Vaaler Awards 2015: Two Products Earn Honors

Biennial awards recognize achievements that significantly enhance plant operations and economics

By Mark Rosenzweig, Editor in Chief

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For more than 50 years, Chemical Processing has conferred Vaaler Awards on products that promise substantial important benefits to plants. To be eligible for this year’s awards, a product must have been commercialized in the United States between May 2013 and June 2015.

The awards, which were first bestowed in November 1964, are named after John C. Vaaler (1899–1963), chairman of Chemical Processing’s Editorial Board from 1961 until his death. He became editor-in-chief of Chemical Processing in 1946, after 24 years in the chemical and related industries.

Chemical Processing’s Editorial Board, which consists of technical professionals with diverse responsibilities and from a variety of industry sectors (see sidebar), evaluated 18 entries in 7 categories for technical significance, novelty or uniqueness, and breadth of applicability. This impartial panel didn't have to confer any awards — but chose to honor two products:

• The One Series Safety Transmitter from United Electric Controls in the Instrumentation and Controls category; and
• The DeltaV Virtual Studio from Emerson Process Management in the Software and Internet Technologies category.

Transmitter Enhances Safety Systems

The One Series safety transmitter (ST) for temperature or pressure monitoring reduces the cost and simplifies the implementation of a safety instrumented system (SIS), says United Electric Controls (UE), Watertown, Mass. Acting as the sensor component of an SIS, the ST suits applications including safety shutdown, safety interlock, trip alarm, on/off control and emergency activation of valves, pumps, compressors, etc. Certified for use in safety integrity level (SIL) 2 systems and capable of SIL 3, the transmitter can be used for critical safety applications requiring IEC 61508-certified products, notes the company.

Many chemical plants rely on electromechanical switches as sensors for alarm and shutdown applications. The trend toward “smart” instrumentation has resulted in costly and complex plant upgrades, replacing switches with process transmitters that require new wiring and control schemes as well as upgraded logic solvers, notes UE. By combining a logic solver and high-capacity safety relay output with an industry-standard transmitter in one explosion-proof enclosure, the ST achieves significant costs savings and reduced complexity. The unit eliminates the need for a safety programmable logic controller (PLC) and cuts SIS reaction time to 100 milliseconds.

The set point and dead band of the safety relay output are programmable over the entire range of the sensor. The relay can switch up to 250 VAC at 5 amp, which is unique among currently available transmitters, says the company. This capability allows the ST to initiate an emergency shutdown directly from the transmitter, saving time and obviating a PLC and its associated wiring. Fewer components and less wiring translate to increased system reliability and availability, says UE.

The ST has no moving parts and includes patented self-diagnostics that monitor all safety-critical functions of the instrument and external wiring connections. This contributes to a safety failure fraction of 98.8%, the highest of any SIL-certified sensor, adds the company.

Software Eases Virtualization

The DeltaV Virtual Studio from Emerson Process Management, Round Rock, Texas, facilitates creating and maintaining virtual control systems for development, testing, training and online production. It is designed to make every step of setting up a virtualized control system easy and consistent, says the company.

Many chemical manufacturers must deal with control systems with outdated hardware and legacy software that are difficult to maintain. Virtualization can cut control-system lifecycle costs and computer hardware dependence; it can decrease the amount of hardware to buy and maintain, and provide greater configuration flexibility. Virtualization also can extend system life by enabling easy replacement of obsolete workstations with new virtualization hardware; updates of software and hardware are independent of each other and much less disruptive to plant operations. In addition, virtualization can provide high availability and disaster recovery features to increase system reliability and protect against disruptive events. However, companies worry that virtualization may make control systems more difficult and complicated to implement and maintain. DeltaV Virtual Studio reduces the complexity while providing all the benefits of virtualization technology, notes Emerson.

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