1 December 2006
Automation on display
Wireless, security, safety key elements to ISA EXPO 2006
By Gregory Hale
Automation technologies came out in force at ISA EXPO 2006 this year; but the prevailing thought on what was the most popular technology came from one exhibitor who said, ISA should change the name to the “Wireless Expo.”
Stopping by any of the booths, it seemed wireless was what exhibitors and show goers were talking about.
Wireless protocols ranging from low-end ZigBee to wireless Ethernet; Foundation fieldbus-based and Profibus-based plant communications systems; the HART Communications Protocol; and technologies that make some or all of those simply work better were front-burner topics.
“We work in oil and gas, and we do a lot of telemetry, collection systems in the office, SCADA data, digital, analog in the field, RTUs. We’re just looking to see what’s out there,” said Albert Surovik, of Anadarko Petroleum, The Woodlands, Tex.
Several attendees, including Michael Poore, of Palmetto Engineering, and Robert Burton, of Londell Refining, acknowledged wireless technology does not now have a major role in their employer’s plant operations. However, both were interested in learning more about it and said in-house testing is going on.
“We don’t use [wireless] in instrumentation, but in the PC industry, it’s a huge advancement,” said Jason Greenfield, of Fagen Engineering, Granite Falls, Minn. “Access to the Internet is really important when we go on the road, to stay current with office activities. We need to get back to the server in the office. It’s very convenient for engineers and managers.”
However, nearly every conversation about wireless technology invariably leads to the single most concern—security, or possibly lack of it.
Wireless and security
“We’ve been examining wireless closely for its benefits, but we also need to consider security,” said Gwen Bates, with J. Ray McDermott’s Corporate Health, Safety and Security operations in Houston.
As a sign of growth in the wireless sector, ZigBee is seeing more interest. “People are getting around to asking the serious questions about deployment,” said Bob Heile, chairman of the ZigBee Alliance.
“We’ve seen a doubling of ZigBee chipsets between 2005 and 2006,” Heile said. He said 2.5 million chipsets came out in 2005, and 5 million will hit the street this year. “Price points are getting better also. I have heard it is down to around $2.65 in production quantities.”
When it comes to wireless, there definitely seems to be two camps: one has users that already take the technology for granted, and the other not yet using wireless are hesitant for the usual reasons.
That is the word from two engineers, Revathi Advaithi and David Kaufman from Honeywell Industrial Measurement and Control who spoke at the Measurement, Control & Automation Association (MCAA) 2006 Industry Breakfast in conjunction with EXPO. Advaithi is a vice president at Honeywell and a mechanical engineer. Kaufman is a director and an industrial engineer.
“The novelty of wireless has worn off, and its reliability is taken for granted by those using it,” said Advaithi in her opening remarks.
She recited a litany of nodes (millions) and patents (hundreds) and installations (hundreds) and products (lots) that Honeywell already has out there in the market.
Kaufman listed the concerns of the newer adopters and those considering wireless, the “usual suspects.”
Customers want the system to be reliable and secure. They want it to work right away, and they do not want dropped signals or eavesdropping by outsiders.
Customers do not want any problems regarding power. It is wireless, so they want batteries to last a long time.
Customers want one solution no matter what the “need of their speeds.” They do not want multiple networks or gateways.
Customers want to be able to start small and expand their adoption.
Not all about wireless
Communications systems and technologies were not the only area of interest at EXPO.
Security, safety, environmental issues, and automation systems and equipment are major areas of interest, as demonstrated by attendance at more than 70 technical conferences, including tutorials, panel sessions, and technical presentations.
There are early adopters making use of the long awaited cyber security standard ISA-99, Security for Industrial Automation and Control Systems, said Brian Singer at the end of his “state-of-the-standard” address in the Standards Theater at EXPO. Singer is the chair of the panel, and he works as manager of network and security services at Rockwell Automation.
“The first two parts can work for the asset holder as they stand. However, we probably won’t have them ready for official release for two or three months,” he said.
