Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Myths About Process Switches

general purpose switch for temperature pressure differential pressure
Example of a general purpose switch for industrial use
Courtesy United Electric Controls
We may have developed an obsession with data and information. Understatement, right? Whether a process variable is high or low no longer is satisfactory. We want to know how high, how low, how long, how fast is it changing, and more. In many cases, this is useful information that can be applied toward goals of safety and efficiency. Let us not, however, overlook the possibility that some facets of an operation are best served by that old soldier, the process switch.

Process switches are readily available for temperature, pressure, and differential pressure in ranges to suit almost any application. They are rugged time and field proven devices designed to do one thing extremely well. Process switches will reliably and instantly change the state of their mechanical switch when the process value reaches their setpoint. Once properly installed and set, process switches require little, if any, maintenance and can provide extended periods of reliable service.

United Electric Controls, globally recognized leader in the manufacture of process switches for temperature, pressure, and differential pressure, authored an informative piece that debunks some myths about process switches. The piece is included below and makes interesting reading.

Establishing the best instrumentation and control layout for a process benefits from careful consideration of many factors. Share your requirements and challenges with process measurement and control specialists, combining you own process knowledge and experience with their current product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Standalone Industrial Process Controllers

process controller digital PID with outputs
Standalone process controller with
integrated input processing, display,
and outputs.
Courtesy Yokogawa
The regulation of temperature is a common operation throughout many facets of modern life. Environmental control in commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings, even residential spaces, uses the regulation of temperature as the primary measure of successful operation. There are also countless applications for the control of temperature found throughout manufacturing, processing, and research. Everywhere that temperature needs to be regulated, a device or method is needed that will control the delivery of a heating or cooling means.

For industrial process applications, the temperature control function is found in two basic forms. It can reside as an operational feature within a programmable logic controller or other centralized process control device or system. Another form is a standalone process temperature controller, with self-contained input, output, processing, and user interface. A temperature switch could be considered as a rudimentary, yet very effective standalone temperature controller. Depending upon the needs of the application, one may have an advantage over the other. The evolution of both forms, integrated and standalone, has resulted in each offering consistently greater levels of functionality.

There are two basic means of temperature control, regardless of the actual device used. Open loop control delivers a predetermined amount of output action without regard to the process condition. Its simplicity makes open loop control economical. Best applications for this type of control action are processes that are well understood and that can tolerate a potentially wide variation in temperature. A change in the process condition will not be detected, or responded to, by open loop control. The second temperature control method, and the one most employed for industrial process control, is closed loop.

Closed loop control relies on an input that represents the process condition, an algorithm or internal mechanical means to produce an output action related to the process condition, and some type of output device that delivers the output action. Closed loop controllers require less process knowledge on the part of the operator than open loop to regulate temperature. The controllers rely on the internal processing and comparison of input (process temperature) to a setpoint value. The difference between the two is the deviation or error. Generally, a greater error will produce a greater change in the output of the controller, delivering more heating or cooling to the process and driving the process temperature toward the setpoint.

The current product offering for standalone closed loop temperature controllers ranges from very simple on/off regulators to highly developed products with multiple inputs and outputs, as well as many auxiliary functions and communications. The range of product features almost assures a unit is available for every application. Evaluating the staggering range of products available and producing a good match between process requirements and product capabilities can be facilitated by reaching out to a process control products specialist. Combine your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solution options.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Diaphragm Seals For Protection of Process and Pressure Instruments

diaphragm seal for industrial process pressure sensor or gauge
One of many diaphragm seal variants
Courtesy Wika
Pressure measurement is a common element industrial operations or control systems. Fluid processing can often involve media that is potentially harmful to pressure sensing devices. The media may be corrosive to the sensor material, or other media properties may impact the performance or usable life of the instrument. In process control environments, diaphragm seals play a role in protecting items like pressure sensors from damage by process fluids. The diaphragm seal is a flexible membrane that seals across the connecting path to a sensor and isolates the sensor from the process media. System pressure crosses the barrier without inhibition, enabling accurate measurement, but the process fluid does not. Typical materials composing diaphragm seals are elastomers, with a wide variety of specific materials available to accommodate almost every application.

In the operating principle of the diaphragm seal, the sealed chamber created between the diaphragm and the instrument is filled with an appropriate fluid, allowing for the transfer of pressure from the process media to the protected sensor. The seals are attached to the process by threaded, open flange, sanitary, or other connections.  Diaphragm seals are sometimes referred to as chemical seals or gauge guards. Stainless steel, Hastelloy, Monel, Inconel, and titanium are used in high pressure environments, and some materials are known to work better when paired with certain chemicals.

