Plant management driven by integrated automation

Paul Boughton

Demands for fast remote access, automation of procedures and whole site integration are, reports Sean Ottewell, driving investment in plant management technology.

Invensys, which became part of French group Schneider Electric in a £3.4billion deal during the summer, has released its Wonderware InTouch Access Anywhere software solution.

The new solution enables users in the process industries to access plant-floor data via Wonderware InTouch software. It runs entirely and securely inside a web browser so users can connect to other InTouch applications at anytime from anywhere, using any mobile device, including Microsoft Surface tablets, iPads, iPhones, Androids and others (Fig.1).

The software also supports Macintosh and Linux-based computer systems, as well as Microsoft Windows PCs and laptops. And because users are not required to install any software on their mobile device, Invensys says the offering is remarkably easy to deploy, manage and maintain.

"This new offering complements Invensys' broader mobile strategy to provide and improve real-time visualisation, collaboration and execution at multiple levels of an organisation," according to Craig Resnick, vice president, ARC Advisory Group. "Along with delivering mobile solutions for reporting, decision-support, dashboards, workflow and workforce execution, this new offering also brings human machine interface (HMI) visualisation capabilities to mobile devices. These capabilities extend the company's operations management software portfolio by providing plant operators and other key individuals with modern process optimisation tools, regardless of their location or the task being performed, and in real time."

InTouch Access Anywhere software is the newest capability in the company's progressive suite of mobility solutions, which now includes workflow, reporting, analytics, visualisation, maintenance management, operator training, data gathering and procedure management.

In 2010, Invensys released its IntelaTrac offering, a mobile reporting and decision support system that enables workflow, data collection and general task management. In 2011, the company released its SmartGlance solution, an industrial reporting application that delivers secure, on-demand access to rich, graphical reports from any operations data source via mobile devices. In 2012, the company released its Work Tasks mobile offering, enabling plant personnel, regardless of their location, to respond immediately to assigned work tasks via the company's ArchestrA Workflow software.

"InTouch Access Anywhere software emphasises the depth and breadth of our capabilities when it comes to mobile and web-enabled solutions," said Norm Thorlakson, vice president of HMI and supervisory software products for Invensys. "Providing this level of unprecedented, secure access to real-time plant information - without compromising functionality - empowers the modern workforce to minimise costs, improve operating efficiencies and drive real-time business optimisation."

Skid integration and more

The latest release of the PlantPAx process automation system from Rockwell Automation allows companies across multiple process industries to improve operator effectiveness with automated procedures, enhanced visualisation and new skid-integration capabilities.

The system's new sequencer tool enables companies easily to automate process procedures, perform system modifications, and sequence actions directly through HMI faceplates. If a process change is necessary or an abnormal event occurs, a user with the appropriate login privileges can modify the sequence directly from the HMI screen, rather than waiting for a control system expert to modify the procedure code.

"The new PlantPAx sequencer tool eliminates the need for custom-coded configurations to automate procedures for continuous processes," explained Jason Wright, PlantPAx product manager, Rockwell Automation. "It's intuitive, user-friendly interface helps operators see and understand the information they need, and makes procedures repeatable and easier to track."

The PlantPAx system further extends operator effectiveness with a comprehensive HMI toolkit for effective display design and enhanced standards-based alarming. This allows the operator to focus directly on the process itself, reducing system downtime and incidents. The system also features an enhanced independent workstation (or network station) that offers process companies more flexibility in plant design - especially when integrating best-of-breed skids into multiple plants worldwide.

"There is an industry trend to leverage process skids for quicker line and plant expansion to help reduce time-to-market," Wright said. "However, integrating these process skids into a traditional distributed control system (DCS) can create complexities and increase costs. In fact, for a traditional DCS, integration accounts for 50-60 per cent of the project costs for end users."

For example, skid integration often requires custom data-mapping or duplicated code on the DCS. This is not the case with the PlantPAx system - the skid-based controller can be added as a native controller to the system. Enhanced independent workstation capabilities help reduce the cost of integration by allowing the skid to share common infrastructure resources, such as user accounts and security settings, without losing application independence. This allows companies to leverage the specific application expertise of multiple skid vendors while providing a consistent operator experience.

A comprehensive automation solution

Sasol, the international integrated energy and chemical company, has chosen Emerson Process Management for a comprehensive programme to automate its planned integrated gas-to-liquids (GTL) and world-scale ethane cracker complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The automation programme's overall scope - including dozens of integrated process units and more than 100,000 measurement and control points - makes it one of the largest Emerson has been awarded.

Sasol anticipates a total investment of US$16-21 (EUR12-16 billion) in the two facilities. When completed, the GTL plant will transform the region's abundant low-cost shale gas into high-performance, low-emissions diesel and other transportation fuels. The adjacent ethane cracker and derivatives plant will convert ethane to ethylene and other downstream derivatives.

As main automation contractor, Emerson will provide the majority of the process automation technologies, engineering, and ongoing support services for the operations under a long-term agreement.

Emerson's automation solution for the Sasol plants is based on its PlantWeb digital plant architecture, which includes its industry-recognised control and safety systems, control valves, and measurement and analytical instruments. Initial automation planning and engineering work begins immediately.

More accurate process design with aspenONE Exchange

Aspen Technology describes its new aspenONE Exchange as the first content marketplace for the process industries.

The company says it revolutionises process design by providing engineers with a one-stop shop to source equipment data, third-party content, and AspenTech resources. "By referencing design information hosted in aspenONE Exchange, process engineers can build more comprehensive and more accurate models faster," says the company.

With its broad range of engineering content and third-party equipment design information, aspenONE Exchange expands Aspen Plus and Aspen HYSYS into a comprehensive work environment and enables:

- More accurate designs earlier. Process engineers can source design information provided by third-party vendors such as equipment manufacturers, process licensors, and contractors and incorporate it into their flow sheets. The result is a more efficient workflow and more comprehensive models earlier in the design process.

- The right information at the right time. With aspenONE Exchange's powerful search capability, users can query thousands of content entries including third-party equipment data, AspenTech reference models, flowsheets, knowledgebase articles, and computer-based training to find the most relevant and useful items to improve their design. Information previously available across a variety of locations is now consolidated in one location.

- Direct access to process engineers. By providing content in aspenONE Exchange, equipment manufacturers, process licensors, independent contractors, and other vendors directly reach the industry's largest cross section of process engineers.

"AspenONE Exchange provides an excellent way for new and experienced users to explore well-documented, best practice process models. This shared environment increases the breadth of open innovation resources we rely upon in our computational process and product design efforts," commented Eric M Cordi, who is associate research fellow with pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

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