Simplify, Standardize to Streamline Onsite Tasks

Jan. 26, 2015
Early attention to system flexibility and human-centered design increase the odds of efficient installation and commissioning—and a trouble-free start-up, too

The installation and commissioning phase of any automation project is where planning and design finally meet three-dimensional, application-specific reality. Valve meets pipe flange; screwdriver meets terminal strip. Just how efficiently the rollout proceeds is largely the result of all the planning and design work that's gone before. Thousands of earlier decisions—both large and small, for good or ill—will largely determine how smoothly this final project execution stage unfolds.

From a control and instrumentation point of view, installation and commissioning are all about efficiency and flexibility. Is the instrumentation and I/O infrastructure designed to be installed quickly, while minimizing the potential for errors? Have instrument technicians been given the tools they need to commission instruments and check loops as efficiently as possible? Is the automation system flexible enough to gracefully accommodate late engineering changes, or will incoming revisions throw the schedule (and budget) into a tailspin?

Human Centered Design illuminates new path forward

The often unfavorable answers to these questions, among others, first prompted Emerson some 10 years ago to investigate and then apply human-centered design to its products and systems. Based on the three directives of eliminating unnecessary work, reducing the complexity of technology, and embedding knowledge into technology, human-dentered design is now a cornerstone of the company's technology development process.

[pullquote]But the influence of human centered design is also apparent in the delivery of project services. For example, a virtual factory acceptance test (VFAT) that a user can perform from the comfort of his own desk is certainly a step toward eliminating unnecessary work and time (notably travel). But the implications of human centered design on project delivery are perhaps most apparent when hardware, instruments and software arrive on site, ready to join up with their real-world context.

If spearheaded by the Emerson project services organization, the various elements of a process automation project likely will arrive on site already optimized to minimize risk to schedule and to budget. Pre-configured cabinets complete with electronically marshalled I/O, together with wireless instrument networks, will be leveraged where practical to dramatically trim the cost and effort needed to install the I/O infrastructure.  Electronic Marshalling, for example, effectively reduces the number of screw terminations by up to 70% as well as eliminates the need for marshalling cabinets altogether. The need for fewer terminations also means less work and fewer opportunities for error. As one industry pundit observed, "It's hard to make a mistake on a task if you no longer have to do it."

Mitigating the effect of late I/O changes

Another key appeal of Electronic Marshalling with CHARMs technology is that if a new measurement point comes late to the project, even after installation has begun, the new instrument wire need simply be landed on any available termination pair in one of the standard I/O enclosures. The signal is then characterized as one of a wide breadth of analog and digital input and output types supported with CHARMs technology, including AI 4-20mA, AO 4-20mA, AI 0-10V, thermocouple, RTD, DI dry or NAMUR, DO high side, relay contact output, and isolated DI and DO for higher currents or higher VAC voltages. Other control system modifications needed to bring this new point into the automation architecture are limited to software; the hardware design itself need not be touched.

Wireless instruments, of course, effectively eliminate the need for traditional I/O altogether, connecting instead to a WirelessHART self-organizing mesh network.  And with the latest access point from Emerson, jointly developed with Cisco, WiFi and WirelessHART connectivity comes in the very same box. This enables the deployment of Mobile Worker applications that run on tablets, smartphones or other portable devices. With Mobile Worker applications loaded on their mobile devices, instrument techs can see what the operator sees from wherever they are located. They can proceed to commission instruments and verify the integrity of control loops without relying on walkie-talkie communications with a second tech back in the control room, effectively doubling productivity.

These are but a few of the ways that Emerson technology is helping to reduce project risk and budget. "We're addressing the entire project execution chain, starting with plant design and FEED, electronic data interchange, detailed engineering libraries, virtualization, and flexibility in the field," says Peter Zornio, chief strategic officer, Emerson Process Management. "We can dramatically revolutionize the project execution process."

Service that transcends technology

But for some customers of the Emerson project services team, it's not the technology they remember. It's the professional and personal relationships, and the commitment to deliver. For example, at the liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals that line the coastline of Qatar, some 100 million standard cubic feet per day of jetty "boil off" gas was once flared each and every day, a by-product of the tanker loading process. But not any longer. Qatargas successfully started up in October, 2014, its Jetty Boil-off Gas (JBOG) Recovery Project in Ras Laffan Industrial City, a $1 billion investment designed to eliminate flaring and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Emerson, a longtime partner of Qatargas, was a key supplier of electronic controls and valves for the project, according to Michael Koo, project manager, Qatargas.

"We engaged with Emerson at the beginning of the project in 2010," Koo says. "Several engineers from Emerson worked with our team in Houston along with Fluor while we were doing the detailed engineering drawing and developing the concept of the electronic controls system. As a result of the close working relationship with Emerson we were able to overcome many issues relating to the existing systems." Further, due to the excellent long-term relationship with both Emerson and ConocoPhillips (a Qatargas shareholder), the JBOG project team also was able to test one of its valves at the Emerson Innovation Center flow lab in Marshalltown, Iowa.

One of the biggest challenges of the project was tying in the existing systems of the off-plot areas with the new JBOG Recovery systems, Koo says. Effectively, this means that the project team had to split its work into manageable pieces that could be performed at off hours in between tanker fills. "Emerson worked diligently with the project management team and the construction contractor's field personnel as well as the Qatargas maintenance personnel to ensure that the installation and testing of the interface systems were completed without incident and within the shipping windows."

"As in any project there were issues," Koo admits. "However, Emerson and the project team worked together to resolve them."

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