Monday, June 26, 2017

Sometimes the Simple Solution Is the Best

metal tube variable area flowmeter
This metal tube variable area flow meter is reliable,
accurate, and requires little maintenance
Photo courtesy Brooks Instrument
For process control and commercial or industrial applications, there are numerous methods of flow measurement from which to choose. Technologies range from very simple applications of physical principles to deployment of very specialized electronics and sensors. The available range of accuracy, response, and cost is quite broad, with a general expectation that higher cost will deliver better performance and accuracy.

Making the best instrument selection for a flow measurement application should include an assessment of what the operators really need in order to safely and effectively run the process or perform the task related to the measurement of fluid flow. Installing instrumentation with capabilities far beyond what is required is almost certainly a waste of financial resources, but may also have an unexpected impact on operators. Through the generation of data that, while accurate, does not provide any actionable information about process condition, operators can be misled, similar to the occurrence of a false or nuisance alarm. Some applications call for high accuracy, some do not. Define your informational needs and select instruments that will meet those needs.

There is a large array of applications that can be satisfied with simpler, less costly measurement technology. These devices often employ turbines or vanes to produce an indication of flow rate. Incorporated into some of the instruments is a means to visually observe the flowing liquid to verify color and clarity. Simple devices sometimes are intended only to indicate the presence of fluid flow, and whether the flow rate is high or low. Configurations are available that allow insertion into lines under pressure (hot tap) through a full port ball valve. Other variants with combinations of features and capabilities abound.

The selection range is enormous, so define your minimum needs first, then search for a compatible product. Your search can be enhanced by contacting an instrumentation specialist. Combining your process expertise with their broad product knowledge will produce effective solutions.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Heat Processing of Industrial Fluids

gas fired steam boilers in industrial facility
Steam produced by gas fired industrial boilers is a
commonly applied means of delivering heat energy
Heat, as an entity, was not always something seen as a partially visible potential indicator of changing weather patterns. The now outdated caloric theory portrayed heat as a measure of an invisible fluid called the caloric, typifying it as a solely physical property. Thermodynamics have surpassed the caloric theory and rendered it obsolete, but the understanding and manipulation of heat in industrial settings, especially pertaining to fluids, is a central part of some of the world’s most important industries. Specifically, the measurement and control of heat related to fluid processing is a vital industrial function, and relies on regulating the heat content of a fluid to achieve a desired temperature and outcome.

The manipulation of a substance’s heat content is based on the central principle of specific heat, which is a measure of heat energy content per unit of mass. Heat is a quantified expression of a system’s internal energy. Though heat is not considered a fluid, it behaves, and can be manipulated, in some similar respects. Heat “flows” from points of higher temperature to those of lower temperature, just as a fluid will flow from a point of higher pressure to one of lower pressure.

A heat exchanger provides an example of how the temperature of two fluids can be manipulated to regulate the flow or transfer of heat. Despite the design differences in heat exchanger types, the basic rules and objectives are the same. Heat energy from one fluid is passed to another across a barrier that prevents contact and mixing of the two fluids. By regulating temperature and flow of one stream, an operator can exert control over the heat content, or temperature, of another. These flows can either be gases or liquids. Heat exchangers raise or lower the temperature of these streams by transferring heat between them.

Recognizing the heat content of a fluid as a representation of energy helps with understanding how the moderation of energy content can be vital to process control. Controlling temperature in a process can also provide control of reactions among process components, or physical properties of fluids that can lead to desired or improved outcomes.

Heat can be added to a system in a number of familiar ways. Heat exchangers enable the use of steam, gas, hot water, oil, and other fluids to deliver heat energy. Other methods may employ direct contact between a heated object (such as an electric heating element) or medium and the process fluid. While these means sound different, they all achieve heat transfer by applying at least one of three core transfer mechanisms: conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction involves the transfer of heat energy through physical contact among materials. Shell and tube heat exchangers rely on the conduction of heat by the tube walls to transfer energy between the fluid inside the tube and the fluid contained within the shell. Convection relates to heat transfer due to the movement of fluids, the mixing of fluids with differing temperature. Radiant heat transfer relies on electromagnetic waves and does not require a transfer medium, such as air or liquid. These central explanations are the foundation for the various processes used to regulate systems in industrial control environments.

The manner in which heat is to be applied or removed is an important consideration in the design of a process system. The ability to control temperature and rate at which heat is transferred in a process depends in large part on the methods, materials, and media used to accomplish the task. Selecting and properly applying the best suited controls, instruments and equipment is a key element of successful process operation. Share your challenges with application experts, combining your own process knowledge and experience with their product expertise to develop effective solutions.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Valves for LNG and CNG Operations

high pressure valve intended for use with natural gas
Valve specially designed for gas extraction operations
has integral bypass which equalizes pressure across the
valve prior to opening the main line, reducing torque
requirements and  piping stress.
Courtesy Habonim
The production and distribution of natural gas presents operators with substantial logistical, safety, and physical challenges. Maintaining flow control, containing, and dispensing of natural gas, CNG, and LNG are hazardous endeavors requiring special equipment configuration throughout the supply chain.