Sanitary processes, such as food, beverage, and pharmaceuticals, use diaphragm seals to prevent the accumulation of process fluid in pressure ports, a possible source of contamination. If such a buildup were to occur, such as milk invading and lodging in a port on a pressure gauge, the resulting contamination compromises the quality and purity of successive batches. Extremely pure process fluids, like ultra-pure water, could be contaminated by the metal surface of a process sensor. Some pneumatic systems rely on the elimination of even the smallest pressure fluctuations, and diaphragm seals prevent those by ensuring the separation of the process materials from the sensors.

Diaphragm seals are not without some application concerns, and devices are now built to address and counter many potential issues related to the use of diaphragm seals with process monitoring instruments and equipment. Products seek to eliminate any and all dead space, allow for continuous process flow, and are self-cleaning thanks to continuous flow design. Some high pressure seals come equipped with anti-clogging features, accomplished by the elimination of internal cavities while protecting gauges. Multi-purpose seals reduce temperature influence and improve instrument performance while pinpointing and diffusing areas of high stress. These pre-emptive measures result in longer instrument life-cycles and improved performance while ensuring protection from corrosion.

There are numerous options and available diaphragm seal variants. Share your application specifics with a product specialist, combining your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Q&A for Ultrasonic Level Switches

ultrasonic level switches
Ultrasonic level switches with single
and multiple level measurement points
Courtesy Magnetrol International
Ultrasonic level switches appear, at first glance, to be a renamed version of a vibrating tuning fork level switch. They have a similar appearance and tank mounting scheme, but a closer look at the technology of the two instruments reveals that they rely on different operating principles to indicate when liquid level reaches their fixed switch point.

A previous article , with an accompanying video, provided some comparison between the two detection methods. Here is the operational difference summarized. A vibrating tuning fork device monitors the resonant frequency of the vibrating fork and responds when the frequency shifts due to immersion of the fork in liquid. An ultrasonic level switch transmits an ultrasonic pulse across a gap, measuring the intensity of the received signal and determining whether the signal passed through liquid (high level received signal) or air (low level received signal). While both technologies are effective, the ultrasonic level switch can be applied over a wider range of liquid density and does not require recalibration or adjustment for a change in media density.

Magnetrol International, globally recognized innovator in level measurement technology and instruments, recently answered a few application questions in their blog about their Echotel ultrasonic switches. The questions, along with answers penned by Magnetrol's product manager Tom Kemme, are shared here.

Question: Can ECHOTEL be used in applications that have entrained air?

Answer: Yes, ECHOTEL ultrasonic switches can be used in applications that have entrained air. All ECHOTEL gap switches feature a tip-sensitive transducer that provides superior performance over side gap transducers that are offered by other companies. Side gap transducers allow gas bubbles to adhere to the upper surface of the gap, which cause false dry gap alarms. Tip sensitive transducers allow these bubbles to pass through the gap. Applications with severe turbulence or entrained air should use the Model 961 switch, which offers a time delay adjustment. Up to 10 seconds of delay can be used to disregard entrained air and reliably detect the true liquid level.

Question: We are considering adding level alarm switches to our process to provide high-high level indication in several tanks. Instead of switches with relay outputs, we are considering the current shift output. What are the advantages of a current shift output?

Answer: Current shift electronics simply shift the current output from 8 mA when the level switch is in the normal operation, to 16 mA to indicate a level alarm. ECHOTEL Model 961 also has a user selectable fault signal of 3.6 or 22 mA. Current shift switches are 2-wire loop powered, which allows them to be offered with intrinsically safe approvals. This allows these switches to be put into hazardous area locations at a lower cost since rigid conduit is not necessary. Since current shift switches provide constant indication of either a normal (8 mA), alarm (16 mA), or a fault (3.6 or 22 mA) condition, they are sometimes referred to as a transmitter for the price of a switch.

Share your level measurement requirements and challenges with process measurement specialists, combining your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Industrial Control Valves

cutaway view of industrial control valve plug valve
Cutaway view of industrial control valve
Courtesy Cashco
Control valves are at the heart of almost every fluid based industrial control process. Understanding their basic operation and function is essential for the process engineer, operator, or other stakeholder. A previous blog provided a good information source for those wishing to learn about control valves or review and hone their technical knowledge. The applications for which control valves are used seem uncountable in their variety, but common operating traits of control valves enable their use in every one.

