Fashions in sensor technology

I confess it was 50 years ago when I started looking at new technology for sensors. Back then, colleagues and I updated the old WW2 mine detector, using really low frequency (i.e. 1 kHz) magnetic waves to discriminate between ferrous and non-ferrous items, and assess the size and range of the target by the signal phase measurement. Here the electronics used ‘modern’ operational amplifiers, on a ‘chip’.

The 1980s

Ten years on, in the ’80s, the technology coming into vogue was ultrasonics, replacing float systems to make liquid level switches, and then, still using analog electronics, the first Doppler ultrasonic flowmeter appeared. With the availability of digital microprocessor circuitry, timed pulses transmitted through the air down to the surface of a liquid led to non-contact liquid level measurement, and major success in the automation of sewage sump pumping systems. (The success lasted maybe 30 years, as when the mobile phone business created low cost microwave components, similar systems based on radar began to take over in this market.)

The next leap forwards in the mid-’80s was the time-of-flight ultrasonic flowmeter – actually achieved with discrete digital circuitry, which was faster than the available microprocessors. The technology was originally developed at Harwell, for measuring liquid sodium flows in nuclear reactors, but these flowmeters found major application in monitoring clean water flows, primarily in water distribution mains. Over the next 25 years the technique was picked up by commercial interests, and continually refined, introducing clamp-on sensor systems, and adapting the technique for gas flows as well. Even domestic gas meters were introduced using the same principle. Eventually the microprocessor speed became fast enough to achieve the flow measurement accuracy needed – using multiple sound paths – for the fiscal measurement of oil flows, which is now one of the major applications, along with similar gas flow measurement tasks.

Other sensors where I was not initially involved were in the fields of gas detection – where for flammable gases, Pellistors created a major business area – and fire detectors. It seems that UV and IR fire detection systems are still seeking the best approach. Possibly because of the awareness brought about by the Internet, the pace of change and the commercial opportunities, the large corporations are quick to acquire small spin-off companies from university or other research after any small success, because of what technology they may have discovered: they do this ‘just in case’, to protect their market position.

Current developments

The area I see as most important currently, and a fruitful area to flag up for research projects, is in any style of optical analytical measurement sensor. Specifically, the component that brought this into industrial instrumentation was the tuneable diode laser (TDL), developed prior to 2005 for the telecommunications industry, to transmit telephone conversations and data down fibre-optic cables. Around 2007 Yokogawa acquired a business from Dow Chemicals, which used TDL sensors for near-infrared absorption (NIR) measurements of a gas mixture, which gave the proportions of oxygen, carbon dioxide and monoxide, and water vapour. This allowed the unit to be used as a combustion analyser for industrial furnaces, boilers etc.

Over the last 10 years this area of technology has grown in importance, and in its capabilities. Spin-off companies have emerged from various universities, like Manchester and Glasgow. A significant task in these developments is the application of the solution to an industrial problem: it needs the two factors of solving both the technical design and the industrial application. Cascade Technologies was established in Glasgow in 2003, and their analysers were initially targeted at marine flue gas emissions monitoring. From 2013 they added a focus on pharmaceutical gaseous leak detection, and also the process industry, on ethylene plants. Their technology allows multiple gases to be measured simultaneously. The Cascade business has now been acquired by Emerson.

Another closely market-focused supplier of NIR analytical systems is TopNIR Systems of Aix en Provence, in France, actually a spin-off business from within BP. TopNIR use their systems to analyse hydrocarbons – both crude oil and processed products – to allow a refinery operator to know how to most profitably blend the available components into a final product, as well as to minimise any quality give-away in blending the different grades of gasoline and diesel. TopNIR quote the annual benefit to a typical refinery at $2 to $6 million, with an implied investment spend of up to $2 million!

This article was first published in the May 2017 issue of “South African Instrumentation and Control” published by Technews.co.za

©Processingtalk.info

KROHNE emphasises networking R+D with new CTO Attila Bilgic

The Advisory Board of the Krohne Group has appointed Dr Ing Attila Bilgic as CTO and Managing Director of Ludwig Krohne GmbH & Co KG. He assumes global responsibility for research and development (R+D) and extends the managing board of the Krohne Group alongside the existing Directors, Michael Rademacher-Dubbick and Stephan Neuburger.