Source and pipeline operations are faced with high pressure and extreme working environments. At various points along the distribution path, valves will be needed to regulate or direct flow and isolate portions of the system for safety or service. Emergency shutdown valves must be configured and installed to provide failure-proof reliability when called upon to operate. Transportation containers and equipment will utilize specialized valves adapted for the pressure, temperature, and reliability requirements of the application and industry. Additionally, some may need to survive fire conditions without failure.

Fueling stations for compressed natural gas employ valves that will endure cold temperatures produced by gas expansion, plus dynamic pressure cycling. Bubble tight shutoff is necessary to maintain safety.

Liquified natural gas (LNG) presents many of the same application challenges as pressurized gas, with the added element of cryogenic temperatures.

All of these applications can be adequately served with a properly selected and configured valve and actuator. Share your fluid flow control and valve challenges of all types with application specialists. The combination of your process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise will produce an effective solution.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Water Quality Analysis – Constituent Survey Part 3

industrial water quality represented as bubbles
Water quality can be a concern for process input or effluent
What we know as “water” can consist of many non-H2O components in addition to pure water. This three part series has touched on some of the constituents of water that are of interest to various industrial processors. The first installment reviewed dissolved oxygen and chloride. The second article covered sulfates, sodium, and ammonia. 

To conclude the three part series on water quality analysis in process control related industrial applications we examine silica, another element which in sufficient quantities can become a confounding variable in water for industrial use. In natural settings, silica, or silicon dioxide, is a plentiful compound. Its presence in water provides a basis for some corrosion-inhibiting products, as well as conditioners and detergents. Problems arise, however, when high concentrates of silica complicate industrial processes which are not designed to accommodate elevated levels. Specifically, silica is capable of disrupting processes related to boilers and turbines. In environments involving high temperature, elevated pressure, or both, silica can form crystalline deposits on machinery surfaces. This inhibits the operation of turbines and also interferes with heat transfer. These deposits can result in many complications, ranging through process disruption, decreased efficiency, and resources being expended for repairs.

The silica content in water used in potentially affected processes needs to be sufficiently low in order to maintain rated function and performance. Silica analyzers provide continuous measurement and monitoring of silica levels. The analyzers detect and allow mitigation of silica in the initial stages of raw material acquisition or introduction to prevent undue disruption of the process. Additionally, a technique called power steam quality monitoring allows for the aforementioned turbine-specific inhibition – related to silica conglomerates reducing efficacy and physical movement – to be curtailed without much issue. The feedwater filtration couples with a low maintenance requirement, resulting in reduced downtime of analytic sequences and a bit of increased peace of mind for the technical operator.

While silica and the other compounds mentioned in this series are naturally occurring, the support systems in place to expertly control the quality of water is the most basic requirement for harvesting one of the earth’s most precious resources for use. As a matter of fact, the identification and control of compounds in water – both entering the industrial process and exiting the industrial process – demonstrates key tenets of process control fundamentals: precision, accuracy, durability, and technological excellence paired with ingenuity to create the best outcome not just one time, but each time.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

New Pulsar R86 Non-contact Radar Level Transmitter From Magnetrol

non-contact radar level transmitter
Magnetrol's new non-contact radar level transmitter,,
Pulsar R86
Courtesy Magnetrol
Level measurement is a part of countless industrial processes and installations. Accurate measurement of contained solids or liquid enhances safety and operational efficiency, both of which contribute to the bottom line.

Magnetrol, globally recognized innovator in flow and level measurement, recently released its latest version of non-contact radar level measuring instruments. The Pulsar R86 transmitter operates in the 26GHz range, delivering a smaller wavelength with improved resolution, smaller antenna, and a narrower beam. Other unique innovations have been incorporated into the instrument to simplify installation and application.

The R86 is suitable for a broad range of applications across almost every industry. On board diagnostics are incrementally advanced to provide best performance and deliver the information needed to maintain proper operation.

The latest information on the Pulsar R86 is included below. Reach out to process measurement specialists and share your measurement challenges and requirements. Combining your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise will result in an effective solution.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Water Quality Analysis – Constituent Survey (Part 2)

bubbles in water
Water can contain many contaminants
It would be difficult to understate the role and importance of water in industrial processing, even our own biological existence. In the first installment of this series, the roles of dissolved oxygen and chlorides were covered.

