Modular actuation solutions for major refineries

Paul Boughton

Michael Herbstritt reports on the use of 'plug-and play' actuation technology as part of a modular design ethos to ensure rapid connection.

There is an expanding international client base of customers for electric actuators in the oil and gas industries. Modular design is central to the adoption of actuation technology.

An example Shell installation supplied with Auma actuators is Sarawak Miri on the North Coast of Borneo, where extracted gas is liquefied for transportation. Auma products have been selected for a number of Shell projects in the region to replace existing actuators that have not met the rigorous performance standards demanded by the offshore applications. Seven actuators have been replaced at Miri, a major centre for Malaysia's petroleum industry, with Auma multi-turn products.

Auma reports that a key reason for the selection of its products for this application was the fact that electrical connections are housed separately from the actuator.

'Plug and play' technology

The use of 'plug and play' technology is part of Auma's modular design ethos - it ensures that the actuator can be rapidly reconnected.

As a result, down-time is reduced if the actuators are taken out of commission and wiring errors are avoided. Explosion-proof connections are all double sealed and the flameproof enclosure inside the actuator remains intact, even after removing the plug cover. Additionally, a wall-bracket solution enables actuator controls to be located in easily accessible positions - this feature is particularly welcomed by refinery applications, which are often challenged by remote and demanding locations.

Auma advises that it is also increasingly important to provide support for bus protocols in the oil and gas industries.

A key objective in the provision of fieldbus solutions is to enable adopters of the technology to reduce their investment costs by using standard cabling and even existing cabling.

This cost-effective, pragmatic approach to actuation is supported by the Foundation Fieldbus protocol (FF Bus) - the actuators supplied therefore provide an FF interface.

BP Refinery Rotterdam

Auma has also supplied BP, including a BP Refinery Rotterdam in the Netherlands. With the largest annual production capacity in Europe, BP Refinery Rotterdam has a massive storage capacity of 4.3 million cubic metres. Production statistics are equally impressive, with 400,000 barrels of oil processed daily. The three main requirements of the BP actuation specification for the site are summarised by Auma as follows:

- Redundant communication capability.

- Asset management functionality, providing access to user parameter and torque values, including torque curves.

- Rapid response time - to meet the needs of typical oil flow movement at the refinery, 30 actuators require simultaneous communication of operational commands and a feedback response to the host system within ten seconds.

Translating this objective, demands placed on the actuation technology meant each actuator had to be capable of reacting to an operation command in under four seconds. These needs were met with automation architecture incorporating fieldbus enabled actuators that achieved a response time of under a second.

High corrosion resistance

Other requirements for the actuation technology supplied included high corrosion resistance and explosion protection.

Auma also had to demonstrate that, to optimise fluid flow, actuators could be upgraded without impact on the plant's operation. As part of a project at the refinery, 1200 MOV actuators had to be integrated into a two wire network without any break to the running of the facility. With its modular actuator design, Auma met this objective and over a period of around 10 months, new actuators replaced old technology on an average of eight valves per day. Valves were operated by the old control stations in the morning and, by the end of the working day, the transfer was completed.

To date, Auma has successfully delivered over 1000 actuators to the scheme with AUMATIC actuator controls.

Non-intrusive functionality of the products allows actuator setting without the use of tools and without having to open the housing: this feature is a major advantage to users in hazardous applications, as this ensures easy control of the actuators, without disturbing the operation of the plant.

Enter X at

Michael Herbstritt is an Electronics Engineer and Technical Author with AUMA Riester GmbH & Co KG is based in Muellheim, Germany.

Recent Issues