Plant control systems and the internet

The following is my personal view of the business planning quandary faced by the major automation companies, first expressed in a Comment page published by Technews.co.za in the South African Journal of Instrumentation and Control, SAIC, March 2018 issue:

It is a common saying that the pace of technology change accelerates with time: although possibly as the observers get older, they become set in their ways, and cannot keep up.

This is certainly true, in my experience: I am getting older, set in my ways, and struggle to keep up. However:

It is not only the pace of such changes, but the speed at which the changes are spread across the ‘world market’, that makes new technologies so rapidly applied and, sometimes, profitable. In consumer markets, the effect is most evident, with the spread of mobile phones and mobile computing: possibly this would all not have come to pass without the availability of the Internet fuelling the spread of information. But for automation, and industrial sensors, has the technology change been rapid? I believe it has, and believe it is now accelerating ever faster, taking advantage of the advances made to meet the demands of other users. This has been evident, and mentioned in these columns, in referring to wireless sensors, batteries for self-powered devices, and self-power from solar or vibration or heat energy. There are many more developments that should be included in that list.

The problem for Automation companies

But how are the major sensor and automation companies driving this growth into their businesses using advances in technology: what are they researching? Where are they investing to get a business advantage? I think that their business planners are having a difficult time at the moment.

Around ten years ago, the big new technology coming to the fore was wireless communication from battery powered sensors. The large automation companies, like Emerson and Honeywell, invested heavily into this technology, and there was the inevitable confrontation between two rival systems – WirelessHart and ISA100. The automation marketplace thrives on such confrontations, for example the spat between Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus. It happens in other markets too; think of Blu-Ray and standard DVDs, PAL and NTSC TV systems etc.

Other perceived growth areas

After the wireless investments blossomed, the Internet was looming, and everyone believed they had to take advantage of the data that could be collected, and networked. Certainly Emerson and ABB went heavily into power network control systems, but ABB had major product availability and systems installation capability in the power industry and has made real progress. Emerson eventually sold out of this network power business, but retains the Ovation DCS used for thermal power station control on site.

Automation companies also bought into the long-established, relatively dormant and slow market of condition monitoring systems, by acquiring the companies quoted to be ‘active’ in the field, who had the ‘black art’ knowledge of industrial condition monitoring. Personal experience, back in the ‘70s, has taught me what a hard sell and difficult market even the simpler condition monitors offer, monitoring bearing wear etc, and that hardly suits the major project potential that might be of interest to big contractors. Complex systems, such as those applied to turbines in power stations, did offer potential, but needed real specialist back-up.

Additionally, the people in the business, such as Schaeffler perhaps (once again the product suppliers with the customer base), slowly developed their own bearing monitoring systems, ranging from portable hand-held units to bigger wired/wireless systems – these are the ones that I believe will succeed in this market. An alternative approach adopted was based on wireless technology developments, which needed a central monitoring system, the ultimate goal for the automation guys. Sensors for steam trap monitoring were designed by majors such as Emerson, to expand their plant control systems into condition monitoring for the plant engineers.

Sure enough, after a slower start, steam trap companies such as Anderson (US) and Spirax Sarco (UK) developed their own systems, and had the market entry with the customers using their traps. The opposite approach was adopted by Yokogawa, which is the pioneer of ISA100 industrial wireless systems. They created alliances with people like Bently Nevada, the bearing condition monitoring sensor people, and with Spirax Sarco on steam traps. Maybe this was to be able to reverse sell them the back-up products and technology for wireless systems, or maybe to hope for the potential of a plant monitoring control system supply.

Software systems

Most of the automation majors have alliances with the large software and computing companies, like Cisco and HP. The current approach seems to be to use these alliances to piggy-back a 24/7 plant monitoring system using the Internet, supplied as a service across the world. Again, I believe the companies with the product on the ground, the stuff that needs monitoring, will be the major players. Here it looks like GE, monitoring its own brands of refrigeration compressors, large pumps and gas turbines at power stations and offshore etc. are best placed.

The future

The quandary is where the Internet will help the industrial control systems and sensor suppliers expand their businesses in the future. The answer deduced above is stick to what you know and what you are known for. The irony is that the major with the best potential now is Rockwell Automation, with its systems based around Ethernet communications, interfacing with anything, plus their onsite Ethernet hardware, with control systems already configured to deal with such varied inputs. Maybe this was why Emerson made an abortive take-over offer for Rockwell late last year. The potential has also been seen by Profibus, who are pushing forwards with their Profinet, and where they go, Siemens will always be in the background.

