipelines. At the University of California San Diego, a new ultrasonic sensor array has been built onto a flat silicone elastomer sheet, which can be wrapped round bends and corners that otherwise are difficult to inspect with flat probes. Initial applications are seen on structural steel in bridges, or for aircraft engine supports.

In Europe, ACHEMA has launched their brochures in advance of the 11-15 June expo in Frankfurt: the last event was in 2015. Focussed on process engineering for chemicals, pharmaceuticals and petrochem, maybe ACHEMA will show the future routes of sensor development – notably however, cyber-security and safety from hazards are not major topics in their agenda!

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Process plants as weapons of war

Malware over the Internet has replaced the large gunboat that was despatched in previous times – say 200 years ago – to send a message to the heart of a rival nation, indicating that relationships were becoming a little frosty. Then submarines and ICBMs were introduced, as less vulnerable to counter-attack – and providing hidden strength to be activated when necessary. The same applies to malware, in that once it is in place the weapon can be hidden and dormant until required. However, with any new missile system or weapon, the routing, targeting and performance of the latest versions have to be tested, and often this testing can be observed and monitored.

For any nation or group with an evil intent against another, this gives a major opportunity to cause chaos or damage to the infrastructure or manufacturing operations of a target country. This was seen in 2010 with Stuxnet, the Malware targeted at Siemens controllers in Iranian nuclear centrifuge installations. The source of the virus (officially) was never traced, but it was thought to have been from Israel, possibly with support from the USA. So Iran saw the effectiveness of this approach, and then developed the Shamoon virus, which caused major damage to all networked PCs at Aramco in Saudi Arabia in 2012. A further variant of Shamoon was unleashed in 2016/17, targeting ordinary computer systems around the Persian Gulf, as well as in Saudi Arabia.

Following these events, many cyber-security service businesses and departments appeared, in addition to those which were developing anti-virus systems to protect computers from hacking by fraudsters and criminals. Both of these types of company monitor any new attacks and intrusions, and normally report that state sponsored hacking is known to have originated from Israel, Iran, Russia, USA, and North Korea. Indeed some of the most active hacking has been from a Russian group known as Sandworm, particularly disrupting networks and systems in the Ukraine starting in 2014. Malware called ‘Industroyer’ was used in 2016 to cause a power blackout in Kiev, by modifying the ABB configuration files in the electricity supply grid network systems.

The latest attack

Two such cyber-security service businesses are FireEye and Dragos, based in the USA. In December 2017 they reported on a new attack (actually seen several months before) delivering malware into an un-named petrochemical plant control system in the Middle East. Others have reported this malware was most likely to have been developed in Iran and targeted at a Saudi Arabian installation. The FireEye investigation team from their Mandiant subsidiary found that the plant safety system, a Triconex SIS, had caused an unexpected safety shut-down. Triconex is a company within Schneider Electric, following their acquisition of the Invensys Group: their triple-redundant safety systems protect major hazardous installations such as petrochemical plants. They also are the ultimate shut-down safety system for many nuclear power plants around the World, including most of those in China.

FireEye called the malware they found “Triton” – it is also known as Trisis. The implication of their report was that the Triton attack framework gained remote access to an SIS engineering workstation, sought out the Triconex controllers, and tried to inject new commands into their operations. It seems that the workstation (on site) was in programme mode at this time, hence opening a potential window. There was no indication that the malware used any vulnerability in the Triconex system or its program code. In fact the triple redundant safety system reacted properly: the new single instruction did not pass the built-in validity checks, and so Triconex shut down the plant operations safely, as is the requirement of such a safety system.

FireEye interprets that this attack, which shows persistence, the lack of any clear monetary goal, and the technical resources necessary to create such an attack framework, as suggesting the origin is a well-resourced ‘nation-state’ actor. Either this current attack is reconnaissance development testing of part of what would need to be a significantly expanded multi-point approach to penetrate and control Triconex, or at a minimum it is designed to be economically disruptive to the target plant. Other commentators have suggested that Triton could prevent the Triconex SIS from carrying out its safety function, and drive the plant to destruction. Whilst this is unlikely, and not supported by current knowledge, the malware is undoubtedly aimed at the safety system, and Triconex is the omnipresent safety system used in most of the hazardous plants across all countries, whatever the origin of the plant control system.

A unique ubiquitous target?

Industrial control systems – for petrochemical plants, nuclear and other power stations, water treatment plants, power grids – are standardised across the World, so that they can accept inputs from equipment from many manufacturers: this is good, because there are no monopolies. It is also bad, because anyone can learn how to access these systems. While there are maybe ten major DCS suppliers worldwide, the SIS supplier base is much smaller – there are two or three suppliers. Of these, Triconex is by far the largest supplier, making them a very tempting target for anyone intent on world domination!

