Along with advanced diagnostics and best practices, new technology can have a significant impact on your process control and instrumentation reliability. In the United States we pride ourselves on having some of the best technology which leads to good reliability and availability. However, technology that has been developed even in the last 10 years can dramatically improve reliability. Moreover, replacing current equipment older than this can also realize an improvement. I have presented a few for your consideration.
Wireless technology has existed in a process plant for many years. It has generally been used for tank farms or remote telemetry. Within the last few years wireless technology has expanded into the process control environment. With the advent of the WirelessHART communication protocol you can now make measurements in locations that, prior to, were not economically feasible. WirelessHART also allows you to capture stranded HART data, including Advanced Diagnostic information. Finally, adding WirelessHART measurements are as simple as installing the transmitter. This greatly reduces the time needed for commissioning and startup.
Although radar level measurement has become the technology of choice, there are many applications where radar cannot be used. Distillation columns are the most common example. Making a level measurement on a column has traditionally been done with e differential pressure (DP) instrument and long capillary. Electronic Remote Sensors (ERS) eliminate the capillaries that are expensive and difficult to install with an electronic cable. Now you just have to mount the high- and low-side pressure transmitters and connect them electronically. This technology is easier to install, reduces the number of spares and eliminates the need (and expense) to heat trace the capillary.
Steam traps are a common source for maintenance work. Steam trap suppliers have routinely provided leak check services to help you identify the bad actors. Like any kind of survey, it is only captures the event when it is happening. A trap could easily start to leak a day later. Acoustic monitors can be used to detect steam trap leaks. There are permanently mounted and alert you when the problem happens. If you are considering an investment in wireless technology, this simple solution will reduce your energy consumption.
As instrumentation manufacturers develop new products, there is always a marked improvement over the previous version. The improvement in performance can be realized by better accuracy, stability and reliability. Upgrading existing equipment with the current version can lead to improvement of the process through better system performance. This even includes technology that was new within the last 10 years.
New technology should be viewed as an investment rather than a cost. In a global economy, the old adage of “pay for it now or pay for it later” has been replaced by “invest in it now or be out of business later”. There is not a magic solution that will make this happen. Investment in new technology, along with advanced diagnostics and best practices, will ultimately lead to a plant that is reliable, available and profitable.
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