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New Krohne CTO Dr Attila Bilgic

Dr Bilgic’s main task is the “digitization” of the Krohne measuring devices and measuring systems, their networking and their integration amongst themselves, as well as with and into the digital systems of the users. The area of “smart sensors”, which Krohne has already pioneered with various research projects under his leadership, is also of particular significance. With more than 350 employees, The Krohne Group currently employs about 10% of all staff in research and development, with more than 350 R+D employees and a budget of approximately 8% of the total group turnover (in 2015 the turnover was approximately EURO 500 million).

The topic of networking has been the major topic in the previous career of Dr. Bilgic: prior to joining Krohne, he held various positions in the “Communication Solutions” division of Infineon Technologies AG from 2000 to 2009, most recently as Director of System Engineering. From 2007 to 2009, he was head of the Department of Integrated Systems at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Since 2016, he has been a member of the board of the VDI / VDE Society of Measuring and Automation Technology. He is also a member of the German Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Power Industry Boiler Water Level Measurement Techniques

The March 2017 Inst Measurement and Control Technical Seminar evening will be hosted by Doosan Babcock in Manor Royal, Crawley, on Tuesday 21st March 2017.

This will be a tri-company, collaborative event, presented by Doosan Babcock, and also featuring contributions from Vega and TC-Fluid Control. It is aimed at providing attendees with a useful insight into industrial measurement application challenges in order to further their professional development knowledge.

Drum Level Control

The first presentation by Doosan Babcock will discuss Drum level measurement using DP Measurement and Hydrastep Measurement techniques.

Power station Steam Drum Level measurement is required for drum level control, Burner Management System (BMS) protection and Code compliance. Drum level is both a critical and difficult measurement to make. At steady state conditions, considerable turbulence in the drum can cause the level to fluctuate. A changing rate of water inflow and steam outflow adds to the potential for measurement error. The DP Measurement technique uses the difference in pressure between a head of water in an external reference column and the level in the drum. The density of water and steam vary appreciably with pressure, so the differential pressure obtained at any given level will vary as boiler pressure changes.

The Hydrastep technique detects the conductivity variation between the steam and the water. The electrode principle is an efficient system for measuring drum water levels.

Microwave Technology

Vega will explain how microwave technology can tackle a wide variety of applications associated with steam boilers. Non-contact or guided wave techniques have the ability to measure reliably, even with fluctuating temperatures up to 450C combined with pressures of up to 400 bar. Measurement is virtually unaffected by pressure and temperature changes. Top mounting makes installation and maintenance easy. In many cases microwave transmitters provide an alternative to legacy equipment for both solids and liquids. SIL qualification and boiler approval now enables microwave technology to  be used directly on steam boilers, with special modifications to compensate for saturated steam effects.

Visual/Glass and Boiler Steam Glass level gauges

untitledVisual/Glass and Boiler Steam Glass level gauges are a requirement on steam boilers for visual verification of the level control system, and will be discussed by TC-Fluid Control. Magnetic level gauges have many applications on and around the boiler, providing visual level indication whilst minimising potential leak paths, and can be used as an alternative to one of the glass level gauges on the boiler drum. Simple, robust technology provides a highly visible indication of process level at pressures of up to 400 bar and temperatures up to 450C.

Postscript: Wessex IMC Section meeting

Vega Controls will also give a talk to the IMC Wessex Section meeting on 15th March about the technology behind their 80GHz radar liquid level measurement systems. The talk will include live demonstrations, and takes place at the Forest Lodge Hotel, at Lyndhurst. A video is available that shows their new sensor.

 

Yokogawa offers ISA100 vibration sensor

Yokogawa Electric Corporation has announced the development and release of an ISA100 field wireless vibration sensor, which combines a fast data update rate with a long battery life. By providing real-time updates of the vibration levels in plant facilities, the new sensor helps users quickly detect equipment anomalies, enabling predictive maintenance.