This article was written for and first published in my column in the February 2018 issue of the South African journal of Instrumentation and Control, a magazine from www.technews.co.za

ARC report confirms ABB continuing DCS market dominance

ARC Advisory Group is one of those typically American consultancy organisations that produces reports describing technology trends and competitive analyses that are then sold to the suppliers in the industry. Undoubtedly they are also employed to produce specific reports at the request of single specific clients, but the main reports publicised for public sale are the overall market surveys. Without paying a lot of money, the general public don’t get to see these.

All the data from the reports is generalised, and as ever, subject to interpretation, so hopefully each client can find something that reinforces his optimism about his company’s place in the market. So they are essential sources of backup data for Board presentations and the like.

The ARC DCS market study

The recent ARC report on the “Distributed Control Systems Global Market 2016-2021” report provided ABB with sufficient confidence to issue a Press Release stating that the ARC had confirmed ABB to be the ‘#1 supplier of Distributed Control Systems Globally’, with a 20% market share ‘across industries’, making ABB the leader of ‘digitally enabled control and automation’. This is a continuation of the position they have held according to ARC since 1999.

Peter Terwiesch, President of the ABB Industrial Automation division echoed these findings: “With our installed base of over 70 million connected devices and 70,000 control systems, and an annual investment of $1.5 billion in research and development, ABB is leading the digital transformation of industry.”

Such reports and statistics were the bread and butter, and even the honey, for the reports written for the Industrial Automation Insider newsletter that your editor produced from 2010 to 2015. The focus for such a report would have been that with at most seven major suppliers competing for the top slot, a 20% market share would imply the dominance margin is (still) fairly slim!

The ARC report provides a competitive analysis of the market shares of leading suppliers by geographical region, and broken down into eleven major industry groups, as well as equipment type, project size and style. The ABB release specifically mentions the ABB activity as delivering sustainable progress for power, water and process industries.

The ABB Profile

More interesting in many ways were the specific project examples picked out by ABB as the prime examples of their expertise in several sectors, viz:

“ABB’s leadership in DCS stems from countless ground-breaking projects around the globe. ABB Ability System 800xA plays a key role in securing the success for Sadara, the world’s largest chemicals complex built in a single phase. The monitoring and automating of the entire production process is fully integrated with System 800xA, all coming together in 18 control systems and 260 operator work stations. The integration capabilities also helped the Garpenberg mine to become one of the world’s most cost-effective and modern mines in the world. Hoists, mill drives, ventilation, dewatering, substations, conveyors, crushers, ore storage, and maintenance, as well as document management and communications are seamlessly integrated to the automation system. Very recently Emami Cement has chosen System 800xA to automate its new production plant which will help boost infrastructure growth in India.

“ABB Ability Symphony Plus is, for example, the core solution for integrating new emission control technology at a power plant in Wisconsin, US; for protecting the UNESCO World Heritage site of Venice, Italy from high water by controlling the city’s MOSE flood barrier system; for providing the automation and electrification solution for Adani, the world’s largest solar power plant in a single location, in Kamuthi India; and for enabling the Vietnamese utility Saigon Water Corporation (SAWACO) to control and operate its infrastructure in real time, significantly reducing the amount of non-revenue water.”

Walt Boyes has expanded on this report in the December issue of the Industrial Automation INSIDER, which was published on 11 January 2018.

 

Diabetes plant for Novo Nordisk chooses Emerson

Another Novo Nordisk greenfield pharmaceutical project has chosen Emerson Automation Solutions to achieve a fast project start-up: this Emerson release gives the following information.

Emerson advises: “Global healthcare company Novo Nordisk has awarded Emerson a $40 million automation systems and services contract for a new US-based drug manufacturing facility to help battle the global diabetes epidemic. The largest project in its history, Novo Nordisk’s new $2 billion plant in Clayton, North Carolina, will leverage Emerson Project Certainty methodologies and automation technologies to help ensure the plant achieves a tight project construction schedule to meet a construction target of 2020.

The new 825,000-square-foot production facility will help the Danish drug company increase manufacturing capacity and meet its goal of doubling production of diabetes drugs over the next decade. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, with another 86 million living with prediabetes.

“Our extensive experience in the life sciences industry and integrated offering for capital projects and automation perfectly positions us to help Novo Nordisk deliver its largest project in history,” said Mike Train, executive president, Emerson Automation Solutions. “Together we can design and deliver this world-class manufacturing facility to be ready on time, and to quickly deliver these important diabetes medicines.”

