Application of Edge Control in the World’s Largest New City Water System Gives Good Advice to all Systems Integrators

by | Sep 29, 2023 | Control & Safety Systems, Digital Transformation, Discrete Automation, Industrial IoT, Water & Wastewater | 0 comments

In a recent edition of Control Engineering magazine, I had the opportunity to discuss a very unique and interesting case study involving a new water system in the world’s largest greenfield city, NEOM. I’d like to share some of the details of that article with you.

Working on greenfield projects, of course, represents an opportunity to employ new technologies that can optimize performance, reduce footprint, accommodate current and future system requirements, and provide enhanced mechanism for field services and operations. Emerson partner, Drakken, an engineering and systems integration company based in Dubai, UAE, and selected as the main automation contractor (MAC) solution for the NEOM water distribution system, took full advantage of this opportunity.

As described in the article, the NEOM system is an exceptional challenge, extending over approximately 65 km (40.4 miles) of coastal terrain and 75 km (46.6 miles) of mountains, providing a wide range of environmental stresses. A water desalination plant is the fresh water source and the system includes pipelines, pumping stations and storage tanks. With the city under construction, the water system delivers more than 50,600 m3/day (1.787 million ft2) of bulk desalinated water to the core development area for construction and human consumption.

To supply the water needed during development as well as to prepare for expanded future demands, Drakken required a control and supervision system for the water network to ensure minimal water loss due to leakage and evaporation. It had to provide a scalable solution in complex, rough terrain, that could expand with the extensive new development. The criticality of the project required the control and supervisory system to be cybersecure and offer high availability without disruption. It had to connect disparate third-party systems deployed in the overall architecture to provide unified monitoring and control.

Taking advantage of the greenfield status, Drakken used Emerson edge controllers for the water distribution system. This configuration combines deterministic and non-deterministic real-time control in one hypervised platform, providing the capabilities of a programmable logic controller (PLC) and an edge computer system in one device, saving costs, space and integration time and complexity. The control technology software is pre-installed, allowing Drakken the flexibility to use the controller for a number of use cases such as Linux co-processer, local web-based human-machine interface (HMI), black box recorder and data logger and for remote alerts. Drakken employed control systems at more than 20 pumping stations and at the water distribution center to control the pump and valve operations. To meet availability demands, control solutions included built-in redundancy.

The edge controllers installed at each location collect, analyze and filter operational data on a Linux engine and are ready to connect and send data to the cloud via the message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT) protocol. The need to interface with a wide range of third-party devices, such as flowmeters, radio frequency identification (RFID) systems at each trickling filter system (TFS) station, and many others required the control systems and software be flexible and able to communicate with plant floor devices and supervisory systems using standard communication protocols for maximum interoperability and ease of use.

To meet the widely varying environmental demands, Drakken used control systems that operate from -40 to 70°C from startup and with a humidity range from 5 to 95% non-condensing. The modern control technology handles extreme environments without requiring fans, which can be prone to failure. Unlike standard controllers that require a throttle-down to accommodate high heat, the newer technology enables applications to run consistently at very high temperatures without impacting control performance. In addition, the system implemented by Drakken uses a secure-by-design philosophy, including trusted platform module (TPM), secure boot and secure firmware updates. The cohesive security strategy is built into all layers, from the hardware and software to communications and the development process.

As dramatic as this greenfield case study is, it offers good advice to any systems integrator. Even in brownfield applications, the addition of unique new control technologies can, in many situations, save time, space, complexity and money. If you’d like to know more about the Emerson edge control technology employed in NEOM, visit this page.

And if you’d like to read the entire article in Control Engineering, click here.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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