30 years on, and Chernobyl is covered

There are many old physicists who would remember the day of the Chernobyl accident back in 1986. I remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end, when driving home and hearing that the radiation detectors on the Swedish (or maybe Finnish?) nuclear reactor power stations had gone into alarm, because of the incoming radiation fall-out detected.

Then there were the radio-active reindeer, after eating the moss on rocks in Scandinavia, and worse still, Welsh lamb with green dye marks to indicate ‘unfit for human consumption’. Working on a lot of development projects for sensors to be used in the BNFL Sellafield site, it was interesting to see how sheep with green dye marks seemed to be collected and placed in the fields near that site…… nothing if not a subtle comment by the local farmers.

European Reconstruction

The latest news this last month was that the “Chernobyl Arch”, a containment structure designed to enclose the damaged reactor and upgrade the site finally into an environmentally safe and secure state, was moved into position in November. The structure was built on site as part of an international programme, led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and moved to its final position along a 327 meter track, to cover the previous makeshift shelter placed over the exposed core soon after 1986. No mean feat with a weight of 36,000 tonnes. A video of the move and installation is visible on http://www.ebrd.com/news/video/timelapse-video-of-chernobyl-arch-sliding.html

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The constructors

EBRD advise that the structure was built by Novarka, a consortium of the French construction firms VINCI Construction and Bouygues Construction. Work started in 2010, and the cost was Euro 1.5Bn. The arch itself is the largest moveable land-based structure ever built, with a span of 257 metres, length of 162 metres, height of 108 metres. With the sealed installation due for completion by November 2017, it will make the accident site safe, with a lifetime of 100 years; allow for the eventual dismantling of the makeshift Russian built 1986 shelter, and allow the management of the radioactive waste inside. (All assuming no local conflicts blow the place up!)

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EBRD manages the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, and is the major contributor to the Euro 2.1Bn programme: more than Euro 1.5 billion has been contributed from 45 donors to date. This is presumably a good example of International and European co-operation and common sense. With Euro 600m still required, one hopes that the neighbouring countries affected can spare a little more? Chernobyl is in the Ukraine, but the original reactor was of Russian design.

A personal opinion is that this is the sort of project that European and International co-operation should be all about, and being one major build, it probably has not resulted in excessive syphoning off of the funds into dubious pockets!

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PS: I’m also old enough to remember the expressions on the faces of my Mum and Dad when they heard that John Kennedy had been assassinated!

Yokogawa invests into Silicon Valley fog computing

 

Yokogawa Electric Corporation announces that it has invested in FogHorn Systems Inc, a Silicon Valley start-up that is a leading developer of fog computing* technology. Yokogawa aims to foster development of fog computing technology through its investment in this company. In so doing, Yokogawa hopes to expand the range of solutions that it provides.

Due to the continued growth of cloud computing services and the huge number of devices that have access to cloud resources, there is a growing concern over issues such as network congestion and data processing delays. Fog computing is gaining traction as a technology solution to this problem.

Co-Investors with Yokogawa

FogHorn Systems, a pioneer in the development of software for fog computing applications with outstanding expertise in this field, has attracted the interest of various companies that are promoting IoT. Led by March Capital and GE Ventures, the company has succeeded in raising $12 million in funding from multiple investors, including Yokogawa, Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, and Darling Ventures. There is also a group of investors who invested in the company prior to this round of fundraising. Yokogawa’s stake in the company is worth $900,000.

Yokogawa offers a wide range of control solutions that help its customers improve the safety and efficiency of their operations and make the most effective use of their assets. These solutions include field instruments, control systems, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and management information systems. Industrial IoT (IIoT) technology is making rapid inroads in the control field, and it is expected that fog computing’s enablement of real-time and distributed processing in edge computing applications will significantly accelerate its adoption.

Through this investment in FogHorn Systems, Yokogawa will gain access to the latest fog computing technologies and will also make available its knowledge and expertise in process control and plant operations that will help this company further refine its fog computing technology. Yokogawa aims to make use of fog computing to strengthen the solutions that it provides.

‘Process Co-Innovation’ from Yokogawa

Yokogawa has drawn up a long-term business framework and formulated a vision statement that reads: “Through ‘Process Co-Innovation’ Yokogawa creates new value with our clients for a brighter future. ‘Process Co-Innovation’ is a concept for an automation business that will utilize all of Yokogawa’s measurement, control and information technologies. Accordingly, Yokogawa will seek not only to optimize production processes but also the flow of material and information within and between companies, including their value and supply chains”.