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Wireless gas detection total system

Yokogawa has announced that the ProSafe-RS SIL2 Wireless Gas Detection System will be released in September 2017. This will offer a total flammable gas detection system solution, using ISA100 wireless communications, and Yokogawa will include the necessary  consulting and engineering.

The ProSafe-RS SIL2 wireless gas detection system will consist of a newly enhanced version of the Yokogawa ProSafe-RS SIL3 safety instrumented system (R4.03.10), Yokogawa field wireless network devices, annunciator panels, and GasSecure (a subsidiary of Drägerwerk AG) wireless gas detectors GS01 or the GS01-EA (this model is equipped with an extension antenna).

For this system, Yokogawa will establish a total solution that will include both consulting and engineering.

Development Background

In energy and basic materials industries such as oil & gas, petrochemicals and chemicals, a safety instrumented system is employed to safely initiate an emergency plant shutdown when a critical failure is detected, and to initiate the operation of facilities that can extinguish or prevent the spread of a fire.

A field wireless system consists of field devices that are able to communicate wirelessly with a monitoring and control system. Wireless devices have a number of advantages such as allowing installation in difficult-to-access locations and the reduction of installation costs, and they are increasingly seen as essential elements in plant safety solutions. This is a particularly important consideration with gas detection systems, as operation can easily be impacted by factors such as installation location and ambient conditions. And even after system installation, ongoing efforts to optimise its overall configuration may necessitate occasional changes in the location and number of detection devices. The use of wireless technology eliminates the need to worry about wiring and thus greatly facilitates the process of moving and/or installing additional detection devices.

To achieve SIL2 level risk reduction when using wireless gas detectors with a safety instrumented system, communication protocols that comply with the functional safety requirements specified in the IEC 61508 international standard are required. A standard for the functional safety of electrical/electronic/programmable safety-related systems. To meet this need, Yokogawa will provide a SIL2 wireless gas detection system based on a new version of the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system that will link to field devices using an IEC 61508 compliant communication protocol.

Features of the System

The ProSafe-RS SIL2 wireless gas detection system will consist of a new version of the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system, R4.03.10, that will be enhanced to add support for an IEC 61508 compliant safety communication technology used in distributed automation; annunciator panels; ISA100 Wireless compliant field wireless devices; and GasSecure GS01 or GS01-EA wireless gas detectors, which are the only devices of this type in the industry that achieve SIL2 risk reduction. The ISA100 Wireless network protocol is based on the ISA100.11a wireless communication standard for industrial automation that was developed by the International Society of Automation (ISA), and the applications necessary for its implementation. This was approved as the IEC 62734 international standard in October 2014.

Total system solution including both consulting and engineering

Through the use of wireless technology, the ProSafe-RS SIL2 wireless gas detection system will allow increased flexibility with the configuration of detection devices, and will be suitable for use as a fire & gas system and emergency shutdown system thanks to its achievement of SIL2 risk reduction. Based on its knowledge of each of this system’s components and its expertise in production control, safety instrumentation, and field wireless engineering and consulting, Yokogawa will be able to offer a total system solution that includes customer support.

Enhanced operating efficiency

On their Yokogawa CENTUM VP integrated production control system screens, operators will be able to easily monitor the operation of the ProSafe-RS SIL2 wireless gas detection system as well as that of any conventional wired gas detection system. Since the GasSecure GS01 or GS01-EA wireless gas detector uses the same faceplate as a wired gas detector, operators will have no trouble identifying any changes in the detector’s status, thus helping to prevent errors that can result from the misinterpretation of information.

 Improved maintenance

With CENTUM VP, operators will have on-screen access to information on the status of all network devices, the charge remaining on the gas detector batteries, and the status of wireless communications, and thus will be able to quickly detect and respond to any abnormality. Thanks to this functionality, more efficient maintenance plans can be drawn up that, for example, will require fewer periodic checks.

yokogawa

About ProSafe-RS

Released in February 2005, the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system helps prevent accidents by detecting abnormal conditions in plant operations and initiating emergency actions such as a plant shutdown. An independent certification body has certified that ProSafe-RS can be used in SIL3 applications. Unlike conventional safety instrumented systems and distributed control systems, which are regarded as having different roles and functions and operate separately, the operation of ProSafe-RS and the CENTUM integrated control system can be fully integrated. ProSafe-RS is highly regarded by users and has been installed in more than 2,100 projects worldwide (as of June 2017).