There are over 260 members and 220 companies sitting on the committee and contributing to the standard’s move forward.
ISA-99 addresses the security needs that pertain to the control network existing at the plant and extending up to but not entering the enterprise or business level of the network. “We’re concerned with the shop floor. We’re not going to write a fieldbus standard or a wireless standard,” said Singer.
Ahead of the game
Disaster preparedness and safety issues were also strong topics this year as two keynoters would attest.
Captivating an audience with photos of extensive damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, EXPO’s opening day keynoter and ConocoPhillips Alliance Refinery Manager Peter M. Batey shared important “lessons learned” that could help others struck by catastrophe.
Located 20 miles south of New Orleans, the Alliance Refinery on 29 August 2005 fell under siege of 135 mile-per-hour winds and an estimated 18-foot combined storm and wave surge. Thanks to smart planning, the refinery went back to full operation on 20 April 2006, 235 days later.
Katrina damaged or destroyed the outside insulation shells of 12 major vessels at the plant in Plaquemines Parish. It took four weeks and 50 temporary pumps to dry the plant—then came Hurricane Rita, with another 5 feet of storm surge and rainwater.
Batey told the packed room three major systems were affected:
Instrumentation, primarily an aging distributed control system in the submerged old control room, which ConocoPhillips was in the process of replacing with a new, but unfinished control room and more modern system
Electrical systems and subsystems, which the company post-Katrina chose to replace completely with new equipment
900 pumps and motors, nearly all of which also needed to be replaced with new equipment
Although Katrina was later classified by meteorologists as “something between a 1-in-300-year storm and 1-in-600-year storm,” Batey said, ConocoPhillips decided to harden its new control center to withstand 200 mile-per-hour winds and raise instrumentation higher, where possible.
Safety in the plant
The idea of safety carried over the next day, as the keynoter on 18 October dished out practical advice to keep the plant safe.
“If something looks odd, say so,” was just one tip from Trevor Kletz, a veteran plant safety expert with a long list of credentials and honors from his England homeland. “You may embarrass someone, but it’s better to do that than to let the plant blow up.”
Because something looked odd and no one said anything, the worst plant explosion in U.K.’s history occurred, he said. The “odd” thing someone should have flagged was a temporary pipe that was not supported in any way when it was installed. It broke, causing the disaster.
Kletz said systems undergo design by design engineers, or draftsmen, who may have no experience with the process. He discussed systems that had several instruments that could fail for various reasons, which the process engineer would have recognized from the get-go.
One system resulted in an explosion because the draftsman thought nitrogen flowing into a tank for safety purposes would always be a greater pressure than another gas it was designed to hold back in a tank. “If the draftsman worked on the plant floor, or talked to the plant staff, he would have known nitrogen pressure could be erratic” under certain conditions, Kletz said.
After Kletz’s keynote, Paul Gruhn of ICS Triplex presented an update on safety system trends and safety instrumented systems.
He gave pointers on changes in fault tolerance tables and how they mandate redundancy. He also covered the separation of control and safety and new vendor platforms. Who’s doing what, and what are the pros and cons of each technique? There are different vendors coming up with new systems that address this change in safety in different ways. He discussed partial stroking of valves; what’s the point, and who’s doing it?
A safety instrumented system is a system composed of sensors, logic solvers, and final control elements to take the process to a safe state when predetermined conditions are violated. The safety system is a separate system with its own sensors, logic, and final elements. “The safety system doesn’t control anything,” he said. “It’s mostly monitoring and looking for a hazardous condition. If you exceed boundaries, the safety instrumented systems will bring the system to a safe state.”
Another hot topic for people working on the safety standard is the separation of control and safety. “Standards have evolved, and there are new and different platforms available,” he said.
Eye on standards
In order to garner more acceptance and use of standards, all ISA members will get free, downloadable ISA-developed standards beginning next year.
“Because of this action, our current and future members will benefit professionally from our standards at no cost,” said ISA President-elect Secretary Steve Huffman at a press conference, “and they’ll be able to bring value to their employers by introducing best practices into their business.”