Continuing the examination of water quality monitoring in municipal and industrial processes, another key variable which requires monitoring for industrial water use is sulfate. Sulfate is a combination of sulfur and oxygen, salts of sulfuric acid. Similarly to chlorides, they can impact water utilization processes due to their capability for corrosion. The power generation industry is particularly attuned to the role of sulfates in their steam cycle, as should be any boiler operator. Minerals can concentrate in steam drums and accelerate corrosion. Thanks to advancements in monitoring technology, instruments are available which monitor for both chlorides (covered in the previous installment in this series) and sulfates with minimal supervision needed by the operator, ensuring accurate detection of constituent levels outside of an acceptable range. Ionic separation technologies precisely appraise the amount of sulfate ions in the stream, allowing for continuous evaluation and for corrective action to be taken early-on, avoiding expensive repairs and downtime.

Another substance worthy of measurement and monitoring in process water is sodium. Pure water production equipment, specifically cation exchange units, can be performance monitored with an online sodium analyzer. Output from the cation bed containing sodium, an indication of deteriorating performance, can be diverted and the bed regenerated. Steam production and power generation operations also benefit from sodium monitoring in an effort to combat corrosion in turbines, steam tubes, and other components. Sodium analyzers are very sensitive, able to detect trace levels.

Ammonia is comprised of nitrogen and hydrogen and, while colorless, carries a distinct odor. Industries such as agriculture utilize ammonia for fertilizing purposes, and many other specializations, including food processing, chemical synthesis, and metal finishing, utilize ammonia for their procedural and product-oriented needs. An essential understanding of ammonia, however, includes the fact that the chemical is deadly to many forms of aquatic life. Removing ammonia from industrial wastewater is a processing burden of many industries due to the environmental toxicity.

Methods for removing ammonia from wastewater include a biological treatment method called ‘conventional activated sludge’, aeration, sequencing batch reactor, and ion exchange. Several methods exist for in-line or sample based measurement of ammonia concentration in water. Each has particular procedures, dependencies, and limitations which must be considered for each application in order to put the most useful measurement method into operation.

As water is an essential part of almost every facet of human endeavor and the environment in which we all dwell, the study and application of related analytics is an important component of many water based processes. The variety of compounds which can be considered contaminants or harmful elements when dissolved or contained in water presents multiple challenges for engineers and process operators.

The detection and measurement of water constituents can pose challenges to plant operators. Share your requirements with instrumentation experts, and combine your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to formulate an effective solution.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Water Quality Analysis – Constituent Survey (Part 1)

wastewater sewage treatment plant aerial view
Water quality analysis is utilized at sewage treatment plants,
but at many other industrial facilities, too.
Of all the raw materials available for human consumption – aside from the air we breathe – the most vital component of life on earth is water. In addition to the global need for humans to drink water in order to survive, the use of water is essential in a myriad of industries relating to process control. Whether the goal is the production or monitoring of pure water for industrial use, or the processing of wastewater, the ability to measure the presence and level of certain chemical constituents of water is necessary for success.

In order to use water properly, industrial professionals combine state of the art analyzers with technical expertise to evaluate water quality for use or disposal. Two essential values of process control are ensuring elements of a control system are accurate and secure, and, furthermore, that they are accurate and secure for each product every time. By properly vetting water in industry, engineers and other personnel in fields such as pharmaceuticals, chemical, food & beverage, brewing, power, and microelectronics are able to maintain standards of production excellence and conform with regulatory requirements related to water quality.

The amount of dissolved oxygen present in water can correlate with the degree of movement at an air-water interface, also being impacted by pressure, temperature, and salinity. Excessive or deficient dissolved oxygen levels in industrial process waters may have an impact on process performance or end product quality. Likely, the most common application for dissolved oxygen measurement is in the evaluation of wastewater for biological oxygen demand. The primary function of dissolved oxygen in wastewater is to enable and enhance the oxidation of organic material by aerobic bacteria, a necessary step in treatment.

To measure dissolved oxygen, specialized sensors and companion instruments are employed that require careful maintenance and trained technical operators. The level of measurement precision varies depending on the industry employing the technology, with numerous applications also being found in the food & beverage and pharmaceutical industries. In-line continuous measurement is used in wastewater processing to determine if the dissolved oxygen remains in a range that supports the bacteria necessary for biodegradation.

Chloride concentration in wastewater is strictly regulated. Industrial and commercial operation effluent can be regulated with respect to allowable chloride content. While commonly found in both streams and wastewater, chlorides, in large amounts, can present challenges to water utilization or processing facilities. Chloride levels impact corrosion, conductivity, and taste (for industries in which such a variable is paramount). In a process system, having an essential component marred due to elevated quantities of a substance could reverberate into any end-product being manufactured. Chloride analyzers, some of which can also detect and monitor other water characteristics, serve as important tools for water consuming facilities to meet regulatory standards for effluent discharge or internal quality standards for recycling.

There are other constituents of what we refer to as “water” that are subject to measurement and monitoring for a range of institutional, industrial, and municipal applications. Those will be explored in the next part of this article series.