Wanhua Chemical Group
Wanhua Chemical’s Yantai, China, facility has been named FieldComm Group's 2022 Plant of the Year.

China’s Wanhua Chemical Group transforms plant into finely tuned testimony to digitalization

Nov. 22, 2022
Chemical materials producer makes full use of FieldComm Group FOUNDATION Fieldbus, HART and WirelessHART technologies in large-scale operation
Wanhua Chemical Group is one of the largest chemical product manufacturers in the world. The China-based company serves four main industries: polyurethanes; petrochemicals; fine chemicals, such as high-performance materials and nutritional chemicals; and emerging materials, such as those used in batteries and electronics. Because it serves such fast-moving and growing sectors, maintaining a competitive edge in its operations, and gaining value from its control systems is of the utmost importance. That is why the company turned to FieldComm Group’s FOUNDATION Fieldbus, HART and WirelessHART technologies to serve as the centerpiece of its digital transformation.

The company’s operations are extensive. In addition to its world-class, highly competitive manufacturing technology for producing manmade chemicals, it boasts complete industry chain manufacturing technology of Nylon-12 and citral, as well as a complete C2/C3/C4 petrochemical industry chain. Wanhua Chemical Group currently has manufacturing bases in Yantai, Ningbo, Zhuhai, Meishan and Fujian, China, as well as locations in more than 10 countries and regions including Europe, Middle East, U.S., Japan and India. But it’s the digital transformation of its Wanhua Yantai Industrial Park that has earned it the honor of FieldComm Group's 2022 Plant of the Year.

“We have five sites in China and Yantai is the largest,” says Lee, Caihua, director of instrumentation for Wanhua Chemical’s Yantai Industrial Park, via a translator. “We also have a plant in Europe and other office locations all over the globe.”

The installation of FieldComm Group’s technologies has been the basis of the plant’s improved operations, maintenance and asset productivity in real-time applications. In addition, FieldComm Group’s technology has helped the company save tens of millions of dollars in operational costs ranging from reductions in configuration and commissioning times to remote maintenance capabilities.

Instrumentation with FieldComm Group’s technologies is prominent throughout the Yantai plant. “Wanhua Chemical’s Yantai Industrial Park features about 30 sets of production equipment with a production scale of nearly 500,000 I/O points,” says Lee. “Intelligent measuring instruments and valve positioners in the plant make full use of FieldComm Group’s FOUNDATION Fieldbus, HART and WirelessHART technology, which operate in up to 180,000 I/O points and account for 96% of the analog instruments and valves.”

Wanhua Chemical uses two Emerson AMS Asset Optimizers to cover the total number of points.

Among its four major industries, Wanhua Chemical has installed tens of thousands of FieldComm Group's FOUNDATION Fieldbus and HART instruments and valves in its facilities, according to Wanhua Chemical Group representatives. Among them are:

  • Polyurethanes (5,000 FOUNDATION Fieldbus and 30,000 HART)
  • Petrochemicals (4,000 FOUNDATION Fieldbus and 56,000 HART)
  • Fine chemicals (70,000 HART)
  • Emerging materials (15,000 HART)

In Yantai Industrial Park, Wanhua Chemical uses more than 50 sets of Emerson’s AMS Device Manager featuring FOUNDATION Fieldbus, HART and WirelessHART. AMS is used for startup and commissioning, online monitoring, predictive maintenance and valve diagnostics.

Adding value and savings to operations

Wanhua Chemical’s representatives state there have been numerous value-added benefits to using FieldComm Group’s technologies at Yantai Industrial Park. “Intelligent instruments with FOUNDATION Fieldbus and HART can provide valuable health information about themselves, which can be well integrated with control and asset management systems to save time during commissioning and throughout the plant’s life,” Lee says. “By using FOUNDATION Fieldbus and HART instruments and AMS, [we] reduced commissioning time, and provide more efficient and dependable operations.”

Among the value-added benefits, according to Wanhua Chemical:

  • Intelligent instruments were configured with FieldComm Group technology, which eliminated the need to go into the field for configuration. The streamlined process saved 60% on time and reduced potential risks to workers in the field.
  • Device commissioning was faster and easier, and saved 30% on commissioning time.
  • Routine field maintenance was reduced because a “healthy status” can be indicated online;
  • With FOUNDATION Fieldbus and HART predictive maintenance implemented, instrument failed alerts and shutdowns were reduced.
  • Online valve diagnostics improved plant maintenance.