Yokogawa is committed to working with customers to create value through the effective use of IIoT, a key to ‘Process Co-Innovation’. Tsuyoshi Abe, Yokogawa vice president and head of the company’s Marketing Headquarters, said of this investment: “Highly reliable and stable communications are an essential requirement in manufacturing and many other fields. Fog computing is a breakthrough that helps to enhance the use of cloud resources. It is also expected to provide Yokogawa many more opportunities to utilize IIoT in its control business. In line with our corporate brand slogan of ‘Co-innovating tomorrow’, Yokogawa will use FogHorn’s technology to develop new solutions and create new value in collaboration with its customers and partners.”

* Fog computing:

Fog computing is an architectural concept for the realization of edge intelligence and the suppression of communications with the cloud by establishing a ‘fog’ distributed computing layer between the cloud and devices in the field. Fog computing eliminates communications delays and fluctuations by locating the processing of certain data near the field devices that generate the data and sending only essential information to the cloud. As such, there are high expectations that this technology will lead to a number of new IoT applications.

Yokogawa expands intoTurkey

Yokogawa Electric Corporation has announced that its subsidiary, Yokogawa Europe BV has acquired 100% of the shares of its distributor in Turkey, Birleşik Endüstriyel Sistemler Ve Tesisler AS (BEST), which is based in Izmir. Yokogawa sees this as a major step forward into the emerging market in Turkey and the associated area. The acquisition of shares was carried out on November 25.

With this acquisition, Yokogawa is strengthening its focus on Turkey as a market with substantial growth potential. It will allow Yokogawa to extend its position in several promising segments, such as the power industry. Through the acquisition, Yokogawa will also enhance its relationships with customers in Turkey.

“BEST has been Yokogawa’s distributor since 1977 and has already built an excellent reputation in the oil and gas industries, where it will continue to provide great value to customers,” comments Yokogawa Europe’s president Herman van den Berg: “Yokogawa is committed to working with customers as partners to help them get maximum value from their plant operations, and this acquisition is a major step forward in our plans to grow our footprint in emerging markets, and specifically in target industries including the power and energy sectors.”

Fanuc increases robot capacity

FANUC today announced the purchase of 695,000 square meters of land in Japan to increase production capacities for the installation of new CNCs, servo motors and servo amplifiers, as Europe’s demand for robots grows. Under the purchase agreement FANUC is purchasing land from the “Mibu-hanyuda Industrial Park,” with the first phase beginning in September 2015.

FANUC will also expand its laboratories situated in the Headquarters site including the construction of four new factories. With this expansion, testing equipment will be introduced to complement FANUC‘s expert knowledge, to continue to create new and innovative products.

Chris Sumner, vice president, FANUC Europe said: “One of the major reasons behind the increase in our production capacity at FANUC, is the high demand we’ve seen from European manufacturers. As factories look to implement more automation technologies within their manufacturing processes, many have realised the cost-saving potential and increased rate of production that this brings to their businesses. We’ve seen this reflected in our orders over the last twelve months, in the UK in particular we have seen orders increase across the board by over 50 per cent.”

Siemens and British Glass announce partnership

The close ties between Siemens and trade body, the British Glass Manufacturers’ Confederation, have been further strengthened with the announcement of a new technology partnership between the two organisations.  Over the next five years, Siemens will invest up to GBP4m as a key strategic partner to the UK glass sector, providing a range of technology, research & development and skill support services.

As British Glass embarks upon the next phase of its development to ensure the UK glass industry remains globally competitive, Siemens will work alongside the organisation in a variety of critical areas.

A central element to the strategic growth plan for the sector will be the establishment of the new British Glass Innovation Centre, Sheffield – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – which will provide a centre of excellence for glass manufacturers and support the development of an innovative culture and skills for the sector.  The Centre, planned to be built on the Phase 2 site of Sheffield Business Park, will include fully functioning glass production plants, as well as promoting leadership in important areas such as new product development and fast prototyping.

It will also be home to The Glass Academy, the training and skills development initiative set up by British Glass to train the next generation of engineers and technicians entering the sector with the relevant fit-for-purpose skills and qualifications, and to continue to upskill the industry’s current workforce, encouraging a culture of lifelong learning in the sector. Siemens will provide a wide range of technical, product and manpower support to ensure British Glass’ plans benefit from world-class manufacturing expertise, technical excellence and global sector knowledge.