Development background

With a field wireless system, plant field devices and analysers are able to communicate wirelessly with host-level monitoring and control systems. The rising need to improve productivity and enhance safety by collecting more data on plant operations is driving the demand for field wireless devices, which can be installed even in difficult to access locations. Field wireless devices have the added advantage of reducing installation costs.

Vibration sensors are used for the condition monitoring and predictive maintenance of plant machinery such as compressors, pumps, and motors. Conventional methods for monitoring vibration include the use of vibration sensors that rely on wired communications with a host system, supplemented by patrols by maintenance staff to collect vibration data. Wireless vibration sensors offer the same capabilities, with a much reduced installation cost and improved versatility: plus with the increasing adoption of ISA100 wireless technology across process plants, these sensors are a simple addition to such standard systems.

Since releasing the world’s first ISA100 Wireless-based field wireless devices and wireless systems, Yokogawa has expanded its line-up of field wireless devices that measure temperature, pressure, flow rate, and the like. This new vibration sensor will meet the  customer requirement for a device that can provide the fast updates on vibration levels needed to detect anomalies at an early stage.

Product features

ISA100 Wireless is a technology that is based on the ISA100.11a standard. It includes ISA100.11a-2011 communications, an application layer with process control industry standard objects, device descriptions and capabilities, a gateway interface, infrared provisioning, and a backbone router.

The principal components of this field wireless vibration sensor are the FN510 field wireless multifunction module, the LN01 piezoelectric type acceleration sensor, and the FN110 field wireless communication module. Via a gateway device, the FN510 uses the ISA100 Wireless communications protocol to exchange data with a host-level system such as the existing plant DCS. The data collected with this vibration sensor enables plant operators and maintenance staff to monitor vibration levels in real time. Both standard industrial and explosion-proof/intrinsically safe sensor types are available, with approvals to FM, CSA (cFM), ATEX and IECEx.

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The LN01 sensor is the small item at the bottom of the picture, presumably! The box provides the plant mounted protection for the FN510

The LN01 sensor monitors vibration in the frequency range 10Hz to 10kHz, with an update rate of 10 seconds minimum. Measurements are provided of vibration velocity up to 160mm/sec (6″/ sec), and acceleration up to 300m/sec(1 ft/sec/sec). On site the sensor has a cable connection to the FN510 free-standing field wireless multifunction module, the cable is typically up to 10m long. Battery life can be as long as 10 years, if the update rate is set at once per minute.

The Yokogawa approach to field wireless sensors

Yokogawa says they will continue to expand their lineup of ISA100 Wireless transmitters and other devices such as adaptors to develop best-in-class solutions that provide higher value to customers, and promote the use of field wireless technologies.

Their current ISA100 presentation includes their own pressure, temperature and flow sensors, plus other sensors from third parties, for example the Draeger GasSecure flammable gas detector, and the Spirax Sarco STAPS steam trap monitoring system. They have also previously featured products from the Bently Nevada vibration monitoring systems, which also use ISA100 wireless communications: the ISA100 system does permit the frequency spectrum from such devices to be transmitted to dedicated monitoring analysers. The Yokogawa development of the LN01 accelerometer sensor will effectively complement such systems.

(c) ProcessingTalk.info

Emerson to work with Flexim

Emerson Automation Solutions and Flexim, the clamp-on ultrasonic flowmeter specialists, are to collaborate, to help process customers optimise their flow process design, flow meter selection and flow meter installation on capital projects. This will enable them to reduce execution risk and costs.

With customers under severe pressure to reduce schedule and cost targets on capital projects, Emerson project teams, using the Flexim clamp-on, ultrasonic flow metering portfolio in combination with the broader Emerson in-line flow meter products, are able to consult early and throughout the project cycle to reduce engineering, piping and installation costs as well as schedule risk.

Flexim non-intrusive flow meters are the market leaders in clamp-on, ultrasonic technology and provide the best reliability and the most advanced capability when addressing difficult applications with a non-intrusive flow solution. This co-operation will improve delivery of the exact flow solution needed by clients while supporting  ‘Project Certainty’ – the Emerson approach that is said to enable top-quartile performance in capital projects.

