Where’s the automation?

ABB’s Houston party may have invited the automation community . . . but in the event it was all about power

By Andrew Bond (Industrial Automation Insider)

The ABB Automation and Power World event, held in Houston (TX US) from May 18th to 20th, gave an impressive display of the total ABB capability: it was the second time that ABB had joined Automation and Power together, presented as a complete complementary product package. The event was impressive, in logistics and size, with around 4500 delegates from 40 countries, listening to a selection of 500 hours of seminars and workshops, plus visiting the 100,000 sq ft of product exhibition area. Attendance at the main public days from customers and press was up 35% on last year: these three days were sandwiched between two busy weekends of ABB sales conferences and meetings, also covering the 800 staff from their distributors and sales partners, so a lot of leverage was added on top of the customer event. From the 1500 ABB staff present in Houston, the most regular comment – even from the power side – was that they had never realized just quite what a broad range of products was indeed available from ABB – but this was always made with a nod towards the power transmission products. (See also our blog Power, Energy and er Automation? last May)

What about Automation?

Peter Terwiesch - more power for major population centres

Well the word is right in there, in the title of the event. This was right where it stayed, in the ABB Automation and Power World Daily Blog from Malcolm Shearmur, from ABB’s corporate communications. Shearmur says he is “particularly interested in the energy challenges facing the world in the 21st century”. Rather than a total blanking of automation news he did include two relevant paragraphs at the end of one report, on a presentation by Peter Terwiesch, ABB’s chief technology officer, mentioning the trend towards wireless measurement: obviously automation is not Shearmur’s main interest. The major topic of Terwiesch’s excellent, and balanced, presentation was the world need to deliver more power to the major population centres, while reducing emissions and using additions from renewable sources, such as hydropower. High Voltage Direct Current transmission (HVDC) is offering the technology to transmit huge amounts of power, over long distances, and not just for power links to offshore platforms. For example ABB is helping to build the 200km 800kV o v e r h e a d transmission line from the Xiangjiaba hydro power plant, in southwest China, over to Shanghai, to deliver 6400MW of power (which is almost as much as used by Switzerland, admits Shearmur).

This project exceeds previous technology levels, providing twice the power rating and using a 33 percent higher voltage than all existing installations. ABB has invested in the new equipment development, manufacturing and testing facilities to enable this new technology to be used commercially. This ABB equipment has been under successful test operation at 850kV DC since 2006, at the STRI Laboratory in Sweden. US Investment in HVDC ABB see this as an area of major opportunity: Enrique Santacana, head of ABB in the US and North America, announced at a press briefing in Houston that they plan to invest about $90m to build a new highvoltage cable factory, in the USA. This is to meet the strong growth in demand for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) applications, in overlay grids being developed to complement the AC grids in use in Europe and the USA.

The Terwiesch presentation did pay particular attention to the convergence and commonalities between power and automation systems. Back in 2004, ANSI, IEC and the main vendors adopted an Ethernet-based global standard for communications and system architecture in substation automation and power distribution systems, providing interoperability between intelligent electrical devices (unfortunately given the acronym “IED”), engineering tools and a flexible and open architecture. And so IEC allocated the next number in their standards list, and called it IEC61850, uniquely – so that industries will not be confused with other standards, for example the functional safety standard, which is of course IEC61508.

Having developed the electrical interfaces to substations and switchgear to IEC61850, an interface module built for the AC800M controller allows the standard System 800xA to provide operator control of process electrification, substation automation and power management. ABB reports the supply of over 800 substation automation projects based on IEC61850. More important is that the same 800xA system can use another standard interface module in the AC800M to communicate with instrumentation fieldbus networks, and provide process control as well. One common 800xA-based operations console can deal with both power and process control, and plant events from either side are recorded on one centralized historian and archive, which also helps track event causality, being on one timeframe.

Twenty projects to date
ABB has combined process and power control systems in this way on over 20 projects to date, primarily in oil and gas plants, but also in mining and minerals, as well as power generation plants. Although overall a small number so far, there was a considerable geographical bias towards such projects in Brazil and South America – coincidentally, the next Automation and Power World event is scheduled for a location in Brazil, in August.
Johan Hansson, the manager of the Control Systems Electrical Integration Centre of Excellence in Sweden, explained some of the advantages of combined control systems in oil and gas plants, where the integral power management system initiates load shedding according to an operator managed priority table, in less than 100msec, whereas previously the selection was hard wired, and much slower. Petrobras have not yet established operational cost savings, but already have saved 20% on training costs by combining the process and power systems: in Petrobras the protection and control relays are a mixture of ABB and Schweitzer IEDs, all to IEC61850.