ISA members will be able to download all ISA standards in PDF format for free as of 1 January 2007.
Along those lines, Fieldbus Foundation will launch an initiative to develop a specification for standardizing remote input/output devices.
Fieldbus Foundation also released a Device Description Integrated Development Environment, which Rich Timoney, foundation president and chief executive, said provides a single application for debugging device description files.
This story was compiled from reports by Ellen Fussell Policastro, Nicholas Sheble, and Jim Strothman.
YAP about automation
“I’m going for a degree in instrumentation, and I want to become a member of ISA. Plus, it’s a good networking opportunity,” said Tracey Collymore of Lee College in Baytown, Tex., summing up the whole purpose of Young Automation Professionals (YAP) FEST at EXPO.
Even the midday humidity and downpour of rain didn’t keep students and young professionals away from the chance to eat barbecue, listen to a band, and, oh yes, network with more experienced professionals in the instrumentation field.
Instrumentation is “a niche area of technology a lot of people don’t know about,” said Richard Tunstall, an advisor at Lee College in Baytown, Tex. “As a teacher, it’s hard to describe it to students because no one has a frame of reference. This event is a good chance to give young professionals an introduction to the field and to ISA.”
“I’m hoping to rub shoulders with people who are hiring,” said Jerome Grant, an instrumentation major at San Jacinto College in Houston. Grant’s inspiration to go into instrumentation came from his father, and the fact the oil and gas industry is here in Houston, where he lives. “I’ve found in this industry I can continue to grow,” he said. “I watched my father start at NASA, calibrating instruments; he went from an electrical engineer (EE) to a senior EE. So I’ve seen a lot of progress and potential to grow.” —Ellen Fussell Policastro
ISA EXPO 2006 Unveiled
By Ellen Fussell Policastro
Houston’s Reliant Center housed the pinnacle of technology in October as ISA EXPO 2006 attendees unveiled their wares. Nearly 13,000 attendees showed up to hear keynote addresses from international experts, listen in at more than 70 conference sessions, and witness the latest developments from over 550 exhibitors on the event floor. Take a look at some of the announcements and product briefings you might have missed.
Radar-wireless temperature sensors
Radar technology has become the base of wireless sensors. Kongsberg Maritime revealed sensors for continuous monitoring of operational temperatures in rotating, reciprocating, orbiting, and stationary machine components (crank & crosshead bearings, and gears). The radar technology allows flexibility in positioning sensor and antenna, generous, and non-critical mounting tolerances. The sensor-antenna set is based on a newly developed, specialized radar technology, used in electronic highway toll collection systems.
Fieldbus system offers redundancy
MooreHawke, a division of Moore Industries released its TS Series TRUNKSAFE system, which provides a method for maintaining continuous communication between a control system and instruments on a Foundation fieldbus H1 segment. In the event of a failure on a fieldbus segment, TRUNKSAFE makes it possible for the control system to switch immediately and automatically to a redundant path.
Announcing a full line of products and an expanded channel support program, Lantronix, Inc., is hoping to strengthen its leadership position in the industrial networking marketplace with four new product releases, including the company’s first wireless device server, specifically designed for extreme environments.
Alarm management solution
ICONICS offered its Alarm Analytics answer to help users with industry standards-based alarm management, reporting, and analysis within the Microsoft Excel environment. The product gives users 15 industry standard reports for quick presentation of KPIs, such as alarm distribution, tag frequency/chattering, cross-correlations, operator response time, and operator changes by interval.
ProSoft’s in-rack PC
ProSoft Technology introduced its in-rack PC, which can communicate directly across the backplane to a ControlLogix PLC with the flexibility and processing speed of an industrial computer. Backplane connectivity and this module provide a high speed data exchange rate, vital for the speed of calculations required in multi-head weighers. The open platform of the PC56-LX800 module supports Microsoft’s Window XP, Windows CE, and Linux. Features include space saving, in-chassis, industrial hardware, support of applications using Serial, Ethernet, and USB.
