Emerson Leads in Wireless in Europe

Feb. 16, 2011
Emerson strives to enjoy a leadership position in technology and innovation

Bob Sharp, president of Emerson Process Management in Europe, introduced the company’s European press event last month with the assertion that "Emerson strives to enjoy a leadership position in technology and innovation" ―and it seems that European customers have responded to recent developments with significant projects testing and adopting electronic marshalling using Emerson’s CHARMS I/O, quoted as giving faster start-ups, easier engineering and reduced capital.

Another significant factor for the Emerson European marketing operation is that, according to Sharp, "Customers have embraced wireless," with 20% of the booming Emerson sales demand for wireless products coming out of Europe in 2010. Since the Emerson wireless bookings for the fiscal year to end September were $76 million, then this puts the company’s wireless business in Europe at $15million.

Wireless Is Now in Control

Bob Karschnia, global vice president for wireless, commented, "The wireless adoption rate is accelerating as users gain confidence and find new ways to put the technology to work. They started by using wireless to solve challenging measurement problems, where traditional wired technology was too difficult or expensive; then they expanded its use to mainstream monitoring applications. Now we’re seeing a similar pattern as our customers extend the benefits of wireless to challenging control applications."

Karschnia presented the Emerson Smart Wireless techniques, using the WirelessHART IEC62591 standard as proven and suitable for use on control applications. The pedigree behind this, against the arguments offered by the exponents of ISA100.11a, is that the installed base of these sensors, built to the IEC standard, exceeds 1400 sites, with accumulated sensor operational time in excess of 300 million hours. Many major customers have installed and are now using Emerson WirelessHART systems: a slide of selected world user logos quoted companies such as BP, Bord Gais, Chevron, INEOS, Petrobras, Pemex and Statoil in petrochemicals; Croda, Novartis and Syngenta in fine chemicals and pharma; Rusal and Dubai Aluminium; Boise paper and CalPortland building materials.

Legacy Wireless Systems

There is as yet a very small installed base of the 'competitive' ISA100.11a systems, with no equivalent international standard. After many years of supplying their legacy wireless sensors, pre-dating any ISA100 discussions, Honeywell only claimed 500 million hours of sensor operation, in an INSIDER interview with their Diederick Mols last October.

"Besides gaining cost-effective insights by using Smart Wireless to monitor processes and equipment, users can now also exploit the advantages of this technology for better control of difficult applications," said Karschnia.

“Northstar Bluescope Steel replaced traditional wired instruments with Emerson wireless technology to improve furnace control at its mini-mill in Delta, Ohio. The steel mill's old, hard-wired network had hundreds of wiring junctions and suffered frequent measurement failures in the harsh environment, with its high electromagnetic field, flying slag, vibration, moisture and temperatures as high as 1,650 °C. With wireless measurements, however, improved control and reduced downtime enabled the mill to boost production by as much as one batch per day, cut maintenance costs by $190,000 annually and improve worker safety."

Major oil companies were also quoted as using Emerson wireless systems for steam-injection control on more than 2300 remote wells: These typically need to be instrumented quickly to maximize oilfield performance. The harsh environment at the wellhead, including high ambient temperatures, sandstorms, no local power and remote locations made traditional solutions unreliable, hard to maintain or simply impractical. According to Karschnia, Emerson's wireless technology provides a cost-effective way to overcome these challenges quickly and with fewer potential points of failure than with wired solutions. The resulting improved control has enabled the companies to avoid costly and inefficient over-steaming.

"More and more users are finding that expanded use of wireless beyond simple monitoring applications enhances their ability to build and run safe, efficient, profitable facilities," said Karschnia. "It's no wonder the technology has so rapidly entered the process automation mainstream, with more than 1400 sites already using wireless networks based on the IEC 62591 standard. The ease of adding measurements for control can save as much as 60% on installation time, and the flexible architecture makes it easy to accommodate late design changes. There are also fewer components to install and maintain, and fewer potential points of failure."

Technology improvements

Continuing technology improvements by Dust Networks further strengthen the case for wider use of wireless beyond monitoring and into the realm of challenging control applications. In addition to one-second update rates and redundant gateways, cybersecurity measures built into the Dust Networks SmartMesh IA-510 wireless sensor networking, as used in Emerson Smart Wireless, have recently been certified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to meet the requirements of Federal Information Processing Standard 197 (FIPS-197). "Data security is a critical requirement for many wireless sensing applications. Achieving FIPS-197 certification for SmartMesh IA-510 is just the latest example of Dust Networks' on-going commitment to delivering complete wireless sensor networking solutions," commented Brenda Glaze, vice president of sales and marketing for Dust Networks. This certification, plus the recent Wurldtech Achilles Level 1 Certification enable customers to have even greater confidence that the Emerson wireless networks are safe and secure.