Dave Dalton, left, and Brian Holliday of Siemens

Dave Dalton, left, and Brian Holliday of Siemens

Brian Holliday, Managing Director, Digital Factory – Siemens UK & Ireland, comments: “We are delighted to announce this substantial investment in the future of the UK glass industry.  We are impressed by the strategic ambition of British Glass to develop an innovative culture and to make British glass-making a globally competitive leader. Siemens has a long established relationship with the glass industry across the UK. By developing this technology partnership we want to ensure glass manufacturing is at heart of the future of manufacturing agenda. The newly proposed British Glass Innovation Centre at Sheffield is a prime example where the leaders in the sector are setting out a clear vision for the future and this must be applauded and supported.”

Dave Dalton, CEO of British Glass, says: “Siemens is the first major partner to commit to working with us on the journey to an exciting and highly competitive future. The breadth of Siemens’ technical expertise and support offered to us through the partnership will be vital if we are to successfully transform our industry for the twentyfirst century.  In addition, the concerted efforts by Siemens to help us develop the skills of people in the sector, as well as those entering it, ensures we have a powerful combination to push our industry forward over the next five years.”

Councillor Leigh Bramall, Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development at Sheffield City Council, commented on the announcement: “This is great news for Sheffield. The investment on its own is excellent news and is creating high quality job opportunities. But  when linked to similar developments along the arc of the junction 33 and 34 of the M1, the city is beginning to realise its  potential as one of the major clusters of high value engineering and innovation in Europe if not the world.”

Thales promotes Cybersecurity business line

The following review article was published in the May 2014 issue of the INSIDER Newsletter:

The Thales Group occupies one of the major office developments on the outskirts of Basingstoke in the UK: the building was known for many years as Thales Missile Systems, from the name on the outside – it was not a company that immediately sprung to mind as an expert in control systems and information technology. Over the past year the attitude from within Thales seems to have developed, and has recently seen much more information flow in press releases and meetings discussing their business. Last autumn saw the launch of a new ‘Cyber Integration and Innovation Centre’, and the associated business activity, housed within this building, a GBP2m ($3.2m) facility with fully isolated and screened computing laboratories, designed to allow improved cyber security and testing for critical national infrastructure, governments and companies.

Screened, because the centre has over 6000 pieces of computer malware, that can be used to test mirror copies of client networks, and where managed cyber-attacks from one lab onto an adjacent lab can be used to train staff how to protect systems, spot vulnerabilities and respond to breaches, including mass ‘Denial of Service’ (DOS) attacks.  “We can model networks for clients in a safe environment so we can upgrade, update and change things before they go live. This is particularly important in safety critical industries, such as a nuclear power station,” said Sam Keayes, a Thales vp, now presumably within a new business division formed recently known as the Critical Information Systems and Cybersecurity business line. Using equipment and technology from strategic partners like Spirent, Encase, FireEye and Mandiant, Cevn Vibert, the centre manager, commented that Thales experts can pick up and mirror a site computer system, bringing the whole infrastructure back to the lab, to stress test it against cyber-attack, jitter etc. This is a very necessary service when Thales systems run the majority of the world’s air traffic control, and their encryption is used to protect 80% of the world’s bank transactions, which include 3.7Bn transactions per annum via BACS.

Thales is a French owned group, which was originally called Thomson-CSF. The only slight problem with the simpler name is that it is pronounced “Talliss”. Their acquisition of the original business of Ferranti Computer Systems allows the claim that they have been providing technical support for the UK fleet of nuclear power stations for the last 25 years, which is a continuing responsibility, as the service life of these stations continues to be extended.

Based on Ferranti expertise

Here I have to admit that even your editor is not old enough to know the history behind some of the businesses that make up the current Thales Group. For that sort of archival knowledge we have to go back to Wikipedia, and even to Andrew Bond, the Founding Editor of the INSIDER, who remembers the original UK based DCS manufacturers and vendors from the 60s and 70s – Ferranti, Kent and GEC Elliott.

Ferranti was formed in 1882 as Ferranti, Thompson (yes- that Thompson) and Ince. Much later the company played a major part in WW2 in the development of radar, and gyro gunsights for the Spitfire. In 1949 they produced their first multi-input battlefield situation information system. At the same time they started to develop computer systems: eventually the Government under Tony Benn organized an industrial consolidation which led to the set-up of ICL, International Computers Ltd, in 1968. This deal restricted Ferranti to the industrial computing market, rather than the commercial, and Ferranti developed the Argus range. In 1987 Ferranti purchased International Signal and Control (ISC) in the USA, a defence contractor, whose business turned out to have been based on illegal arms sales. ISC was prosecuted for fraud, and this forced Ferranti into bankruptcy in 1993.

