Keeping plants running smoothly and efficiently never has been easy — and it’s gotten a lot tougher in recent years. Indeed, it’s undoubtedly fair to say that the U.S. chemical industry faces unprecedented challenges to remain competitive. Taking advantage of new products and services certainly can help. But which are the most noteworthy of the countless offerings that have come onto the market? This year’s Vaaler Awards winners surely are at the forefront.
Every other year since 1964, Chemical Processing has bestowed Vaaler Awards on products and services that have dramatically improved the operations and economics of plants in the chemical industry. The awards are named after John C. Vaaler, editor in chief of Chemical Processing from 1946 to 1961 and chairman of the magazine’s Editorial Board until his death in 1963.
To be considered for the award, a product or service must have been commercialized in the United States between May 2005 and June 2007. This year, we received 33 entries.
Chemical Processing’s Editorial Board, which consists of technical professionals with diverse responsibilities and from a variety of industry sectors (see sidebar), judged the entries. This impartial panel evaluated all nominees for technological significance, novelty or uniqueness, and breadth of application. It wasn’t obliged to bestow any awards but did pick three winners:
- Control Station for Loop-Pro Product Suite;
- Emerson Process Management Rosemount Measurement Division for Smart Wireless; and
- Pepperl+Fuchs for CorrTran MV Corrosion Detection Transmitters.
Details on the developments appear on the following pages.
- Vic Edwards, senior director of process safety Aker Kvaerner, Houston
- Tim Frank, research scientist and senior technical leader, Dow Chemical, Midland, Mich.
- Ben Paterson, engineering advisor, Eli Lilly, Indianapolis, Ind.
- Roy Sanders, compliance team leader, PPG Industries, Lake Charles, La.
- Ellen Turner, senior tech service representative, Eastman Chemical, Kingsport, Tenn.
- Ben Weinstein, section head modeling & simulation, Procter & Gamble, West Chester, Ohio
- Jon Worstell, senior staff chemist, Shell Chemical, Houston
- Sheila Yang, senior process/specialty engineer, Fluor, South San Francisco
Transmitters put corrosion data into the loop
CorrTran MV Corrosion Detection Transmitters from Pepperl+Fuchs, Twinsburg, Ohio, allow plants to monitor both general and localized corrosion as well as conductance online in real time via a loop-powered 2-wire, 4–20-mA output with a multivariable HART signal (Figure 1). This enables sites to detect and address corrosion issues before they lead to costly problems and downtime, and to check the effectiveness of corrosion inhibitors.
Corrosion is a major problem at many chemical facilities. Conventional monitoring technology, such as the use of sacrificial coupons, is slow and reactive. Coupons must be installed and then, after a set period that may run weeks or even months, removed and evaluated. This can give an indication of general corrosion but often can’t provide insights or a timely warning about localized corrosion or pitting, which can quickly lead to leaks and other problems and which is said to be responsible for 70% to 90% of equipment and pipeline failures. Because of the traditional difficulty in tracking corrosion, many plants resort to expensive reactive maintenance.
With CorrTran MV, a plant now can monitor corrosion online and in real time using its standard control system and existing asset-management software and thus treat corrosion like traditional process variables such as temperature, pressure and pH. The data provide insights on general corrosion rate that make effective predictive maintenance possible as well as pinpoint pitting and enable correlation of the impact of changes in operating conditions on localized corrosion (Figure 2).
CorrTran MV employs three monitoring techniques — Linear Polarization Resistance (LPR), Harmonic Distortion Analysis (HDA) and Electrochemical Noise (ECN) — along with patented algorithms. LPR allows determination of the corrosion current and, through it, the general corrosion rate. HDA gives solution resistance, which is used to calculate a more-accurate corrosion rate. ECN assesses noise generated at the corroding metal/solution interface, to detect localized corrosion.
The standard probes consist of three electrodes, two for measurement and one for reference. The electrodes must be made of the same material as the hardware being monitored; a variety of metals, including carbon and stainless steels, high-nickel alloys, aluminum and titanium, are available.
CorrTran MV is the first field-mounted device to provide a corrosion rate via a multivariable 4–20-mA signal. The unit can handle both gas and liquid streams, including aqueous solutions containing as little as 1% water, and boasts a rugged design and proven industrial housing.
Despite its sophistication, a CorrTran MV Transmitter is simple to install and operate. It connects to any analog input port on a distributed control system or programmable logic controller and is easily configured via HART or PACTware. Data can be sent directly to asset-management software. Plus, because the device is HART-enabled, plant personnel can monitor critical data with a standard hand-held communicator. The units come in standard, nonincendive (for Division 2 hazardous locations) and intrinsically safe (for Division 1 locations) versions.
System simplifies the move to wireless
Smart Wireless from Emerson Process Management’s Rosemount Measurement Division, Chanhassen, Minn., makes it easy for plants to install and integrate wireless technology. Plus, it addresses the concerns over reliability, security, standards, system architecture, and availability of sensors and transmitters that have restricted the deployment of wireless.