. . . And so to Instrumentation
ABB in total spends $1bn annually on R&D, employing 6000 scientists. Terwiesch mentioned their recent development of an optical calliper for measurements in the paper industry, monitoring web thicknesses equivalent to 1/ 50th of a human hair, at 60mph. They are also working on energy scavenging techniques for powering wireless enabled sensors, using energy sources such as vibration, solar power, fluid flow, and temperature differences. The major instrument product launch announcements at Houston centred on wireless sensors, with the main product being the loop-powered FieldKey WirelessHART upgrade adapter, which mounts into any available cable gland on an existing HART instrument. As such it follows the same principle as the Emerson THUM adapter (INSIDER, December 2009, page 2 and also Conquering Complexity on this blog) but claims a “small footprint” as it is indeed a smaller package and antenna than the Emerson unit. ABB see the FieldKey as providing the capability to unlock the stranded information held within the 90% of the 3 million HART instruments already installed, whose systems cannot access their intelligence. The data can be accessed, and the devices remotely configured (if needed) using asset management software in 800xA, or with an Asset Vision Professional standalone product. The FieldKey adapters form a self building mesh network, and working to WirelessHART standard specifications can be accessed via any WirelessHART Gateway: ABB demonstrated their system with a new Pepperl+Fuchs gateway, which is shortly to become available. FieldKey is currently submitted for hazardous area approvals, and ABB are still interested in further field testing, for example in European sites.

FieldKey is a basic building block for ABB to incorporate WirelessHART connectivity in various new product developments: so also presented in Houston was an ABB pressure transmitter that has been adapted to become a wire-less transmitter, by incorporating the radio board and a 5 year life battery within the normal transmitter housing, plus a FieldKey antenna mounted in one of the standard conduit connections.

Vibration sensor?

Such battery-powered wireless transmitters are likely to be developed as needed: an example occasionally on display, but mostly kept under wraps, was from the oil and gas development group. This was a prototype of a battery powered vibration monitor, presumably an accelerometer rather than an acoustic emission sensor, built into a housing no bigger than a standard FieldKey. However, the main emphasis of corporate research appears to be focused onto alternative power scavenging techniques to power such wireless sensors, using heat, vibration, solar or process flow energy. Obviously this vibration sensor is work in progress, but judging by the size of the Perpetuum Free Standing (vibration energy) Harvester (68Ø and 63H, delivering 4mA at 5V), launched in May and to be on-show at the Sensors Expo in Illinois in June, ABB will find it difficult to incorporate vibration energy scavenging into the current package size.

Energy scavenging using Peltier techniques was the example featured in a demonstration sensor for temperature monitoring, explained further by Philipp Nenninger from the corporate research labs in Karlsruhe (D). Previously shown at the Hanover Fair this year, a temperature difference of 30K between the process fluid and the electronics housing can create the power to drive the temperature monitoring circuit, and the WirelessHART data transmission. Included within the housing is a standard non-rechargeable battery, which allows the sensor to continue functioning and transmitting data even as the process goes into shutdown, when the temperature difference might drop below the 30 degrees required. While process requirements for this type of specification are difficult to postulate,Nenninger quoted some keen interest in certain applications. Slowly beginning to think like ABB, the deduction is that the planned applications have to be in temperature monitoring of power transformers, or other power industry duties where wired connections are not possible.

Five year average age
Greg Livelli, US Marketing Manager for Instrumentation, presented a review of the total ABB offering, from pressure transmitters right through to sophisticated spectrometers and ion analysers. Several common themes emerged in the product design concepts, which have been rolled out as a result of the continuous investment and development effort, which will result in the average product age being reduced to five years by 2011. The programming format across all microprocessor instrumentation uses the same style, and the operator keypad follows the principles of the mobile phone, resulting in a common and intuitive look and feel, reducing the need for extensive reading of new manuals for each different instrument: learn one and the rest follow. Equally all diagnostics follow the NAMUR NE107 format, whether on a flue gas analyser or a magnetic flowmeter. Significantly most of the more unusual instrumentation from ABB is dedicated to power industry applications, whether these are for trace iron, aluminium, silica or manganese in boiler feed-water, or for SF6 gas emissions monitoring from HV switchgear.