By empowering project teams with flow expertise to work with clients early in project phases, Emerson has consistently eliminated cost, accommodated change and reduced complexity on capital projects. The non-intrusive nature of the Flexim ultrasonic flow meters makes this product a powerful contributor to reduced engineering, piping and installation costs as well as schedule risk, given that it can be installed after piping is fabricated. Emerson and Flexim will collaborate to ensure less time is spent on engineering and installation by selecting the optimal flow solution for a given application and applying the most comprehensive flow portfolio available.

“In today’s market, we are seeing that our customers are looking for us to advise them early in their project cycle on technology to ensure streamlined and cost-effective project execution,” said Bret Shanahan, vice president of flow solutions, Emerson Automation Solutions. “We are pleased to be working with Flexim to provide our clients with the most appropriate flow solution that can be applied and support greater capital efficiency.”

“Flexim is excited to partner with Emerson on capital projects; our flexible, world-class, non-invasive meters are a perfect fit with the experienced Emerson project teams,” said Guido Schwanekamp, managing director for sales and marketing at Flexim. “Together we will be able to offer fully customised solutions that are tailor-made for a wide variety of capital projects, reducing capital expenditures while increasing efficiency for our clients and reducing total cost of ownership at the same time.”

BoOM from EU Automation

EU Automation has launched the “Book of Obsolescence Management”, or BoOM for short.

EU Automation stocks and sells obsolete, reconditioned and new industrial automation spares. Its own distribution centers and global network of partner warehouses, enable it to offer a unique service within the automation industry, spanning the entire globe. It provides worldwide express delivery on all products meaning it can supply any part, to any destination, at very short notice.

The company is based in the UK, in Stafford, and does appear to have a different approach to any other supplier. With interviews from suppliers like Renishaw, CopaData, Nexus, Megger and Rochester Electronics, the book gives the seven essential steps for companies looking to start or continue their journey on the road to obsolescence management.



		

	

Noise mapping offshore using wireless sensors

Many of the latest technology developments in relation to offshore oil and gas production installations have emerged from Norwegian research studies, because that industry represents the major part of the economy in Norway.  Such research studies do not only relate to better and more efficient methods of working, but they also investigate the health and safety aspects of the industry: an area of particular concern has been hearing damage to workers offshore, which is the predominant cause of work related illness. At the Yokogawa User Group meeting held in Budapest in May 2016, Simon Carlsen of Statoil ASA in Norway explained the background to a recent project that was undertaken to improve the efficiency of the noise surveillance and monitoring systems Statoil use offshore. This was also presented to a Society of Petroleum Engineers International conference on Health and Safety in Stavanger in April (Ref 1).

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The main Health & Safety tool used for monitoring noise exposure is the ‘Noise map’, which provides noise level contours within rooms and around machinery where workers are active. These are used to establish a course of action where noise levels exceed allowed limits, whether this action is to reduce or remove the noise source (if possible), insulate the area, issue PPE to workers, and/or impose working time restrictions. Noise maps have historically been based on manual surveys that take single point readings, which are then plotted onto a site map, typically from CAD drawings. Manually taking and plotting these measurements is arduous and time consuming, and typically would be updated only on around a four year cycle. Plus the readings are (obviously) not continuous, only record the conditions when each reading was taken, and generally do not record the added effects from workers using different machinery and tools in the area.

Statoil R&D on wireless & noise instrumentation

Simon Carlsen of Statoil joined the R&D Department in 2006, bringing expertise in wireless instrumentation, and started investigating the feasibility of using wireless sensors and software techniques to create a real-time noise map. The system subsequently commenced became known as WiNoS, for “Wireless Noise Surveillance”, when formally initialised in 2013. This will consist of a network of wireless noise sensors, continuously monitoring the noise in the process area, using sound pressure level (SPL) measurements of four types: A-weighted SPL (I.eqA), C-weighted SPL (I.eqC), peak SPL (I.peak) and thirty one separate third-of-an-octave frequency band measurements from 25Hz to 16kHz. This data is much more comprehensive than the simple noise level measurements used to establish the noise maps, but will superimpose this data onto the historically available maps. These readings can then be used to update the map in real time, and create alarms available to operators.