Yokogawa’s Commitment to the Field Wireless Business

Yokogawa developed wireless communication technologies for continuous processes that necessitate advanced control and released the world’s first ISA100 Wireless system devices in July 2010, thereby offering its customers a wider range of products to choose from. Currently, Yokogawa offers its customers in the oil & gas, and other industries a wide range of field wireless management stations, field wireless access points, wireless field devices, and wireless adapters for conventional wired devices.

Major Target Markets and Applications

For use in fire and gas systems (FGS) and emergency shutdown systems (ESD) in process industries such as oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric power, and iron and steel.

Dräger GasSecure

GasSecure AS is a subsidiary of Dräger, and has been a long term partner with Yokogawa in developing the market for wireless gas detectors using ISA100. GasSecure developed, markets and sells the world’s first truly wireless optical gas detector for demanding industrial applications. Representing an evolution in gas detection, the detector is based on innovative ultra-low power MEMS optical technology and has introduced a new level of reliability and flexibility for the detection of gas leaks. The totally wireless detectors increase safety and dramatically reduce costs for the oil & gas, petrochemical, marine, and other process industries. For more information, please visit www.gassecure.com.

Yokogawa/Cosasco ISA100 deal

Yokogawa has signed a sales agreement with Rohrback Cosasco Systems, a US-based manufacturer of corrosion monitoring systems to distribute the Cosasco ISA100 wireless-based MWT-3905 and CWT-9020 corrosion monitors: also Cosasco will distribute the Yokogawa ISA field wireless system devices. Yokogawa systems operating to ISA100.11a-2011 include an application layer with process control industry standard objects, device descriptions and capabilities, a gateway interface, infrared provisioning, and a backbone router.

Yokogawa therefore has now added corrosion sensors to its line-up of field wireless devices that help customers efficiently maintain facilities and ensure safety at their plants. For Cosasco, the ability to offer its corrosion monitors in combination with Yokogawa field wireless devices is expected to increase sales.

Yokogawa Objectives

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.

Yokogawa has developed ISA100 Wireless-based technologies and products such as wireless access points and management stations, and Cosasco has a long global track record in supplying various kinds of corrosion monitors to the oil and gas, petrochemical, chemical, and other industries. Through this agreement, Yokogawa aims to increase sales for its field wireless business by being able to offer a wider field wireless device lineup.

Cosasco Wireless Corrosion Monitors

Yokogawa IA - Cosasco MWT-3905 corrosion monitorCorrosion sensors monitor the thinning or deterioration of the metal walls of pipes and other installations. A variety of technologies are employed, including electrical resistance and ultrasonics. The Cosasco MWT-3905 and CWT-9020, the devices covered by this sales agreement, are direct measuring type corrosion sensors that use high speed electrical resistance and linear polarisation resistance (LPR) technology. This enables corrosion rate measurement at a low installed cost in all process environments, including hazardous areas. The units are particularly applied for the monitoring of corrosion in facilities at offshore platforms and other types of oil and gas installations, plus petrochemical plants, chemical plants, and water and sewage treatment plants.

Rohrback Cosasco is a part of Halma plc, a UK conglomerate.

Technews Guide to Wireless

Last year, in July 2015, the Journal South African Instrumentation & Control, published by Technews.co.za, released a new title in their ‘Industry Guide’ series, this time covering wireless applications of instruments in control systems. With 44 pages of ideas and applications, and background to the application of wireless comms for the instrument engineer, this gave a really useful source document – in the long tradition of these industry guides on relevant topics. This wireless guide is still available as a pdf on-line from Technews.

I was lucky enough to be asked to submit a review article covering some of the more recent applications of wireless that had caught my attention at the time. All of these are still topical, and relevant, so the review is now published here, with thanks to Technews. The reason for resurrecting the article is mainly because more information has just emerged about the application for the vibration powered sensors originating from Cambridge University research, now in use on the Forth Road Bridge. The new info, from a recent article in The Engineer is added at the end.

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The Forth Road Bridge, in Scotland, with the suspension cables being monitored by wireless vibration sensors, powered by harvesting energy from those same bridge vibrations! 

