Process News from Across the Pond

Here are excerpts from the September 2007 issue of Andrew Bond’s Industrial Automation Insider, a monthly newsletter covering the important industrial automation news and issues as seen from the U.K.

By Andrew Bond

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MTL makes it three in three months

MTL Instruments Group has announced its third acquisition in as many months, paying £3.0m in cash for Sutton, U.K.-based specialist SCADA supplier Ocean Technical Systems (OTS). In May MTL announced the acquisition of Australian wireless solutions developer Elpro International, and in June it bought a 90% stake in Knaresborough, U.K.-based process alarm specialist RTK Instruments. The OTS deal brings the total amount expended by MTL on acquisitions in the last three months to £18.7m.

Project capability

OTS is an international provider of SCADA solutions for the automation of the berthing, loading and unloading of oil tankers and of oil production vessels, floating production units (FPSOs), unmanned wellhead production platforms and oil and gas pipelines. As an original equipment manufacturer, it has a complete project support capability covering project management, procurement, manufacturing and documentation and is ISO
9001- and TICKIT-accredited. Its particular specialty is the provision of remote monitoring and control systems for use on unmanned structures, such as SPM buoys and satellite platforms, in the form of remote wellhead control. The company also claims large scale SCADA and DCS system integration capabilities to provide FPSO-integrated control systems, pipeline monitoring systems and metering systems and offers an innovative real-time metering database.

With the majority of its equipment designed to operate in hazardous and potentially flammable environments, OTS is seen by MTL as a natural fit with its own range of hazardous-area control and instrumentation equipment. As with other recent acquisitions, the aim is to extend OTS’ international customer base by leveraging MTL’s sales channels and OEM relationships, while at the same time improving its competitiveness by exploiting MTL’s purchasing power and electronic circuit board manufacturing capability. The company says that it expects the acquisition to be earnings-enhancing in the first full year of ownership.

“Ocean Technical Systems is another excellent acquisition for MTL,” said CEO Graeme Philp, who is becoming something of a dab hand at making these statements. “Over the last few years it has developed an innovative and highly competitive range of SCADA and navigation products for the automation of the berthing and loading of oil tankers and oil production vessels and the monitoring of oil and gas pipelines. By giving OTS access to its international sales team, MTL will help to accelerate the expansion of its international reach.”

Despite Philp’s enthusiasm, however, there may be some who will wonder how the acquisition of a specialist SCADA system vendor fits with his previously declared strategy of becoming the leading supplier of building blocks for process automation systems, and whether there is not a danger of transforming a previously tightly focused group into an increasingly diverse conglomerate of loosely related businesses.



Citect takes control of Yorkshire’s electricity

Citect has supplied a 50,000-point CitectSCADA system to Yorkshire Electrical Distribution Limited (YEDL) to provide remote control and monitoring of hundreds of remote electricity sub-stations in the West and South Yorkshire area of the U.K. YEDL, which serves the cities of Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Hull and the surrounding area, has implemented the £40,000 distribution control system as part of the Information Incentive Project initiated by U.K. energy regulator OFGEM to improve the quality of supply to users through superior control and monitoring of the distribution network.

The Citect system, which was developed and installed by ABB working with the support of Citect professional services, uses remote RTUs communicating to two central servers using the DNP3 (Distributed Network Protocol) driver, which comes as part of CitectSCADA, and has been specially expanded by Citect to accommodate around 1,000 remote sites.

“CitectSCADA came highly recommended,” said YEDL technical engineer Graeme Melia. “We liked the fact that it is a very expandable system and extremely easy to use. Using the software we have just five templates covering all aspects of the distribution control system; if we want to add a new site, we just add a line and tell the SCADA system which template to use, then it’s job done.”


Principal benefits of the new system are the ability to switch networks around to restore supply after faults have occurred; the ability to set up protection remotely on pole-mounted auto reclosers to enable safe working on the system, sometimes on live conductors; and the reduction in travel time resulting from being able remotely to control equipment scattered across the supply area. “We decided to use our existing private mobile radio (PMR) as our transmission medium because the technology already exists at many of our sites,” said Melia, who pointed out that PMR is mature, well proven and offers a blanket coverage totally independent of the electricity distribution network.

The PMR/DNP3 network currently covers 1,000 sites and is linked to a central control room housing two 50,000 point servers, one of which is configured as a cold standby, and four display clients which are manned 24/7. All events are recorded and archived to an external log, providing a transparent operating record.



Iconics gets Vista certification

Iconics is the latest automation software vendor to announce Windows Vista certification. The Iconics certification is for its GraphWorX32 package, which is used to create animated graphics in the Genesis32/Genesis64 HMI/SCADA, and BizViz Manufacturing Intelligence/Business Visualization suites. “Manufacturers are drawn to Windows Vista due to its increase in performance,” said Iconics president and CEO Russ Agrusa, “as well as to the powerful improvements in visualization. With Windows Vista, we can now give our customers a 360-degree view of their entire enterprise.”

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