HUG Discusses Wireless Plant of the Future

Dec. 8, 2010
The Wireless Plant of the Future

Press at the Honeywell User Group European meeting in Barcelona last month were invited to attend a round-table discussion on "The Wireless Plant of the Future" chaired and moderated by Michael Babb, in his role as editor of Control Engineering Europe. In a radical departure for a HUG meeting, Yokogawa was invited to attend, in the person of Toshi Hasegawa, a project leader in the Yokogawa Technology Marketing Department in Tokyo: plus Khalid Hussein of QAFCO, the Qatar Fertilizer Company, gave his view, from a user's perspective.

Hussein expressed the widest business case for wireless, citing the need for monitoring applications to expand immediately to encompass asset management, including valve and vibration monitoring, plus security using CCTV and personnel tracking. He used the example of a contractor who chose to take a short-cut across a restricted section of the plant, causing interference that resulted in a change to a manual valve setting. In conversations with other end users, he reported ideas for endless applications of wireless developing as concepts, particularly in the use of optical techniques and cameras for fire detection, flame or flare monitoring, and leak detection. Hussein wanted most of all to have one standard system on which users could standardize with confidence that it would be capable of expansion.

Babb invited Hasegawa to set the scene for the manufacturers in terms of why they felt ISA100 was the standard to use, which he described as desirable because it is "user- driven, suitable for both monitoring and control, future-proof, scalable and offering openness." The Honeywell presentation from Ray Rogowski, director of Global Marketing, and Diederick Mols, EMEA business manager, Industrial Wireless Solutions, was surprisingly low-key, explaining that only temperature and pressure transmitters, and a wireless adaptor for HART transmitters had been approved to ISA100.11a by Honeywell. The same low-key approach was reflected in comments from Jay Werb, of the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute, who could only advise on the products approved by the test houses working to WCI specs, rather than give information on the products in the pipeline.

Yokogawa test marketing

In separate discussions, Toshi Hasegawa explained that the Yokogawa decision to go along the ISA100 route had arisen after careful customer test-marketing of Yokogawa-installed sensor systems that used WirelessHART and then ISA100 communications. Hasegawa said that these customers expressed a distinct preference for the ISA100 system, citing the more reliable communications seen on the field tests, with the ability to use both star and mesh topologies. Yokogawa also feel that the backbone routing function, IPv6 addressing and multiprotocol support are important factors for ISA100.

From Honeywell, Mols repeated the suggestion that WirelessHART users are finding the battery life of the mesh network sensors near the gateway is much reduced because of frequent messaging, at a not insignificant replacement cost (for their proprietary battery packs). Battery life was claimed to be not as significant a problem for ISA100 networks. Possibly this will be a topic for users from both sides to comment on further.

In the HUG demo room and in other discussions at HUG, the wireless story was more upbeat. On display were ISA100-approved pressure and temperature transmitters from Yokogawa and Honeywell, talking to gateways from Honeywell and Nivis. Also in evidence were Yamatake pressure transmitters carrying out the same role, but these are not yet ISA100-certified. Level monitoring systems using Yokogawa pressure sensors were built into a simple pump control loop, using a gateway to control tank filling, and therefore showing wireless in a simple control application.

Mechanical pressure indicator gauges were being monitored by optical sensors that transmitted the measured data wirelessly back into the plant control systems. This was a product probably originating from the Cypress Envirosystems company, started when Harry Sim left Honeywell maybe two years ago.

Other HUG presentations announced that Honeywell BW Technologies will launch a new personal gas detector with ISA100 capability in 2011, as a five-gas personal alarm, wireless transmitter and personnel locator. Mols explained that this will be an important safety aspect of a major Middle-Eastern project, quoted as Shore Gas, providing alarms particularly to detect any high hydrogen sulfide levels. Honeywell is the MAC on this project, which is due for completion by end 2012.