The WiNoS sensors then use an industry standard wireless network infrastructure, which transmits the data into the control system, where special software produces the updates to the noise maps – typically on a one minute update rate (ie almost continuous). This live information can be used to create alarms to report back to workers in the area, to control their noise exposure. The objective is to reduce work-related hearing damage, by knowing the actual on-site conditions; to optimize operator time working on/near tools, to reduce daily exposure; and to provide instant feedback on the effect of noise reduction measures. In addition WiNoS allows for time synchronized measurements amongst the sensors in the network, and also allows the control room operator to trigger a download of a high resolution frequency spectrum waveform from any sensor of particular interest, to analyse the signature of the noise. This latter is a major part of the future development of the monitoring system, which will feed into plant condition and process performance monitoring studies.

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The WiNoS project development employed the expertise of the Norwegian companies Norsonic AS in the microphone design and the sound level measurements, and the Department of Acoustics at the research company SINTEF to develop the PC software that records the data and creates the noise maps. The software was also required to conform to the Statoil qualified communications protocol.

Choice of wireless network

A major part of the research feasibility study that preceded the WiNoS project was devoted to the choice of the wireless network to be used to efficiently and reliably transmit the data, relatively continuously from multiple sensors. The two suitable networks that were emerging at that time were WirelessHART and ISA100.

The WirelessHART system is now well-known and fairly widely used in Statoil facilities, but the early research trials showed mixed experience with the system and the relevant vendors – some of this was related to the lack of specification details written into the WirelessHART standard. But there were also challenges with achieving the power efficiency in the transfer of all the data required, and the requested large data transfer of the high-res waveform was not readily achievable.

The ISA100.11a wireless transmission standard was also in use in Statoil, and had been adopted for the wireless flammable gas detector pioneered by GasSecure in Norway – Statoil had been involved with the prototype field trials offshore. The initial trials on ISA100 equipment from Yokogawa provided high flexibility for the different application demands, allowed all the 31 one third octave values to be packed into one transmission telegram, and allowed a well-defined block transfer. The sensor could also achieve the two year life required from the installed battery pack, at the 1 minute update rate.

The decision was made that ISA100.11a was to be the preferred protocol for WiNoS, from a technical and project model perspective. Based on the earlier experience of development co-operation with Statoil, it was decided to invite Yokogawa to join the WiNoS project as a Co-Innovation partner, a role that they were keen to develop. In addition to providing the ISA100.11a wireless interface electronics for the sensor, and the interface into the third party control system, Yokogawa worked with Norsonic to develop the mechanical housing for the microphone sensor, and the electronic hardware to process the sound measurements using the Norsonic software, with the whole sensor assembly meeting ATEX requirements.

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A Yokogawa wireless temperature transmitter adapted to include the Norsonic microphone

Full system test

In March 2016, a network of 7 off Yokogawa ISA100 enabled wireless noise sensors were tested within the (land-based) industrial lab hall at Statoil Rotvoll, in Trondheim, which has dimensions 35x25x15 metres – and contains various pumps and process equipment. Further synthesized test noise sources were created using loudspeakers. The wireless sensors, the noise mapping software and the IT backhaul architecture all operated reliably and successfully.

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Dynamic noise map generated with the system test

 

A further test, offshore on an operational Statoil platform, is planned and scheduled for Spring 2017, for which Yokogawa will supply 20 production sensors and the ISA100.11a wireless system. A typical platform deck of 50×50 metres might in practice require around 12 noise sensors for effective coverage.

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Possibly future noise mapping sensors will be added in high noise plant areas

The Statoil WiNoS system is now ready for development into a commercially available product for use as an offshore platform noise mapping tool. Future research on this system will involve investigation of 3D noise mapping systems. Statoil consider that the equipment application has potential for expansion into machinery condition monitoring, to include automatic process upset or fault and leak detection.

© Nickdenbow, Processingtalk.info, 2016

References