Industrial wireless communications for sensor data and plant information is now available, proven on site, and built into Internationally accepted standards. Wireless links should now be seen as just another family of techniques for the plant manager or engineer to consider alongside 4-20mA loops, fieldbus networks, and data links. Most would accept that plant data can be ‘monitored’ over wireless as effectively as from these other networks: but the action resulting from the monitoring can also create a control loop.

To those who say that wireless links should never be used within control loops, it is appropriate to remind them that sludge blanket levels on settlement tanks have been monitored, and the data transmitted over a wireless link to control the de-sludging operations, for well over 30 years. Add to that a comment about the latest North Sea offshore gas platforms, where Fire and Gas Shutdown systems are now offered by Yokogawa, using wireless gas detectors, with a dual redundant wireless network to reliably transmit all crucial alarm data back to the logic system, alongside sensor health and battery status information.

So how else can the phrase ‘wireless sensor network’ cause a misapprehension?

That internet hype and Process Plants…?

The adoption of wireless as a plant tool has probably even been held back…. by the apparent hype and emphasis on the Internet, the ‘Internet of Things’, and ‘Big data’ networks monitoring lots of sensors – Sensors Everywhere. Financial Directors suddenly see enormous expenditure, hundreds of USD1000 sensors, mushrooming recruitment for expanded IT departments – and then they pick up the latest management articles forecasting major impacts from hacking and data breaches. No wonder they are sceptical even before starting to read a proposal.

From reports about many of the application examples quoted by the enthusiastic suppliers over the last few years, it appears that success in the application of a wireless based system has come to plant engineers who had a specific and defined requirement, a problem for which the engineer’s assessment showed that a wireless system provided the most logical and cost effective answer. But then, would you expect anything less from an engineer? The typical number of wireless sensors installed initially might be quite low, say a dozen or less: usually the cost justification is based on the problems of new wiring to these extra sensors on an existing plant.

Plant networks from the major suppliers

Inevitably in this competitive field, with many vested interests, it is difficult to find a non-partisan authoritative spokesman: so Ted Masters, President and CEO of the HART Communications Foundation, says (in a video shown on the Emerson website, entitled “WirelessHART: An Executive Perspective”)

“WirelessHART ….. gives users the opportunity to bring in valuable data that can be used in systems to help decision support, particularly in plants that are already installed and already wired. Now the ability to put a point anywhere and bring it easily into the system …… will ultimately yield better performing plants for users”

The video quoted above also features Peter Zornio, Chief Strategic Officer from Emerson Process Management, who paints their stance as totally devoted to ‘Pervasive Sensors’, ie sensors everywhere, monitoring the standard process plant parameters, but also gas leaks, steam leaks, corrosion/erosion, vibration, flames and valve activation, for example on safety showers. This is logical, from a sensor manufacturing company: and Emerson has been collecting a whole range of new sensors to create a family of, typically, add-on plant monitoring sensors. The clue then is in the name, WirelessHART: the network provides all the data you would get from a 4-20mA HART sensor, plus the battery status in the ‘wire-less’ sensor. Other suppliers have joined Emerson as WirelessHART enthusiasts and promoters: these are mainly from the wired-HART sensor manufacturers – like Endress+Hauser, Pepperl+Fuchs – but also include ABB and Siemens.

The ISA100 viewpoint

The alternative wireless sensor data network for process plants, primarily on offer from Yokogawa and Honeywell Process Solutions, is built according to the ISA100 US standard. Suffice it to say that the ISA100 and WirelessHART systems are incompatible, but very much the same as each other, same frequency 2400MHz, similar principles of networking between sensors. Yokogawa concentrate on collecting process sensor information, in the same way as WirelessHART, and have made their ISA100 sensor interface electronics available for any other manufacturer who wishes to incorporate it into their own sensors.

ISA100 has additional capabilities, in that systems can be configured to have a defined time response, and the network messaging can also “package” up electronic message data from the sensor, transmit it over the network, and reconstitute it in the original format at the control room end. So this is useful for sending rotating equipment vibration signatures, and other waveforms from sensor systems for analysis by proprietary electronic units. Yokogawa has progressed this so that they can attach an ISA100 transmitter to a standard HART sensor, even power it from their wireless transmitter battery if needed, and send the HART data back over the ISA100 system: a similar RS485 Modbus unit is also planned.

The Honeywell approach does seem to be defined by their wireless product family tradename, “OneWireless”: it presents a wireless network infrastructure for a process plant that can deal with all potential requirements, using ISA100 for sensors, wifi systems for on plant access and control by laptop type systems, phones and tablets, and the capability to incorporate security cameras and video streaming from engineer’s devices.

