I apologize for the long break. Things here have been hectic. I just got back from a great week in Munich attending the IFAT Entsorga show, and presenting a case study for Whitewater’s BlueBox Event Detection System at the SWAN Forum’s annual conference. In one month I will be attending the ACE12 show in Dallas, and hope to see you all there. I’d love to hear from you and share some insights that I have garnered over the recent weeks. If you’d like to set up a meeting please contact me personally: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the last of this blog series Oliver Grievson is going to summarize the whole series and examine the benefits of using instrumentation effectively and the journey that needs to be taken with instrumentation to realize some of the benefits and then a potential step further towards advanced operation and process control within the industry.
The modern day instrumentation system is typically used solely for the monitoring of the process and the monitoring of the product from the treatment works, be this potable or wastewater to this manual sampling is often used in addition. This is understandable on a potable water treatment works but less so on the wastewater side. Certainly there is no reason that the wastewater side of the water industry shouldn’t use on-line instrumentation to monitor compliance with manual sampling used as check monitoring. This is the most common aspect of the use instrumentation.
However as explained in previous editions of this blog the modern instrument can be used for so much more:
- Asset Management & Condition Monitoring
- Process Safety Control –either failing safe as is common in potable water treatment or protecting the process in a wastewater system (diverting to storm for example)
- Process Optimisation on a day to day basis – running a treatment works
- Value and process management on a longer term or strategic basis with a high end data management system
All of these points were covered in the fifth blog in the series so I will try not to repeat myself too much in this “episode” but quickly in summary, the modern instrumentation system especially if PLC controlled will record data on run timers on most equipment. This although not quite “instrumentation” is control system related. The asset management aspect could simply be that when a pump or motor reaches its manufacturer’s recommend maintenance point (e.g. 500 hours for an oil change) the job is raised on the job management system. This automates the scheduling system and should then require a oversight rather than day to day management. Going further there are systems that work on the vibration sensors that are normal part of a large mechanical piece of equipment.
To process safety control, the simplest example here is the humble chlorine monitor in the water treatment works that will shutdown the process should no chlorine be detected and attempts to increase the chlorine level fail. This is vital for the safety of the public and is commonly used.
Onwards to process optimization and there are examples from both potable and wastewater treatment works and distribution systems. Last year’s European Water & Wastewater Management Conference saw the UK water company United Utilities presenting a proof of concept around the balancing of potable water supplies by measuring levels and consumption rates in the distribution system and then ensuring that treated storage levels were full before peak energy periods so as to minimize pumping. On the wastewater side Yorkshire Water have a well designed control system at their large wastewater treatment works to control the mixed liquor levels, sludge surplussing and RAS flow. This had the potential to save over £1 million a year in operating costs. These are the basic process optimisation systems that can be used. One of the largest gains of having instrumentation systems is in the area of process optimization.
The final area that a robust instrumentation system can cover is to feed a corporate operation and information management system, converting all of the data into information and managing the information and with the information be able to get an informed decision from a local operational to a corporate strategic level.
All of these aspects mentioned are either current technologies that are commercially available or are in the process of being developed. You only have to look at the recent investment by ABB in TaKaDu to see that there is a burgeoning market or one of ABBs products, the Water Master flowmeter that automatically looks after itself, verifies itself and calls for help, not when it has failed but ahead of when it is going to fail to allow for maintenance actions to be undertaken and instrument downtime to be minimized.
However, one of the major failings of the industry is that of data richness and information poverty. Millions of pieces of data are produced daily by the water industry, be it potable or wastewater, treatment or distribution. The amount of information is minimal in comparison. The level of data that is produce cannot be analysed in real-time and this is where the water industry falls down to a certain extent.
So what needs to be done?
A journey needs to be taken to realise the full effectiveness of instrumentation systems and certainly some forward thinking water companies are starting to take it. An example is DC Water with Smart Water Networks, other companies are not so far forward but are developing systems at the moment. Various studies this year by UK Water Industry Research will cover these aspects and there is the chance to bring the possibilities to the forefront.
What does this journey look like?
It will vary from company to company and from country to country but in order to yield at least the best of the opportunities that are available, at least in my opinion, the following is needed
- A robust and consistent instrument system to be in place on either a plant level or multiple plant level (for the larger treatment utilities) properly installed, integrated & maintained at the local (treatment works) level to allow for the production of local data and information allowing informed decisions to be made on a local level
- Acceptance of the reliability of instrumentation and its use for regulatory purposes (creating a driver for the use of instrumentation)
- A high end corporate data and information management system handling all of the operational data and information management requirements.
- Identification of what data and information is required and at what level within the organization (to avoid data/information blindness). The requirement for management is very different from the requirement for operators and the requirement for maintenance engineers
Once this is in place then the water industry will be in a position to take a step further into to the realms of advanced process control which has the potential to allow the industry to make a giant leap forward in the way that operates driving greater efficiencies to enable it to satisfy the ever tightening standards that it is require to operate to and the ever increasing demands that is place on it.
The various aspects of an idealistic instrumentation system will be covered in a future group paper that will be published on the “Water Industry Process Automation & Control” LinkedIn group.