Novo Nordisk will implement elements of the Emerson Project Certainty approach to help reduce project complexity and achieve the tight project schedule. This transformational approach leverages automation technology, which serves as a central nervous system in a plant, and new methodologies, to reduce costs and complexity and accommodate late-stage project changes.

Novo Nordisk selected Emerson’s integrated portfolio of automation technologies and services, including its DeltaV distributed control system (DCS) and Syncade manufacturing execution system (MES). Emerson will also provide smart automation technologies including valves and measurement instrumentation.”

ABB automation increases capacity 10x for Tate & Lyle food additive plant

When Tate & Lyle acquired Biovelop, a Swedish manufacturer of oat based food ingredients in 2013, the factory in Kimstad, Sweden was modernized and expanded by installing automation systems, variable speed drives, motors, motor control cabinets  and valve positioners from ABB Automation. In 2016 the remodeled plant celebrated the first anniversary of operations with the new systems and significantly increased production capacity.

The global market for specialty food ingredients, including health and wellness products, is growing, with annual sales of $51 billion and annual growth rate of 4-5%. Oat ingredients have been actively involved with this trend as they offer some key nutritional and functional benefits. In particular, oat contains beta glucan, a soluble fiber that has been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce post prandial glycaemic response – claims that have been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In fact, it was these properties of the grain that made the sector an attractive one to Tate & Lyle, and triggered the decision to diversify its portfolio into this sector.

“We have seen a more than tenfold increase in capacity with the same number of shift operators compared to four years ago,” said Annika Werneman, Tate & Lyle plant manager. “It’s a huge change in such a short time, and it means that we’ve gone from a low-level facility to one that can deliver high quality product to our customers globally.”

Advanced automation technologies in the plant run critical food processing equipment -including pumps and decanters: material handling machinery is also used to transport the dry food products. ABB delivered automation equipment that included 85 variable speed drives (VSDs), with power ratings ranging from 0.37 kW to 55 kW, as well as ABB MNS 3.0 motor control cabinets and low voltage motors. ABB also delivered 44 Digital Electro pneumatic positioners (TZID-C) , which use the Hart protocol to communicate with the control valves.

“We needed a process that was highly automated and could run 24 hours, seven days a week, all year long,” Werneman continued. This meant building a system that enabled Tate & Lyle engineers to digitally interact with the system, commission (start) devices, and diagnose performance deviations or failures from anywhere in the world. This not only helps ensure operational consistency, but also reduce the total cost of ownership by enabling staff to manage the processes without being physically present at each site.

Such interactivity was enabled by the ABB fieldbus automation for the drive controls, providing flexibility as well as remote monitoring of the plant performance. “I like that ABB designed the system so that the fieldbus responsible for device control is split from the fieldbus used for asset management,” explained Leo Dijkstra, power & controls team leader Europe at Tate & Lyle. “This ensures that I can make any changes to the configuration of the devices without the risk of the whole network going down.”

At Tate & Lyle, they place great importance not just on what they do, but how they do it. “We are working continuously wherever we can to reduce the environmental footprint of our operations,” said Dijkstra. ABB was well placed to help as it has developed a portfolio of products and solutions that improve industrial energy efficiency.

“In our pump applications alone, we are using up to 50 percent less energy thanks to the variable speed drives, and these have been running non-stop for the last two years without a single failure,” Dijkstra continued. “What’s more, ABB was so quick to deliver products that we even had the first VSD delivered in just a few days.”

Although the nearest ABB support is only a ten-minute drive away from the Kimstad factory, the fieldbus flexibilities in the drives enable Tate & Lyle to rely on its own staff to handle the ABB equipment remotely. “Our work with Tate & Lyle illustrates the benefits of digitization, which can yield immense productivity and output gains from existing facilities,” said Petter Hollertz, area sales manager at ABB. “The improvements at this plant also show what great teamwork between the equipment supplier and the user can accomplish, as we worked together as true partners on this project.”

Yokogawa EPMS and SCADA for the UK’s BPAL pipeline system

Yokogawa has received an order from the British Pipeline Agency Limited (BPAL) to supply a management and control system for one of the UK’s major multi-product fuel pipeline systems, to replace the current BPAL pipeline management and SCADA systems.

The BPAL UK pipeline system consists of three integrated multi-product fuel pipelines that link two, refineries, one at Ellesmere port on the Mersey near Liverpool and the other on the Thames in Essex, to inland distribution terminals. These pipelines, operational since 1969, meet over 50% of the jet fuel needs at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and are altogether some 650 km in length. BPAL, jointly owned by Shell and BP, are the operators of these pipeline systems (known as UKOP and WLWG), which are owned by a consortium of partners.