After understanding all this diversity, the whole lot, WirelessHART, ISA100, wifi and video transmission, all seems to go through on-site wireless access points and aerials that use Cisco hardware and technology.

The second wireless project

The first wireless project is a major step, and is likely to be driven by a pressing need, which justifies the initial investment – or is restricted in plant area coverage so is cost effective.

Possibly the plant engineer’s subsequent enthusiasm for any further wireless network technology comes when he then discovers that the wireless infrastructure created makes the next project easier, and more cost effective. However, this only happens when the network used suits the developing requirements for data collection and wireless communications on the plant, so hopefully the choice of the network adopted took this into account.

It does seem that many engineers who try wireless once are then converted, and go on to invest in further, expanded installations!

On-plant network examples

The amazing thing is, the examples quoted are all unique, driven by specific site requirements. Straight sensor monitoring is typically via WirelessHART. A simple justification project where the network avoided new hard wired connections across the plant for Health and Safety rule updates that required alarm monitoring of safety shower usage was maybe the first of many new applications. Leak detection on storage tank farms using sensors for hydrocarbons within bund walls was justified in a similar way, to meet environmental legislation. Other areas where hard-wired links are a hassle are rotating and transportable equipment, and construction sites: temperature sensors in rotating lime/cement kilns are ideal for wireless monitoring.

An application in the UK from Emerson Process Management illustrates the progressive adoption success with wireless techniques in an existing plant that initially appeared to present installation challenges. Barking Power is a relatively mature 1000MW CCGT power station near London, suffering from steam losses. A wireless project used Rosemount wireless acoustic transmitters to monitor steam traps for leakage, on a rolling basis round the plant. Quickly, a leak from a high pressure super heater steam trap was identified, which itself could have wasted GBP1400 of steam a day. A further 15 acoustic detectors were added to monitor vent valves that can stick during start-up, and also for relief valves that may not seat correctly. There were few problems with wireless communications even in the enclosed environment around the turbine hall. The battery powered wireless devices were easy to move around the plant to test new locations.

emerson-wireless-acoustic-monitor-installed-on-a-relatively-inaccessible-steam-trap-discharge-line-at-barking-power

Emerson WirelessHART acoustic monitor installed on a relatively inaccessible steam trap discharge line at Barking Power

Then, high vibration levels were observed manually on the gas turbine starter motor, indicating a major problem. New parts were ordered but the motor needed constant monitoring to nurse the plant through to the next maintenance window. A motor failure would have caused damage in excess of GBP200,000, but keeping the plant running for a further two days could accrue revenue of over GBP50,000. So an Emerson CSI 9420 wireless vibration transmitter was added to the network, and the motor instantly monitored for potential failure. Travis Culham, a Rotating Machinery Engineer at Barking Power, commented: “We concluded that if Emerson’s Smart Wireless Technology could be successfully applied on this challenging application, then it could be applied pretty much anywhere on the plant”.

emerson-wireless-acoustic-monitor-on-a-vent-valve-at-barking-power

An Emerson wireless acoustic monitor on a vent valve at Barking Power

A major application for wireless sensors from Honeywell Process Solutions will be the new Shah Gas project near Abu Dhabi. Because of a high percentage of hydrogen sulphide (23.5%), the project is unique, and needs significant worker protection and monitoring of this poisonous gas. This has led to the development of wireless H2S monitoring sensors by Honeywell Analytics, which will incorporate a ‘worker’ location and communication system: this actually uses a triangulation system on the wifi network to provide location data. At the perimeter of the plant there was a requirement for further H2S detectors to protect the local offices, and provide a klaxon warning in the event of a gas escape. Again wireless communication was specified for each gas detection pole, with a 1 second response time guaranteed. Here by choosing star topology for the network communications and with the time determinism defined within the messaging, only the ISA100 system was able to meet this specification.

Wireless Data links

Data links to connect typically a single remote outstation unit back to a control centre offer a different set of applications for wireless. Many are associated with the oil industry, in terms of oil and gas fields, and pipeline monitoring. Others are for agriculture, or environmental monitoring, or water resource management. Founded in 1993, Freewave Technologies in Boulder, Colorado, claim to be a specialist in reliable wireless machine to machine (M2M) and IOT communications solutions, now having supplied over a million systems. It does appear that they have developed the industrial side of this US based business in parallel with a lot of defence/military work on UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) data transmission, and now have 2400MHz systems available for markets which cannot use the US 900MHz frequency band systems. The product range can replace wired systems for Ethernet or serial data transmission, or collection, transmission and repeating of SCADA system data, or multiple I/O circuits, over a wireless link.

