North America Is Focus of ABB Measurement Investments

ABB Measurement & Analytics moves aggressively in instrumentation space, breaking ground on five expansions and facilities.

By Keith Larson

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Accurate and reliable instrumentation has always been the foundation of effective process automation, and ABB is investing big in fundamental measurement capabilities to better serve its process industry customers. In little more than a year, the company's Measurement & Analytics business has broken ground on five major expansions or new facilities in North America as well as acquiring Spirit IT, a Dutch specialist in liquid flow computers and custody transfer solutions. Some of the first fruits of these ongoing investments are on display—and attracting considerable attention—at this week's ABB Automation & Power World in Houston.

In October 2014, the company opened a new 100,000-sq.ft. expansion of its Bartlesville, Okla., facility to support increased production of gas flow computers, remote terminal units, gas chromatographs and multivariable transmitters, primarily under the TotalFlow brand banner. The new facility is expected to create some 200 new jobs over the next 10 years in support of ABB's customers in the upstream oil & gas industry.

Analyzer shelters and level instruments, too

Down the road in Houston, the company is about to open a new 40,000-sq.ft. systems integration facility in April 2015, to build fully integrated analyzer shelters for downstream oil & gas customers. Twenty new jobs delivering these turnkey analytical solutions are to be created over the next five years. In Quebec City, Canada, a new 85,000-sq.ft. facility is slated to open in September 2015 to expand production of the company's FT-IR, FT-NIR, and remote sensing analyzers as well as laser level instruments. Instruments made at this new high-tech facility service customers in the environmental, space, semiconductor, downstream oil & gas and laboratory arenas.

In Baton Rouge, La., ABB will open in November 2015 a new 75,000-sq.ft. "global center of excellence" for level instrumentation. The newly expanded facility builds on the company's 2010 acquisition of K-TEK and is expected to bring 50 new jobs to the community. And in California's Silicon Valley, the company will open in late 2015 a new analyzer factory to bolster production of the laser-based analytical solutions it added to the ABB portfolio with its 2013 acquisition of Los Gatos Research.

Finally, complementing this tear of North American investments, ABB late last year acquired Spirit IT, a Dutch manufacturer of liquid flow computers and custody transfer solutions that has strong growth potential in U.S. market. Spirit IT's liquid measurement capabilities are a "perfect marriage" for ABB's industry leading gas measurement and automation product line, said Harry Kok, Spirit IT founder and now ABB vice president. The company will build from an installed base in U.S. gathering stations and pipelines, providing greater accuracy and control of well-pad, transportation and custody transfer applications.

Oxygen probes and wet chemical analyzers

Even as ABB gears up production to capture an ever larger share of the measurement market, new and improved instruments also are on display at this week's Automation & Power World in Houston. Higher accuracy, together with easier maintenance and an increasingly unified and ergonomic user interface are overarching themes.

The Endura AZ20, for example, represents a new generation of combustion gas analyzers for industrial and utility boiler applications. Featuring a revised sensor design and an increased choice of probe lengths up to 13.12 feet, the Endura AZ20 expands ABB’s offering to a new range of high temperature applications up to 1,472°F.

Manufactured using a new ceramic-to-steel bonding process, the AZ20 offers improved resistance to thermal stresses and shocks compared to a conventional brazed design. This enables it to be used in a wider range of applications subject to sudden variations in process temperature, as well as offering a gas tight bond throughout its operating temperature range.

In the category of wet chemical analysis, ABB's new Navigator 500 analyzer family brings a compact, reliable and accurate range of instruments for high purity water treatment and boiler chemistry monitoring applications. Providing continuous online monitoring of boiler feedwater quality, the Navigator 500 Hydrazine, Dissolved Oxygen and Sodium analyzers help ensure optimum efficiency of both boiler plant and ancillary equipment throughout the steam distribution loop.

The second in the Navigator analyzer series, the Navigator 500 series joins ABB's Navigator 600 Silica and Phosphate devices for power generation applications. A key feature across the Navigator 500 series is its separate sensor and transmitter section design. All analysis and signal conditioning is conducted within the sensor section and transmitted digitally to the transmitter. Each transmitter can collect data from up to four sensors. This enables monitoring at multiple points without the cost associated with purchasing and installing separate transmitters. The four transmitter inputs can be used to collect signals on one parameter or can be mixed and matched, with multiple parameters being fed to one unit.