The Ferranti Computer Systems operations were acquired out of administration by Syseca, the IT arm of the French Group Thomson-CSF. Thomson then changed its name to Thales, and Syseca became Thales Information Systems.

The other UK producers 

Andrew Bond sees the rest of the UK history of DCS manufacturers as intertwined with the career of the late Tony Benn MP, who became Minister of Technology in the Labour Government of 1964-70, and secretary of State for Industry from in the 1974-79 administration. George Kent needed rescuing in 1974, possibly because of the strains of the investment in their new DCS, the P4000, and Benn wanted Arnie Weinstock’s GEC to take them over, out of the two options available: but his worker democracy approach backfired, and the workers voted to opt for Brown Boveri, as a better choice for their new owners. Following the Brown Boveri merger with ASEA in 1988, the P4000 became just another of the original control systems within the ABB group.

Meanwhile GEC under Arnie Weinstock was not enthusiastic about process instrumentation or automation, and already had business links with Fisher valves, so with Benn’s encouragement put all the GEC automation interests into a joint venture with Fisher, which included their own DCS and the systems made under license from ICI, Imperial Chemical Industries, which they had developed for their own plants. GEC had acquired the Elliott Brothers business within English Electric in 1968. Monsanto had acquired Fisher Controls in 1969, and much later sold the business to Emerson in 1992: at some time in this period Weinstock backed out of the JV and sold out from any involvement in process automation.

Ferranti Argus computers

The Argus was first developed for military duties – in 1958 used for the ground-based control of Bristol Bloodhound missiles – and were also offered as industrial control computers from the 1960s into the 1980s, for factory and plant automation. They were widely used across Europe and in the UK: typical installations for the Argus 500 were in chemical plants for process control – and nuclear power stations, for process monitoring. The first such Argus sale in 1962 was to ICI, for a soda ash and ammonia plant in Lancashire. Another significant application was for Police command and control installations, where one of the most famous was in Strathclyde: here maps were provided by using a 35mm slide projected onto a VDU screen. The Argus 500 was one of Ferranti’s best-selling products, particularly to oil platforms in the North Sea in the 1970s.

The Argus 600 was an 8-bit machine, and the Argus 700 used 16-bit architecture, whose design started in 1968, and they were in production until the mid-1980s: these are still operational at several British nuclear power stations in control and data processing applications.

Current declared activity

Thales do not mention a significant part of their business activity – a necessary culture, developed over the years since WW2, because of involvement with military projects. This ethos remains, in particular in not declaring where security, cyber-security, and emergency management resources might be deployed, whether military or commercial. However, there is an interesting parallel between Thales and EDF, of France, who now owns all the operational nuclear power plants in the UK. Thales is quoted as a long term delivery service partner with EDF. Following the Fukushima event in Japan, EDF-Energy NGL undertook a rigorous assessment of the resilience of its fleet of UK nuclear power stations, against the highly unlikely occurrence of an extreme weather or other natural event. Part of a suite of safety enhancements resulting is the provision of a mobile emergency response capability that could be deployed should such an event occur.

Thales committed to provide 5 sets of a containerised DCIS (Deployable Communication and Information Systems) for this duty by 31st March 2014. As a nuclear emergency response capability, each DCIS provides a transportable and deployable containerised unit to monitor critical plant systems and relay essential data through a resilient communications network, to provide emergency response decision makers with the information that they need to make the best possible decisions.

Separately, Thales has a co-operation agreement with Schneider Electric for the development of cybersecurity solutions and services to protect command-and-control systems from cyber-attack in customer installations in France. This includes computer attacks launched from plant management systems, unauthorised access across wireless networks and malware introduced via USB memory sticks.

Critical national infrastructure protection also includes work with oil and gas installations, petrochemical plants and pipeline systems. Thales quotes their integrated security protection systems with perimeter and access control, using CCTV etc, for twelve of the SABIC sites, and advise that Aramco refineries have similar high technology systems, supplemented by video motion detectors – the Ras Tanura complex is another site where there is such a perimeter security system.

