End Point: What's the CATCH?

Program aims to hook future talent for the chemical industry

By Seán Ottewell, editor at large

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Attracting high caliber youngsters to the chemical industry remains as big a challenge as ever. However, a new U.K.-based initiative aims to ensure that companies based there will have a steady supply from now on.

The Centre for the Assessment of Technical Competence (CATCH) is the country’s new chemical industry flagship training center. It’s based near a major chemical production area in Stallingborough on England’s East coast. The equivalent of a $16.2-million investment, CATCH is owned by the local government, North East Lincolnshire Council, but managed and operated by the Humber Client/Contractor Training Association, an alliance of 40 local chemical companies and contractors.

"We aim not only to source the best training for the skill sets you require, but also to help stir-up enthusiasm in young people for careers in the chemical sector — ensuring that future team members are among the brightest and [best]-trained in industry today,” explains Clive Rounce, CATCH’s general manager.

The center has dedicated areas for solids handling, plant rigging and fan balancing. It has a bundled tank farm, versatile hard-standing areas for outside working projects, and offers technical and administration support. However, the latest innovation is installation of PlantWeb digital plant architecture supplied by Emerson, Austin, Texas. This includes the Delta V digital automation system and AMS Suite Intelligent Device Manager, together with Fisher control valves and FIELDVUE digital valve controllers, Rosemount level, flow, pressure and temperature transmitters and Micro Motion Coriolis mass flowmeters.

Originally designed as a conventional plant using HART communications technology, the challenging timescale and projected cabling costs savings led to adopting Foundation Fieldbus technology. As the project evolved, extra instruments were added and these changes, together with any future expansion plans, could be readily accommodated using existing cabling. Had the original architecture been retained, a roadway would have had to have been excavated to lay additional cabling, extending the original project timescale.

With customer training sessions already arranged, any delay would have created serious problems for CATCH. By adopting Foundation Fieldbus communications, the plant was ready for its first training sessions.

To create an authentic working environment the process on site is based on real digital automation architecture. Foundation Fieldbus digital communication technologies feed data over a network to the centralized control room where students control, configure and troubleshoot in a real plant environment.

Most of the plant hardware was contributed by CATCH partner companies and comprises a tank farm and system of pipework, pumps, valves, heat exchangers and reactor vessels typical of the chemical industry. The plant is run as a live system with safety rules and full evacuation procedures. It can be operated as a continuous process, or by using the reactor vessel, configured for batch production. Students are able to experience a range of situations and incidents that test their knowledge and skills in a real environment.

As new technologies are introduced to the industry, the equipment on site will be upgraded. For example, the automation system incorporates Emerson’s DeltaV Safety Instrumented System (SIS) which extends PlantWeb digital plant architecture benefits to safety applications. Other innovations include DeltaV Simulate software that allows engineers to develop and full test new control strategies using actual control configurations and process simulation software.

CATCH also plans to include Emerson’s Smart Wireless solutions that enable remote data collection. “We are delighted to be involved with the CATCH project which sets a new standard for training facilities in our industry,” says Travis Hesketh, director of PlantWeb for Europe for Emerson Process Management.

“By basing its training facility on our PlantWeb digital architecture and DeltaV system, CATCH offers its partners a state of the art facility that uses the architecture of choice for the process industry.”

Since January, 120 apprentices have been based at Stallingborough — learning skills and gaining experience that will be vital to the future success of the U.K.s chemical industry.

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