System 800xA
Roy Tanner, global marketing manager for System 800xA, explained the reasoning behind the recent developments to be launched in Version 5.1 of System 800xA in June. “The System 800xA is designed to meet the challenges produced by the emerging trends in the process industries, such as consolidation of control rooms, intelligent field devices, monitoring and reducing energy consumption and unplanned shutdowns. We need to finally end the ‘islands of automation’ and provide information access for all disciplines. You need more than a DCS. The combined automation and power projects we’re doing have seriously increased the number of I/O and tags required.”

So Version 5.1 will run on Windows 7 and Windows 2008 Server, with double the present system capacity, and introduces the new AC800M PM891 field controller with twice the performance, eight times the memory and three times the clock speed of the PM866 version. Advanced alarm management systems will hide alarms to stop alarm overloads: new Alarm Analysis functions are natively accessible to operators based on Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphics. A new “Point of Control” feature in this release allows an operator in a remote location to request permission to control an area or unit from the responsible operator. Once approved, operation is transferred to the requesting operator and captured in the audit trail: any system alarms occurring in that transferred unit are only flagged up to the remote operator. “We now have interfaces for Profinet, DeviceNet via Ethernet IP and WirelessHART. Our Foundation fieldbus interfaces also support EDDL, and we have connectivity to all ABB legacy systems, and to Provox and TDC3000 systems, that act just like a natural part of the 800xA system” said Tanner. Since introducing System 800xA, ABB now claim to have sold over 5750 systems, with 37,500 AC800M controllers and over 24,500 operator workplaces.

Tanner also mentioned the 800xA safety architecture, with the TÜV-approved logical separation of functions between safety and control qualified up to SIL3 (INSIDER April 2010 page 7). Kristian Olsson of the Process Automation Safety Center of Excellence in Norway explains that he has the ideal situation of the SIL3 approval of 800xA and 19 Safety Execution Centres (ie engineering centres capable of delivery and implementation of safety system projects in accordance with international industry standards). In April the centres in Beijing, Shanghai (CN), Bangalore (IND) and Buenos Aires (ARG) were reported as gaining TÜV certification, joining Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, the UK and Singapore in the ABB listing: ten further centres are in the process of applying for the certification, including those in Canada, the USA, Brazil, Taiwan and South Korea. With more experience and engineering resources available than any other supplier, Olsson is looking to expand this activity into other markets and critical safety areas, maybe even as far as machinery safety systems, he suggested.

The ABB Low Voltage Products Group, exhibiting a few feet away from the System 800xA presentations, was the source of one of the A+P World acquisition announcements, confirming the February acquisition of Jokab Safety International AB, a supplier of innovative products and solutions for machine safety, with 120 employees worldwide, 50 in the USA. We’ve clearly reached that point in the economic cycle where those who’ve survived and have the cash are in a position to make significant acquisitions, though nobody seems prepared as yet to go for the big one. Nevertheless ABB is deploying another $1bn of that fabled cash mountain to buy Atlanta, (GA US) based energy network management software provider Ventyx from venture capitalist Vista Equity Partners. ABB is paying approximately four times Ventyx’s annual revenues of $250m for the company whose portfolio includes solutions for asset management, mobile workforce management, energy trading and risk management, energy operations, energy analytics and planning and forecasting of electricity demand including renewables. ABB CEO Joe Hogan described Ventyx as “a cashgenerating acquisition in an exciting growth market.”

Meanwhile, ABB Process Automation has added Louisiana-based K-Tek, a manufacturer of liquid level detection and measurement systems, to their Measurement Products Business Unit. Veli-Matti Reinikkala, head of the Process Automation division, commented that “K-Tek is well established, particularly in the oil and gas industry, which is a growth area for ABB”. K-Tek is quoted as being recognized as a global leader in magnetic level gauges, magnetostrictive level transmitters and laser level transmitters, with sales of $50 million and 250 employees.

This article appeared in the June 2010 issue of IAI


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