July 2008

Automation by the Numbers


A large argument against drilling in the U.S. protected lands is oil and gas extraction requires densely packed wells, which turn natural vistas into industrial landscapes. However, with new horizontal wells and drilling techniques, oil companies can drill a cluster of wells in a single spot to drain a large area, minimizing the effect. "It's undeniable the environmental impact is far less now than it was 25 or 30 years ago. The footprint is something like one-tenth what it used to be," said Kurt Gibson, deputy director of the oil-and-gas division of Alaska's Department of Natural Resources.


Oil analysis is still a manual laboratory test that measures the oil contamination to infer wear of mechanical equipment. Advances in micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) science are making this an on-line measurement. There is now an oil viscosity sensor that measures changes in viscosity of lubricating oil with accuracy and repeatability of 1%. This innovation may be the first of many that finally takes oil lab measurement into the field.


The U.S. wind industry got its start in California in the 1970s when the oil shortage increased the price of electricity. The state's wind industry benefitted from federal-and-state investment tax credits, and by 1986, California had installed over 1.2 gigawatts of wind power-90% of the world's installations at that time.


Did you know the distributed process control system we know as DeltaV got its name from the engineering equation for acceleration, dv/dt (m/sec2), the change in velocity over the change in time? Emerson released the first version of the digital architecture in year 1996 and by InTech's count, there have been 13 subsequent versions.

1.026 quadrillion

An American military supercomputer, assembled from components originally designed for video game machines, can process more than 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second, which is twice as fast as the previous fastest supercomputer. The $133 million supercomputer-Roadrunner-will work on solving classified military problems related to the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons. Before it enters a classified environment, it will explore scientific problems like climate change.