High throughput methods are boosting productivity. A survey of member companies by the American Chemical Council (ACC), Arlington, Va., showed that this year the U.S. chemical industry would be spending around 3% more on research and development than it did in 2005.
Despite having a parliament that regularly shuttles itself, lock, stock and ballot box, for four days each month between Brussels, Belgium, and Strasbourg, France, the European Union (EU) still manages to put out an amazing amount of legislation.
End-of-life and other product stewardship initiatives will impact chemical plants. An agreement to lessen the environmental impact of chemicals production will have global ramifications. Meanwhile, European end-of-life directives on electrical and electronic equipment already are having a worldwide effect.
Ignoring climate change could eventually damage economic growth, according to an authoritative report, says Mike Spear, editor at large, in this month's End Point column. Read more on the economics of climate change.
Increasing interest will translate into far more monitoring applications. The worldwide market for wireless technology will grow 26% annually over the next few years, forecasts the ARC Advisory Group. Vendors are responding and key concerns are being addressed.
More attention to steam systems and trap monitoring provides big benefits. At most chemical plants, plant management and operators face increasing pressures to improve the energy efficiency of their processes, so they should see how they can save on steam.
More and more companies are placing greater emphasis on maintenance and seeking help from vendors to boost the effectiveness of their efforts, as some recent major investment decisions demonstrate. Many automation companies now are benefiting by building up asset management services alongside process control capabilities.
More attention to mercury and increased acceptance of predictive approaches is emerging. Such monitoring not only can keep plants on the right side of regulators but also can help provide insights for optimizing operation of equipment.
Many companies decide not to build up certain capabilities in-house mainly because they dont have sufficient regular demand for them. Gamma scanning of distillation columns is a case in point, but on-site scanning specialists may be the wave of the future.
As pressure rises on plants to improve productivity and equipment reliability levels, seals and gaskets are being called upon to provide even better performance. Their challenge no longer is simply to prevent leaks but also to play an important role in the life-cycle management of the plant.
Todays plants come ready equipped with their own team of doctors in the shape of the many diagnostic and monitoring systems incorporated into instrumentation and other process equipment. And, like any good doctor, todays plant diagnostics can look beyond the symptoms of poorly performing instruments and provide insights into the health of the process itself.