Configuration costs controlled

Thanks to the 60% reduction in configuration time, Lee says the plant saved an estimated $3 million. In addition to configuring instrumentation from the control room, the company was able to create its own user configuration templates for the same type of instruments.

Meanwhile, bulk transfer user configurations could also be bulk edited in the research and testing phase. The majority of these savings are from bulk/automated configuration of installed devices from predefined templates. This also helps ensure consistency of configuration for similar devices.

Commissioning times cut

With control systems and instrumentation often on the project’s critical time path, reductions in commissioning time map directly to faster time to production and associated earnings. The commissioning time reduction resulted in $14 million in savings, according to Lee. Those savings are mainly the result of loop tests that can be done with a HART communicator. Interlock verification further reduced loop checkout time by using HART communicatons. In addition, bulk valve diagnostics and health curve establishment could be performed before startup.

According to Wanhua Chemical’s representatives, intelligent commissioning of the instruments enabled the site acceptance test (SAT) period to complete tens of thousands of devices per day. The control system helped engineers identify errors in configuration or in instruments themselves, so they only needed one week to complete their work. 

Maintenance gets predictive

technologies at the Yantai facility is that devices are monitored online, in real-time, so unhealthy devices can be found easily. Routine maintenance frequency was reduced by half, according to Lee.

When it comes to predictive maintenance, Lee indicated that potential shutdown instances caused by failed instruments dropped from 42 in 2017 to only two in 2020.

The plant also reduced debugging and cyclic maintenance time by 80%, while remote access to advanced diagnostic functions help the staff perform pre-maintenance on equipment, according to Wanhua Chemical’s instrument department committee.

Smart terminals are connected to the distributed control system (DCS) or safety instrumented system (SIS) via FieldComm Group technology at the plant. The smart terminals can then achieve maximum use of management and control efficiency by using the intelligent equipment management platform.

In addition, maintenance personnel can view the status of individual equipment and conduct in-depth analysis through the management system. Based on this information, maintenance engineers can perform pre-maintenance to eliminate hidden dangers before problems occur.

For example, AMS Device Manager reported an alarm from a field device in an acrylic plant. The device is for SIS single-point interlocking. The device was replaced after notifying field engineers to bypass the process. A major hazard was found and resolved immediately, and an unscheduled shutdown was avoided.

Data on the equipment can also be quickly accessed by staff in other locations via industry-standard OPC communications.

“Not only [can] the plant’s field instrumentation engineers get the device’s internal information, but enterprise-level, full-time instrumentation engineers can get each device’s information via Asset Optimizer management platform using OPC,” explains John Wang, a China-based technical services engineer for FieldComm Group. “Enterprise instrumentation engineers can comprehensively monitor the fault diagnoses of all smart devices onsite, manage the overall failure rate of all brand instruments onsite, and assess the timely rate of fault elimination at present and for subsequent improvement.”

Using the AMS Device Manager system, instrument control engineers can configure field equipment and adjust transmitter ranges. Because the control system is fully compatible with the AMS Device Manager system, the control system can automatically detect equipment status and adjust control strategies accordingly. According to the company, all procedures are transparent.

Valve diagnostics are routine

There are several important benefits realized when it comes to valve diagnostics, Lee says. 

For key valves:

  • Online diagnostic can be performed every week;
  • Data analysis can be done every month; and
  • Maintenance plans are improved.

For importance valves:

  • Online diagnostic can be performed every month;
  • Data analysis can be done every other quarter; and
  • Maintenance plans are improved.

For general valves:

  • Online diagnostic can be based on the valve alert; and
  • Data analysis only needs to be done when there is a valve alert.

When all was said and done, Wanhua Chemical Yantai Industrial Park was fully fitted with FieldComm FOUNDATION Fieldbus, HART and WirelessHART instrumentation. Wanhua Chemical’s ratings on the “Intelligent Device Review” chart illustrates its technical and organizational adoption of these technologies, so their results should not be a surprise! The business benefits realized have set one of the world’s largest producers of chemical products up with a highly competitive operational advantage.

About the Author

Len Vermillion | Editor in Chief

Len Vermillion is editor-in-chief of Control.