This order is for Yokogawa’s Enterprise Pipeline Management Solution (EPMS), which will manage functions such as delivery scheduling and oil storage, and their Fast-Tools SCADA software, to monitor and control the oil pipelines and related equipment such as compressors. The EPMS uses specific gas and liquid applications that enable a pipeline operator to manage delivery contracts in a time and energy efficient manner. With the SCADA system covering monitoring and control, the EPMS will integrate the management of the SCADA data. Delivery of these systems will be completed by March 2018.

Further order for UAE Power and Desalination Station

Yokogawa also recently received its first ever DCS order for a power and desalination plant in the UAE. The company is to supply the Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority (SEWA) with control and safety systems, plus field equipment, for Units 7 and 8 at the Layyah Power and Desalination Station.

Each unit comprises a 75 MW oil and gas-fired thermal power plant and a 27,000 m3 per day multi-stage flash (MSF) desalination plant: a technology that involves the heating and evaporation of seawater in multiple vacuum distillation tanks to produce steam, which is then condensed to produce fresh water. Such systems are energy-efficient because they use the heat from the steam that is created in the vacuum distillation tanks.

Yokogawa Middle East & Africa will deliver the CentumVP integrated production control system for the boiler, turbine governor, turbine protection system and the desalination plant at each of these units, as well as the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system for burner management and boiler protection. The field instruments will include Yokogawa products such as the DPharp EJA series differential pressure and pressure transmitters, continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS), and steam and water analysis systems (SWAS). In addition to being responsible for engineering, the company will provide support for the installation and commissioning of these systems, with all work scheduled for completion by September 2017.

Demand for electricity and water is soaring throughout the Middle East due to their rapid economic growth. Power and desalination plants that rely on the region’s abundant oil and gas resources make up an important part of this region’s infrastructure.

Alfa Laval sees marine market growth in ballast and SOx

Readers of this blog will recall the Alfa Laval launch on their “PureBallast” water treatment system for marine vessels way back in 2007. The IMO international convention for the ‘control and management of ship’s ballast water and sediments’ was the legislation that would drive the adoption of such systems world-wide: at last this convention became legally binding on shipping and ship-owners worldwide on 8th September 2016. Inevitably there is a 12 month time lag before it will be legally enforced, and then, hopefully, tankers will not be allowed to ply their trade without having an approved ballast water treatment system fitted.

Ballast water treatment market

Peter Leifland, current president of the Marine & Diesel Division of Alfa Laval presented some interesting views of this market in support of the recent Alfa Laval Capital markets Day presentation to analysts and stockbrokers.

Leifland commented that “With the ratification in place, the market for retrofit installations is expected to start to move.”  Alfa Laval expects that 35 000 ships will install a ballast water treatment system between 2017 and 2025. This is split between 15 000 newly built ships and 20 000 retrofit installations. The average order value per ship for the Alfa Laval chemical-free solution is EUR 200,000 – 225,000.

The Alfa Laval system fully complies with IMO standards and requirements, but as ever different countries can impose further approval and performance requirements and testing, effectively policing their own waters so that only ships with their approved systems can trade in their waters. This means more approval testing, fees, and even design changes for suppliers like Alfa Laval. They have their PureBallast system nearing completion of the long testing procedure needed by the US Coast Guard to check that it meets with their USCG criteria.

Shipboard sulphur oxide emissions (SOx)

The IMO convention for the reduction of sulphur oxides (SOx) emissions from ships has been ratified and since 2015 it has been implemented in some Emission Control Areas (ECAs). This IMO regulation will become global by 2020, requiring that that emission levels will be cut to 0.5%.

Leifland commented that Alfa Laval estimates that 5 000 ships, new as well as existing, will install a scrubber solution in the period 2017-2025.” Given the continuing development of new solutions, Alfa Laval’s average order value per ship is expected to be EUR 1 million. Leifland sees these two developing markets as a useful opportunity, during a period where “falling ship contracting is impacting our order intake”.

Postscript 27 December 2016: 

Alfa Laval PureBallast 3 receives U.S. Coast Guard type approval

Peter Leifland, President of the Marine & Diesel division in Alfa Laval, reports that:

“I am very pleased to receive this type approval, as it confirms the reliable performance of our ballast water treatment system. We now have a system approved by both US Coast Guard and the International Maritime Organization”.

Alfa Laval PureBallast 3 has received US Coast Guard type approval for usage in all water salinities, including fresh water. It follows upon two and a half years of compliance testing, according to the strict demands of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Environmental Technology Verification” (EPA ETV) testing protocol. The tests were performed at DHI’s test facilities in Denmark, supervised by DNV GL as the independent inspection laboratory.