Crisis management systems

The authorities and forces responsible for public safety and security must contend with increasingly frequent and wide-ranging incidents, from crime and accidents to natural disasters and crisis situations. This is one of the areas Thales sees as a major activity area and strength of their capability. Thales has developed a new solution incorporating the key conventional functions — situation awareness, management of command information and crisis management system resources — combined with new modules, such as advanced decision support and asset coordination. These systems are quoted as deployed in the Ciudad Segura (secure city) project in Mexico, the crowd flow and density monitoring systems in Mecca, and the BDSP public security database for the Gendarmerie Nationale in France, with systems that incorporate the deployment of sensors in UAVs. There are many more examples that cannot be quoted. Whilst in the process industry we are becoming familiar with the iOps concept from Emerson, and the Honeywell Collaboration station, the Thales Command and Control Centre is maybe a couple of grades more advanced.

Part of the suite of labs in the Critical Infrastructure Protection Facility in Basingstoke featured a combined system for perimeter security, CCTV, process control – including a DCS and a PLC (both from well known names) with valves in control loops, fire and gas alarms and access control, which enabled demonstration of the possible effects of a cyber-attack. This has been used to show legislators and management – and train operators about – the vulnerability of such systems. Manager of this facility, Cevn Vibert, explained “Our customers manage mission critical infrastructures and benefit from our holistic integrated security solutions. The market has evolved from discrete bespoke islanded systems to multi-site networked control rooms which require our integrated security techniques. These solutions cover people, operations, security, process, maintenance, business and cyber security for holistic situational awareness. This facility enables Thales to test, educate, demonstrate and explore these innovative approaches to our customer’s real needs.”  It is no coincidence that Thales is exhibiting this part of their technology at International Security and Resilience exhibitions across the Middle East, and are targeting Governments and operators of critical infrastructure projects worldwide.

Regular news on Process Automation and Control topics is presented in the INSIDER monthly newsletter, supplied on subscription by Spitzer and Boyes LLC: Nick Denbow is the European correspondent for the INSIDER. For more information please consulthttp://www.iainsider.co.uk or http://www.spitzerandboyes.com

UK wind turbine manufacture by Siemens

This article was published in the April 2014 issue of the INSIDER:

In a new manufacturing investment in Hull and Humberside, on the northeast coast of the UK, the Siemens Energy business and Associated British Ports will together invest a total of GBP310m ($500m) in two manufacturing sites, which will create up to 1000 jobs. The project to redevelop this part of the old fishing docks in Hull, known as Green Port Hull, was started some five years ago by the last Government. In fact Siemens have now expanded their original plans, and will invest in a second site nearby at Paull, creating a plant for the manufacture of wind turbine blades incorporating the next-generation of blade technology.

This plant will be the first manufacturing plant of its kind, and involves GBP80m of the GBP160m ($265m) Siemens is investing. Each blade will be 75 metres long: when rotating they will cover an area the size of 2.5 football pitches. The Green Port Hull facility will also involve an investment of GBP150m ($250m) by Associated British Ports, and will create a construction, assembly and service facility for Siemens wind turbines.

The Siemens view

Dr Michael Suess, member of the managing board of Siemens and chief executive of their energy business, said: “Our decision to construct a production facility for offshore wind turbines in England is part of our global strategy. We invest in markets with reliable conditions that can ensure that factories can work to capacity. The offshore wind market in Great Britain has high growth rates, with an even greater potential for the future. Wind power capacity has doubled here within two years, to roughly 10GW. By 2020, a capacity of 14GW is to be installed at sea alone, to combine the country’s environmental objectives with secure power supply. Projects for just over 40GW are currently in the long-term planning.”

Roland Aurich, chief executive of Siemens in the UK, said: “Being able to further increase our presence in the UK with this significant commitment is great for Siemens, for the UK economy and for future generations, who will benefit from more secure and sustainable, low carbon energy.” Siemens employs about 13,700 workers in the UK, with 4000 of these in the energy sector.

The outlook

UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey told the BBC (after a winter of storms): “Offshore wind is producing 80-85% of the time. We are the leading country in the world for offshore (wind) investment.” The Siemens news is a fillip for the wind power enthusiasts, who have recently seen offshore farms scaled back for various reasons, including the danger they pose to rare species of migrating birds. The typical price for power generated by new offshore wind farms in the UK is GBP100 per MWh, about twice the current price for power in the UK, with the difference subsidized by levies on consumer energy bills.

Regular news on Process Automation and Control topics is presented in the INSIDER monthly newsletter, supplied on subscription by Spitzer and Boyes LLC: Nick Denbow is the European correspondent for the INSIDER. For more information please consulthttp://www.iainsider.co.uk or http://www.spitzerandboyes.com