In agriculture, the use of unmanned autonomous machinery is growing for practices such as harvesting, mowing and spraying. In a citrus fruit grove in Florida, Freewave M2M systems allowed an operator to supervise several autonomous mowing and spraying machines, only intervening when the machine meets an obstacle it cannot handle. Transmitted images show the operator what the machine is doing, and hopefully what the problem is: he can then use the wireless link to take control and direct the tractor around and away, presumably re-programming the route to be used in future. In this test the tractor used GPS Real-Time Kinetics location systems to provide the basic navigation (with centimetric accuracy) of the orchard, and one base wireless tower enabled reasonable coverage of a 3000 acre site: small repeater towers were used to provide coverage behind areas of denser foliage and trees.  Simpler Freewave wireless SCADA transmission for a wide-spread water supply and sewage network has been installed for Parker Water and Sanitation across parts of Colorado. Here the major advantage is that the remote outstation can be re-programmed remotely, over the wireless link, avoiding the need for and delay caused by a site visit.

The use of wireless around the site on remote oil and gas well systems is quoted by Emerson and Honeywell, to save on site wiring, complexity and power. These use the WirelessHART or ISA100 systems quoted previously. But there are also packages for collecting data from such remote operation sites, supplied by Honeywell and others, with integrated solar panels trickle charging battery systems, then providing remote wireless data links.

The Big Battery question

What about the power supply for these wireless sensors? That has been the biggest question, and the current batteries are big too, making a fairly large sensor housing necessary. But this is the main area where technology is moving fast to catch up.

After five years of operation in Emerson sensors, the answer to this question is still that they are not seeing a significant demand for replacement battery packs. Yokogawa offer a two cell battery pack that is suitable for exchange in the field, even in a hazardous area. The pack, with enclosed lithium/thionyl chloride batteries that are available from standard suppliers, allows cell replacement by the user. But battery packs still seem to have a 7-10 year life expectancy: the life actually depends on the sensor response time the user requires. By the time the battery pack needs replacement, the current growth of battery technology will have provided a better cell.

dont-like-this-one-yoko-battery-module-only-16kb

Commercial batteries for an intrinsically safe battery pack, which can be fitted on site to a Yokogawa DP cell

There are also some really interesting developments in energy scavenging power sources already. In the UK, Perpetuum developed an energy harvester that could power an integrated wireless vibration monitoring sensor, creating the power from a moving magnet within a coil. Subsequently, the company have split their vibration-generator unit from the harvesting electronics, so that the latter can replace, for example, the battery in an Emerson wireless pressure transmitter, and the Harvester part is mounted on an adjacent motor or similar -that creates some vibration. Then the harvesting electronics can also be used to collect other inputs, for example from solar cells.

perpetuum-intelligent-power-module-for-emerson-3051s-dpcell

A Pepetuum Intelligent Power Module designed to fit the Emerson 3051S pressure transmitter

This could be the next area where further developments in technology will impact the design of wireless sensors. From ABB, the TSP300-W wireless temperature sensor has a micro-thermal electric generator (micro-TEG, a form of thermopile) that can generate power from the temperature difference (>20⁰C) between the ambient temperature, and that of the process being monitored, whether hot or cold. This is used to trickle charge a Lithium battery, which will operate for ten years at least.

power-module-for-sensor-chip


A power module for a sensor chip, from Illinois

Research is coming up with even more novel power ideas like this. At the other end of the size spectrum, researchers at the University of Illinois have produced a lithium-ion micro-battery suitable for ‘on-chip’ integration, using 3D holographic lithography. New lighter batteries using sodium-ion technology are being developed by Faradion to replace conventional lithium-ion cells. Cambridge University researchers have taken the energy harvesting vibration sensor further, in order to produce small self-powered wireless sensors that can be stuck onto the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, to monitor the effects of traffic vibrations in the suspension cables.

The next step

The recent big consumer technology changes have enabled the technology, with mobile phones producing the economically priced components, aerials etc. Better capacitors, energy scavenging, batteries will all emerge to make the sensors longer lasting. Standards and customers are making the suppliers work together, and they are chasing to satisfy the significant new market demand.

