10 steps to a smoother automation system upgrade


Ancillary systems and space requirements

The new automation system components will be housed in a particular area, usually the control room where the older system resided. The following areas should be examined to ensure that they meet the required specifications of the new system, and the ongoing needs of operations and maintenance:

  • Power requirements, including UPS
  • HVAC requirements
  • Physical footprint, and
  • Control room ergonomics.

The UPS and other power systems must have sufficient capacity to handle the new automation system components. Similarly, the HVAC system must be able to keep the new electronics cool while maintaining a comfortable work environment for operators.

Sufficient overall space must be available to house and mount the new system components, including control hardware and operator workstations. Many older automation systems have custom consoles that can’t be used with the new automation system, or that must be substantially modified.

One area that’s often overlooked when a thorough FEL evaluation isn’t performed is the commissioning plan and its effects on the ancillary systems and space requirements. Many commissioning cutover plans call for simultaneous operation of the old and the new automation systems. This can obviously have profound effects, and careful planning is often required to accommodate the operation of both systems at once. Temporary auxiliary power systems are often necessary, along with transitional mounting spaces. 

Allen , TX, United States, 09/06/13 02:03 PM:

Thanks for the great article. I'm also a big fan of FEL activities. Do you have any metrics relating to the cost of FEL as a percentage of the TIC? I suspect that it's in the 3%-5% range (meaning that it's definitely worth the money), but I don't have data to back that up.
Jonas , , 11/10/13 09:55 AM:

You can modernize any plant with new wireless measurements on any system, regardless of how old, because the wireless gateway supports multiple protocols such as Modbus/RTU, Modbus/TCP, EtherNet/IP, and OPC for process variables as well as HART-IP for intelligent device management (IDM) software past of the asset management system such as for calibration trim, configuration/setup, device diagnostics, and internal variables etc.

Very often the asset health information, the energy consumption readings, and HS&E status etc. do not even go into the basic control system (DCS) or the safety system (SIS), this new data from wireless sensors often go into the asset management system (AMS). This is tons of new data received by deploying sensors everywhere; “pervasive sensing”. These new sensors can easily be added to an existing plant to modernize that plant because not only do you eliminate power wiring and signal wiring for these sensors, many of them have non-intrusive mechanical installation. For example, to monitor the position of the bypass valves or any other control valve, on/off valve, or hand valve, a wireless transmitter simply screws onto the outside. It is non-intrusive. No process penetration. Similarly, there are clamp-on temperature sensors that measure the surface temperature of the pipe. This is good enough in most asset and energy monitoring applications, and is totally non-intrusive. Clamp-on temperature sensors can be used when thermowells are not available. Acoustic transmitters to monitor if a steam trap is passing steam wasting energy, or blocking condensate which could damage equipment or cause insufficient heating, simply straps onto the outside of the pipe, again non-intrusive. It can also strap onto a relief valve to detect release, or another valve to detect leaks. Vibration sensors for wireless vibration transmitters can either be screwed on, stuck on with epoxy, or even a magnet without any process penetration. Pressure transmitters often take the place of mechanical dial gages so again no new process openings required. This makes installation of these additional sensors low cost and low risk.

Most kinds of wireless transmitters are already available: pressure, flow, DP level, valve position, pH, conductivity, on/off contact, radar level, vibration, temperature, multi-temperature, and acoustic as well as level switch and even on/off valve actuation

Plant modernization is a new business opportunity for EPCs. EPCs can go back to all the plants they have built over the past 20-30 years and offer plant-wide modernization by deploying a second layer of automation based on Wireless transmitters for asset monitoring, energy conservation, and improved HS&E beyond the P&ID. A formal process starting from audit, through FEED, detail design, installation, commissioning, and handover is available.

Having said that, if you get a new control system, you can get one with native integration of wireless transmitters, enabling you to access the PV directly from a wireless transmitter without going through Modbus register, EtherNet/IP instance & member, or OPC item data mapping. Getting a system with native support for wireless could be one more reason for migrating.
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