Cashco, globally recognized manufacturer of industrial control products including control valves, regulators, controllers, pressure/vacuum relief vents, and flame and detonation arrestors, will be exhibiting at Interphex in Booth 3464 on March 21 through March 23 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Knowledgeable personnel will be on hand to discuss your industrial control applications and challenges. If your plans include attendance at Interphex this year, take advantage of the opportunity to speak face to face with representatives of an industry leader.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

E-Book on Fired Heaters and Combustion Efficiency

industrial equipment in high power boiler room
Modern high power boiler room
Yokogawa, globally recognized leader in a number of process control fields, has authored an e-book which provides useful insight into how operators of combustion based equipment and systems can improve efficiency and enhance safety by employing modern technology.

[All quoted passages in this article are from the Yokogawa e-book]

The Yokogawa e-book Combustion & Fired Heater Optimization offers “an analytical approach to improving safe & efficient operations” related to the use of combustion & fired heaters in the process industries. Through presenting an overview of combustion sources, such as furnaces and fired heaters, the book states that while “fired heaters pose a series of problems from safety risks to poor energy efficiency,” those problems “represent an opportunity for improved safety, control, energy efficiency and environmental compliance.” Fired heaters “account for 37% of the U.S. manufacturing energy end use.” Tunable Diode Laser Spectrometer (TDLS) technology helps mitigate safety concerns by “measuring average gas concentrations across the high temperature radiant sections.”

The book states that the four main concerns applicable to fired heaters are asset sustainability, inefficient operations, the operator skillset, and safety and compliance. Outdated diagnostics and controls have placed unnecessary stress on operator response, making sustainability of fired heaters difficult. The emissions of fired heaters are generally higher than designed, and can be coupled with control schemes for firing rates little changed over the past 40 years. Operators, generally, lack a clear understanding of design, and even engineering principles of heat transfer are not typically included in education related to fired heaters. Confounding the situation further, “many natural draft heaters do not meet this [safety regulation] guideline with existing instrumentation and control systems.” These complications combine to form a noticeable problem Yokogawa’s technology hopes to address. The company notes how the fired heater relies on natural draft instead of forced air, meaning the heaters “typically lack the degree of automation applied to other process units in the plant.” Offering a full detail of both the control state of most fired heaters and their systems defines the process situation currently considered common in the field, while emphasizing high excess air as providing a “false sense of safety.”

The proposed TDLS system allows for the measurement of “both the upper and lower conditions in a fired heater” by “simultaneously controlling the fuel and air supply based on fast sample intervals.” Safer burner monitoring and heater efficiency results from the TDLS measurements of CO, CH4, and O2. The optimization of air flow control reduces “O2 concentration … from 6% to 2%” and increases the furnace’s thermal efficiency. Combustion control is achieved by managing fuel flow and the arch draft. The TDLS integrated system works in tandem with already established logic solver systems in the plant. The TDLS technology works as a non-contacting measurement with “full diagnostic capability” and offers “distinct advantages over single point in situ analyzers” via reduction of false readings. Specific gas measurements, fast response time, optical measurement technology, and “high and variable light obstruction” are featured components of the TDLS system highlighted to show the technology’s durability and flexibility. The longevity and reliability of the system is showcased by how the TDLS combustion management system has been operational in a major refinery since 2010. The percentage of excess O2 in sample fired heaters has decreased by 1% to 1.5%. Measurements by the TDLS system have been verified by other gas analyzers. The furnace conditions in the plant are more efficiently monitored and controlled. As a result, the furnace in the functional environment is “now near its optimum operating point, using minimum excess air.”
Yokogawa presents a process-related problem, then details the key points of the problem while unpacking the causes. The e-book introduces Yokogawa’s technology, explains the mechanics, and demonstrates how TDLS acts as a solution to the problem, supported by a tangible example. The book offers great insight for both the operational principles of fired heaters and a new technology designed to maximize efficiency in the control process.

The e-book is included below. More detail is available from product applicationspecialists, with whom you should share your combustion and fired heater related challenges. Combining your own facilities and process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise will lead to effective solutions.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Consolidated Tool Kit for Sensor Maintenance

temperature sensor and transmitter repair kit
Configured repair kit contains everything needed
Courtesy United Electric Cotnrols
Keeping things going, working, no matter your industry, is a continuous challenge. In process measurement and control operations, sensors and transmitters perform an essential function that often calls for immediate repair upon failure. Being properly prepared by having any needed parts on hand empowers technicians to quickly and effectively return sensor assemblies or transmitters to operation.

United Electric offers their "Sensor Box™" a kit that is preloaded with everything needed to effect temperature sensor and transmitter repairs in the field. The kit keeps everything needed in one spot, ready to go.

The video shows the convenience with which a technician can use the kit to make field repairs. Share your temperature measurement and process control challenges with product application experts, combining your own process knowledge with their product expertise to develop effective solutions.