The global process industries have never been under more pressure. Plants are expected to meet new standards of safety and environmental compliance even as they are pushed to explore new operating limits. Asset utilization is connected so directly to corporate profits that planned turnarounds are ever shorter and further apart, and a single unscheduled shutdown can negate a whole year's worth of optimization effort. People and processes must operate more efficiently and productively, even as industry must bring a new generation of less experienced workers online. In the face of all this, how will the process industries continue to manage?
Tom Moser believes that instrumentation is a big part of the answer. Moser, president of the Rosemount Measurement business unit of Emerson Process Management, offers as evidence the ongoing evolution of instrumentation capabilities as well as the application revolution enabled by wireless technology. Control's Keith Larson caught up with Moser at the 2012 Emerson Global Users Exchange in Anaheim, Calif., to hear his views on how instrumentation is helping users boost plant performance across a range of important metrics. Read on for the highlights of their talk, or visit ControlGlobal.com/moser to watch the full video version of their conversation.
Q: Today's process instrumentation is capable of doing far more than just reporting back a process variable signal. What are some of the new instrumentation capabilities that Rosemount is bringing to bear on behalf of its process industry users?
A: At Emerson, we've been measuring pressure, temperature, level and flow for quite a long time. And as the industry has moved from a traditional 4-20mA signal into smart instrumentation, it started to bring in more information from those devices and we have begun to do many more things with that information, such as provide instrumentation diagnostics.
We're looking at ways to take our existing measurements and apply them in more kinds of applications as well as looking at additional measurement technologies. A few examples enabled by wireless in just the past several years include the monitoring of pressure relief valves, safety showers and steam traps. These new applications are allowing instrumentation to help address key business drivers that really have been there all long: plant safety and energy efficiency. Wireless instrumentation can make it more economically feasible for facilities to come into compliance with new regulatory requirements, too.
Instrumentation also is being used for statistical process monitoring: measuring not just the static variable, but understanding the dynamics of the process itself. If you know you have a good pressure or temperature measurement that's well coupled to the process, the noise level of the measurement can tell you a lot. Customers are starting to find some very unique ways to apply that capability. But the foundation is still the fundamentally reliable measurement for which Rosemount products are renowned. Bring that together with fast I/O and signal processing capabilities and you can begin to capture more transients in the signal and gain a better understanding of what's happening in the process.
Q: Smart instruments are in widespread use today, yet many have been installed without the ability to continuously communicate the additional information they posses. Is the time at hand to finally put those diagnostics to work?
A: One of the early functions of smart instrument diagnostics was to quickly determine if there was a problem with the loop. Is the measurement itself okay? If the instrument can tell you that the measurement itself is good, the maintenance technician can start to move downstream, to more quickly find out the root cause of a problem. For HART-based transmitters already installed with straight analog 4-20mA wiring, our Smart Wireless THUM Adaptor provides an easy, cost effective way to extract that HART diagnostic data and send it over a wireless network.
But today, looking at applying instruments in new applications, it's really about taking the core measurement itself and allowing that to be a diagnostic for a piece of equipment. If a pressure relief valve goes off, you want to be able to find it quickly and determine what caused the release in the first place. I think that diagnostics will continue to be increasingly important, along with applications like our AMS Suite and its online monitoring to bring them forward.