CyboSoft, Canrig Drilling pact
Automated oil or gas well drilling may occur more frequently now that Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based CyboSoft, General Cybernation Group Inc., signed a long-term software license agreement with Magnolia, Tex.-based Canrig Drilling Technology Ltd. The model-free adaptive (MFA) control software will embed into Canrig’s top drive drilling systems for oil and gas exploration and production. MFA is an adaptive control method that does not require process models and can automatically control physical processes in instruments, equipment, tools, software platforms, or automation systems.
HART talks wireless
HART officially launched its wireless program in March 2005 with the objective to produce a wireless communication standard for process measurement and control applications, developing the same application layer as on wired.
Magnetic level gages
Clark Reliance unveiled its new magnetic level gage with a guided wave radar transmitter from the company’s Jerguson product line. The Model MGWR provides redundant level measurement through the combined use of the Magnicator II magnetic level gage and an independent guided wave radar level transmitter. The combination of the independent guided wave radar level transmitter and the Magnicator II level gage increases plant and personnel safety by providing independent and redundant level indication and control in one device.
Smart Sensor Systems, Inc., released the first IEEE-1451 wireless sensor interface in evaluation quantities. TinyTIM is a wireless high performance smart sensor interface based on Bluetooth radio technology. The company has been working with the IEEE 1451.0 and IEEE 1451.5 working groups to answer industry and government requests for an open sensor integration standard to develop custom, off-the-shelf intelligent sensor systems.
Valve condition monitoring
UniTorq introduced a wireless valve condition monitoring device (VCM), which uses mesh network technology and can integrate into existing industrial networks through a gateway/access point. Data getting to the access point can translate from the UniTorq protocol to most industrial formats such as AS-I, DeviceNet, Foundation Field Bus, PROFIBUS, MODBUS, and TCP/IP.
Spirax Sarco introduced new control valve products, all focused on providing cost-effective solutions in the control and efficient use of steam and other industrial fluids. The range of new valve products aligns with the range of customer needs, said Andrew Butcher, Spirax Sarco’s product manager.
GE Sensings exposed its range of advanced measurement and sensor-based technologies, including: the Sentinel, an ultrasonic natural gas flowmeter; the DigitalFlow ISX878, an ultrasonic flowmeter; and the HygroPro, a multitasking moisture analyzer.
WINA joins AF
Wireless Industrial Networking Alliance (WINA) will join the Automation Federation (AF), as part of the umbrella that makes up WBF, OMAC, and ISA. The organization aims to communicate the benefits of using wireless in industrial applications, to improve confidence in wireless technology and access to solutions, and to focus on the end user. AF will join the WBF during a collaborative conference 30 April–4 May 2007 in Baltimore. AF is an umbrella organization under which associations and societies in manufacturing, business integration, and process automation can work more effectively to fulfill their missions.
Reading, writing, and automation
The students were back and ready to go. Expectations remained high as they lined up outside the exhibition hall waiting to march in for the opening ceremonies of ISA EXPO. “We’re hoping to get a gold medal,” said Lambton College’s Paul Murray. To prepare, Murray said his team went through the program and did all the work. “It’ll be interesting today,” he said. “I’m just trying to relax.” It seems the preparation paid off as Lambton College won the gold medal.
This year, 12 teams from Canada, Mexico, Russia, Italy, and the U.S. competed in the student competition. The British Columbia Institute of Technology team was looking for some fun out of the games. “We want experience, to meet people, exposure to new products,” said Craig Whitaker. Other members of Whitaker’s team, Hilary Smith, Brian Piskorik, Katie Bramhall, and Ryan Schwabe, agreed the four training sessions helped them prepare for the event. “But we’re not nervous,” they said. They were mainly curious to see what kinds of problems they would encounter. “We know we have to troubleshoot,” Whitaker said.
The gold medal winners from Lambton College were, Neal Finch, Nicholas Iafrate, Paul Murray, Trista Van Der Veeken, Alternate: Scott Metcalfe, and Advisor: Michael Grey. —Ellen Fussell Policastro