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Wed 14 Jul 2010 04:00 AM

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Plant sensations

Instrumentation can account for 5% of total plant cost, but getting it wrong can have seismic effects on the smooth running of your downstream and refining operations.

Plant sensations
Plant sensations
Philip Bond, vice president of Rosemount Measurement at Emerson.

Instrumentation can account for 5% of total plant cost, but getting it wrong can have seismic effects on the smooth running of your downstream and refining operations.

In a process industries like petrochemicals and refining, the utilisation of instrumentations in different phases of production is very important in helping plant operators to monitor the production process.

Theoriticaly speaking, instrumentations are a collection of instruments which are used  for the purpose of observation, measurement and control.

Instruments include many varied contrivances which can be as simple as valves and transmitters, and as complex as analyzers. Instruments often comprise control systems of varied processes. The control of processes is one of the main branches of applied instrumentation. "Petrochemicals companies and refineries require different instruments including temperature, level, flow and analytical instruments, as well as automations systems, control valves and regulators and many other instruments," says Philip Bond, vice president of Rosemount Measurement at Emerson. "Within each of these groups we have a comprehensive range of technologies to meet the many applications that exist on our customers plants," he explains.

From very basic measurements up to highly demanding and critical applications, instruments are there to ensure the best performance of the plant. "If a fluid flows through a pipe, reacts in a reactor, or is stored in a tank, instruments can help to accurately and reliably measure and control the pressure, temperature, level and flow of the process," says John Emmett, export manager Moore Industries.

This allows the owners and operators of petrochemical plants and refineries to safely control their processes in the most efficient and cost-effective way to meet their quality and output requirements.

Beside its main role to measure field parameters, instrumentations are responsible for providing the ability to modify some field parameters. "In general the instrumentation helps to run the plant in a cost optimized (max yield, min downtime) way. Even though the instrumentation is only 3 to 5% of the total investment in a process plant, these are the "eyes" and "ears" for the process operators," says Jens Winkelmann, head of sales in the Middle East at Endress and Hauser.

Given the importance of instrumentations within the plant, there are many factors to be considered when selecting an instrument.

The accuracy of the device is clearly important but should be considered along with a number of other key factorsm, says experts. "These include how long a device will continue to measure and control the process with the accuracy it provided when it was new, and how much notice it will give you if it starts to lose performance," says Bond. "Some of the greatest value comes when a device can predict a problem with itself, or even the process to which it is connected, in time for the operator to take action without impacting the process," he explains.
Therefore quality, reliability and repeatability, combined with predictive diagnostics that extend into the process, are the keys to making a good instrument buying decision. "Lifetime cost which means buying it, installing it, maintaining it, replacing it are the key aspects buyers should take into consideration while buying instruments for their plants," observes Winkelmann. As all products used in process industries, instrumentations should meet requirements and specifications of the industry standards, which varies from a region to another. "There are different specifications for different processes e.g. ambient or high temperature and or pressure, special wetted materials that withstand the process media, hazardous area designs specific to the installation which is usually intrinsic safe or explosion proof," explains Winkelmann.

Generally, instruments producers design their products to fit the targeted industry. "Our instruments are designed and built to withstand both the demands of the application as well as the environmental conditions in, or surrounding, the plant. They are employed in a wide variety of industries including oil and gas (offshore and onshore), petrochemical and chemical," says Bond. "There are many common features regarding an instrument's design that make it suitable for many applications and, in most cases, options are available should any specific customer requirements need to be met," he adds.

As competition in the market is very tough between different players, innovation is the main aspect that differ between instruments providers. "We have put a tremendous amount of resource and effort into providing up front information about what is happening, or about to happen, in our customer's processes.  Our aim is to enable our customers to run safer and more efficient plants," says Bond. "Simply put, if you can't see it you can't measure it and if you can't measure it you can't control it," he adds. Integration of instrumentations is one of the innovation solutions that developers are offering to their clients. "We have just introduced a new level measurement device which combines a capacitive sensor and guide wave radar in the same unit. This is unique in the market and will solve many headaches that were there so far, for example for interface measurement when emulsions occur. In many separator vessels this appears," says Winkelmann.

One of the aspects that purchase managers generally look at before taking decision is the cost, which is generally between 3% between 5% of the total investment; it can be between a few hundred USD and US$500.000 for a total custody transfer metering system. "This varies on a project basis, dependant on how many instruments are required, installation costs and commissioning costs," says Chris Chant, business development manager at Okazaki Manufacturing Company.

The downstream industry booming in the Middle East made it a destination of choice for major international instrumentation manufacturers, as regional downstream companies are cash-rich and have been investing heavily in new projects during the recent downturn of the global economy, compared to depressed markets in Europe and the US. "We continue to be the beneficiary of this trend and we believe this bullish outlook will be sustained for the next five years," concludes Pierre De Vuyst, senior executive vice president, Yokogawa Middle East.

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