Probably the major limitation to further adoption of these wireless systems in any industry will be in terms of expertise – the knowledge and understanding needed to design and put the systems together. There will be a lot of opportunity for installers and engineers to develop expertise in these new and niche applications, and there should be plenty of new applications emerging! But for once, some of the easiest applications are on process plants, even in hazardous areas, as the products and packages available for these jobs are now established.

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2016 Update on the Forth Road Bridge:

The above text was written in July 2015. Since then new applications have been reported here on ProcessingTalk.info. But this month’s story in The Engineer gives more information on the Forth Road Bridge application: Jason Ford reported:

“Cambridge start-up 8power has signed a contract with Innovate UK to support the development of its vibration energy harvesting (VEH) technology, an advance with a range of money-saving sensor applications.

The contract funds a collaborative project led by 8power and supported by Costain and the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) at Cambridge University. It aims to develop a sustainable, scalable business case for the deployment of sensors in a range of industrial, infrastructure and construction applications.

According to 8power, VEH employs parametric resonance to facilitate power generation from a variety of vibration sources including motors, moving vehicles, or traffic-induced movement in structures such as bridges.

In October 2016 8Power was named the winner of the 7th Discovering Start-ups competition, which is organised by Cambridge Wireless.

Speaking at the event, Dr Antony Rix, 8Power CEO said that advances in wireless technology are making it easier to monitor a range of variables but that the acquisition of data requires large batteries or regular battery replacement.

“Our team solved this problem by developing a fundamental, patented innovation and a technique called vibration energy harvesting, “ he said. “What we do is take vibration energy that’s naturally there in the environment and turn it into electrical power.”

He added that the conventional – and inefficient – way of doing this is to swing a mechanical resonator from side to side, moving a magnet through a coil to generate electricity.

“What we do instead is move the anchor point up and down and this creates massively more energy and that means much more power, about 10 times more than our competitors…as a result the 8Power technology can enable this technology to power sensors in a much wider range of applications where the batteries of our competitors simply can’t compete,” he said.

forth-road-bridge-in-scotland-with-suspension-cables

“Trials of the technology on the Forth Road Bridge have demonstrated that the solution works in live conditions.”

Emerson acquires PermaSense

Emerson has announced the acquisition of UK-based Permasense Ltd, a leading provider of non-intrusive corrosion monitoring technologies for the offshore and onshore oil production, refining, chemical, power, pipelines, metals and mining and other industries. Permasense monitoring systems use unique sensor technology, wireless data delivery and advanced analytics to continuously monitor for metal loss from corrosion or erosion in pipes, pipelines or vessels, and reliably deliver high-integrity data from even the harshest environments.

The acquisition represents another step forward in the Emerson strategy to invest in its core business platforms and expand in markets that hold significant long-term growth opportunity.

“Corrosion and erosion can significantly impact the safe and reliable operation of our industrial customers’ infrastructure, which can have dire consequences. Wireless non-intrusive corrosion monitoring is a transformational shift that helps customers immediately understand the health and integrity of their infrastructure in real-time and enables them to fully optimise their operations while maximising safety,” said Mike Train, president, Emerson Automation Solutions. “For example, with the increasing complexity of the types of crude oil coming into a refinery, corrosion is becoming a significant issue in the uptime and profitability of a refinery. Now refinery infrastructure can be monitored and controlled using this non-intrusive technology.”

The Permasense product line will become part of the Rosemount portfolio of measurement and analytical technologies. Permasense technologies complement the Emerson Roxar intrusive corrosion monitoring and non-intrusive sand management systems and strengthen the company’s Pervasive Sensing applications that provide customers a more complete view of their operations and facilities. With Permasense and Roxar technologies in its portfolio, Emerson will be the largest provider of integrity and corrosion management solutions in the marketplace.

Lal Karsanbhai, group vp, measurement and analytical technologies, Emerson Automation Solutions, added: “The addition of patented Permasense technologies along with our existing Roxar technologies enables Emerson to provide customers with a more complete corrosion monitoring solution and a clearer picture into the performance of their infrastructure based on what they’re demanding of it and the strategies needed to optimise production.”

Central to Permasense corrosion monitoring systems are sensors that employ proven ultrasonic wall thickness measurement principles. The sensors are battery powered and communicate wirelessly, which minimises the cost of installation and enables use in remote areas and on a large scale. The sensors are also designed so they can be deployed in hazardous areas.

