Reducing Excess Energy Costs and Streamlining Maintenance Practices

Steam is an important source of heat transfer in many manufacturing processes due to its high heat content and consistent temperature at a given pressure. Steam traps are, “…used to discharge condensates and non-condensable gases with a negligible consumption or loss of live steam.

I caught up with Emerson’s Tom Bass, wireless product management director, who noted that these steam traps are automatic valves that require ongoing maintenance. Failed steam traps represent a source of energy waste, resulting in poor steam quality as well as increased fuel consumption and emissions.

Steam traps fail frequently and in a variety of ways, but they often go unchecked due to inconsistent and infrequent audits, leaving the plant operations staff blind to any issues. Types of failures include blowing through, flooding and plugging.

Tom highlighted some studies showing that failure rates for steam traps range from 12.5% to 25% annually, and 5-10% of total energy costs are typically lost through leaking steam traps. If the failure is the valve not opening, the process can experience loss of heat transfer and in turn a loss of production. It can also cause a system to flood or experience water hammer, which may lead to equipment damage and downtime. Continue Reading

Improving Valve Maintenance and Planning with RFID Technology

A University of Arizona publication, A Brief History of RFID, traces the history of radio-frequency identification technology back to a Russian physicist in the 1940s and commercial applications began to appear in the 1960s. By the 1980s and 1990s the technology became commonplace in applications such as transportation systems, animal tracking and business applications such as logistics management.

I mention all this as background for how RFID technology is being applied in managing the wealth of data contained in valves. This data is used to optimize production processes, maintenance practices, and regulatory reporting. The traditional approach to collecting this data is to physically read the nameplates out in the process during walkdowns and periodic inspections.

RFID technology enables the digital transfer of valve information such as construction, service information, and regulatory certification. These tags affixed to the valve are intrinsically safe (FM, IECEx, and ATEX certified) for use in hazardous locations for both gas and dust environments. Continue Reading

Distillation Column Automation Control and Optimization

Authors: Pete Sharpe and James Beall

The cold section of an ethylene plant is responsible for cooling and purifying the product-grade ethylene, propylene and other bi-products from the cracking furnaces. Cracked gas is cooled in transfer-line exchangers which produce steam from the effluent gas energy. Gas is further cooled with water in the quench column, scrubbed and dried before being compressed in the cracked gas compressor and fed to the cold box.

Ethylene Cold Box

The cold box is a complicated, multi-stream heat exchanger which cools the cracked gas. A methane/hydrogen stream is pulled off the cold box which also acts as the condenser for the demethanizer, the first column in the purification train. The demethanizer bottoms feeds a series of distillation columns which separate high-purity ethylene and propylene products from recycle ethane and propane, C4s and higher.

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Biopharmaceutical Models in Development and Production

Models of manufacturing and production processes can provide value through the lifecycle of these facilities, from up front design through ongoing personnel training and optimization. One quick example is the simulation used to test out the control strategies before commissioning the control system.

In a BioPharm International article, Biopharma modeling, now and five years from now, Emerson’s Bob Lenich describes some key applications where biopharmaceutical manufacturers create value through the models they create and use.

When asked for the 3 most important applications for process modeling, Bob responded:

In development, we are seeing greater use of modeling in quality parameter optimization, continuous yield improvement, and facility design and fit.

In running processes, he noted: Continue Reading

Real-Time Adaptive Scheduling in Life Science Manufacturing

Pharmaceutical & Biopharmaceutical manufacturers face the continued challenge of how to achieve maximum capacity in their facilities. Often a facility does not achieve maximum design capacity due to hidden operational bottlenecks. One way to drive performance gains is to identify the causes behind this situation and operate as close to design specifications as is possible.

At the Biomanufacturing World Summit, Emerson’s Ron Rossbach presented on using digitalization and data integration to help drive operational efficiency. A key enabling technology for these performance gains is in real-time adaptive scheduling. This technology combines finite scheduling with dynamic updates from existing shop-floor execution systems to optimize operations. In 2018 Emerson acquired BioG, the leading provider of adaptive scheduling software, which is now being adopted across the industry.

Ron opened his presentation highlighting the pressures these Life Sciences manufacturers face in reducing time to market for their products, increasing productivity in capital projects, reducing ongoing costs of quality, and improving operational agility in forecasting and decision-making. Ron also described the growing use of the BioPhorum Digital Plant Maturity Model. Continue Reading