Training rigs simulate plant instrumentation and control

Paul Boughton

The College of the North Atlantic-Qatar (CNA-Q) is the product of an agreement between the state of Qatar and the College of the North Atlantic in Canada. It is being built in Qatar. About 3000 students will take part in major education programmes there, including engineering technology, health sciences, information technology and business.

A prime requirement for Qatar is in the training of engineers and technicians to work in the natural gas and oil extraction industries in the locality. The CNA-Q objective is to teach these skills, sought by current and future local industry, providing this training free of charge to Qatari nationals.

English company Feedback Instruments has been present in the country for some time, where it provides education and training for science, engineering and systems, electronics and communications.

Because of this ongoing local involvement and experience, initial discussions with CNA-Q were held to identify the functions and objectives of the process control training courses and equipment needed. These discussions identified products and technology from Emerson Process Management in the form of Rosemount temperature and pressure transmitters and Fisher control valves as equipment on which technician and engineering training was essential to enable the course to relate directly to the equipment most frequently used on the local natural gas plants.

Following further discussion about the course requirements, Feedback won a
£3 million education contract that would require a project team of over ten staff drawn from many disciplines. With a project timescale of less than a year, the company needed assistance and industry expertise not only in selecting and installing the specified Rosemount and Fisher equipment, but also over the other associated controls and monitoring systems that would be needed for the small scale gas and liquid handling and control schemes to be developed.

Emerson responded with expert advice over sourcing further instrumentation and interfaces that were suitable for such systems. North Downs Instruments, the local distributor for Emerson products in the south-east of England, and a part of the MJWilson group, led the response to support Feedback Instruments.

With wide experience in dealing with end users of process instrumentation, solving a wide range of different measurement and control problems, Emerson and North Downs were able to suggest, specify and supply the different styles of sensors, valves and pumps needed to make this project and the equipment represent a cross section of techniques used in the industry (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2).

The CNA-Q requirement was to provide comprehensive training covering the range from the fundamental sensors and actuators through to closed loop control of typical industrial processes.

Feedback Instruments designed two major trainer systems to satisfy these requirements. The instrumentation transducer trainer illustrates the principles, set-up, operation and maintenance of control valves and transmitters. The main process trainer (see box) then uses these industrial standard devices to perform closed loop control of flow, level, temperature and pressure with the option of control by a DCS system. Further trainers were designed and built to amplify aspects of these systems. Within a year, the company designed, built, delivered and commissioned 15 separate process simulation demonstration and training rigs, with the full documentation of manuals and experiments.

In addition, several valves, actuators, transmitters and sensors were provided in either a cut-away form to show the operational principle, or in loose assembled form together with manuals and drawings allowing the students to see the elements and any maintenance procedures.

Of these training rigs, six units demonstrate the use of conventional 4–20mA sensors and valve control signals, with both pneumatically and electrically controlled valves. All electrical connections are brought to an interface area at one end of the unit, so that the control scheme can be selected from the PLC modules, the DCS modules or the students own control logic, to demonstrate alternative possibilities.

A further three rigs use the latest fieldbus systems, using up to three FOUNDATION fieldbus segments on each, to provide training for the students on this latest technology. All the training rigs are provided with a versatile control system interface, which can be configured to work with PLCs, a conventional distributed control system, or a student built PC based control system, as part of another training module. The systems can be configured to parallel the systems in use in Qatar.

Discussions have taken place about developing a further demonstration interface using a DeltaV digital automation system from Emerson to take advantage of its powerful fieldbus interface and diagnostic capabilities, which are typical of the more modern control systems now being installed in the area. 

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