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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

 

Water Use Cut 75% at IoT Connected Farm

Avocado trees monitored around the clock by a Spirent Communications system are given water only when needed; the farmer uses soil moisture meters, IoT technology, LoRa WAN communications and cloud computing to control the irrigation, reducing his annual water consumption by 75%.

It takes 74 gallons of water to produce one pound of avocados, and drought-stricken California produces 95 percent of avocados grown in the United States. Nearly all are grown in Southern California, in a five-county region that straddles the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Like the rest of the state, the southern coastal region is locked in a drought and largely cut off from the flow of surface water from the state’s big irrigation projects. Avocado groves have been hit badly with sky-high water costs and reliance on water pumped from underground aquifers.

Water consumption is regulated in California with the state entering its fourth year of drought resulting in water regulators imposing sweeping and draconian restrictions on the use of water. The State Water Resources Control Board has even urged Californians to let their lawns die.

Some avocado farmers in California feeling the heat have turned to new methods in growing avocados such as higher density planting which enables some to produce twice as much fruit for the same amount of water. But a new initiative from Spirent Communications in bringing about connected avocado farms might just be the perfect solution to make further inroads into lowering spiralling water costs.

Useful day-job expertise

It just so happens that Kurt Bantle is a senior solution manager at Spirent Communications and at home has some 900 young avocado trees planted in his “back garden” in Southern California. Within his work remit, which is to develop Spirent’s IoT offering, he decided to experiment into how avocados could be grown using less water through soil moisture monitoring, by using this as an input to automate the irrigation, using a just-in-time approach.

Bantle divided his farm into 22 irrigation blocks and inserted two soil moisture measurement units into each block. The units contain a LoRa (www.lora-alliance.org) unit for narrow band data communication to a LoRa gateway which has a connection via a broadband cellular uplink.

The gateway also contains an Oasis (a partner company with Spirent) re-programmable SIM which becomes the enabler in remote water provisioning. All soil moisture data from the avocado trees is collected in a cloud and visualised by a presentation layer. When a tree needs to be watered, the solution turns the sprinklers on automatically to get the correct level of soil moisture for each tree. It then turns them off when the correct moisture levels are reached. The connected trees are monitored constantly day and night. In all Bantle spent $8200 for LoRa stations, gateway and cellular backhaul, moisture sensors, and irrigation valve controllers.

“Avocado trees typically take 4 acre feet (1 acre foot = 326000 gallons) of water per acre per year. This is not only to supply the needed water, but also to leach the salts which build up in the soil,” says Bantle: “The soil moisture sensors let me drastically reduce water usage by telling me when to water and how deep to water to push the salts past the bulk of the rooting zone. The majority of the roots are in the top 8 inches of soil so there is a sensor there and one at 24 inches so I can see when I’ve watered deep enough to get the salts out of the rooting zone”.

The previous annual cost of watering his 900 trees was $47,336. By connecting this IoT technology, his annual bill dropped to £11,834, a 75% reduction. The hardware investment was recouped in the first 6 months.

“The case study showed a water usage reduction by 75%, but the usage will climb as the trees get bigger. The goal is to reach a 50% reduction of water usage when the trees are fully grown. By keeping the salts in check along with keeping nutrients supplied, stress on the trees is reduced and they are able to have better crop production,” says Bantle.

Future Consequences: both positive and negative

The downside for Bantle in harnessing the power of IoT to reduce water consumption was that he was placed under state surveillance for suspected meter tampering, when his water consumption reduced so dramatically.

The connectivity solution provided by Spirent together with its IoT ecosystem partners for avocado trees applies to every other type of vegetable and fruit farm, which would include almonds, olives, apples, oranges and tomatoes.

IoT technology pioneer Spirent Communications plc is leading the charge with its open eco-system partners such as Oasis Smart Sim through its connectivity and embedded subscription business and recently showed various such connected solutions at the IoT World exhibition.

Spirent’s Embedded Connectivity solution will be launched during 2016 in a phased manner so that the commercially available solution conforms to the corresponding GSMA specification releases.

Spirent conclude with the message that the Internet of Things (IoT) is destined to touch every aspect of human endeavour making factories smarter, supply chains intelligent ….and now farms such as this first IoT connected avocado farm more water efficient, saving farmers vast amounts of water (and therefore money) in the avocado growing process.

The original story from Spirent was first published by WaterActive.co.uk in their July issue.