Process Control Basics for College Engineering Students

Terry Blevins Teaching Process Control And DeltaV Overview At UniversityI won’t spoil the press release in the works about the donation of a DeltaV system to a major university for use by a consortium of universities, but I will share that Emerson’s Terry Blevins was at the university last week. He was there to provide an introductory process control and DeltaV system overview.

Since a consortium of universities is involved, a neat things done for this installation was to setup VPN access and Windows Remote Desktop access into the system to configure, test, and run the DeltaV control logic and calculations created using MatLab. In preparation for teaching the course, Terry used VPN to connect to the university’s intranet. He then opened a remote desktop connection into the DeltaV system to prepare the models and simulations he was going to use to teach the course. The other universities’ graduate students will use this same method as they collaboratively advance their research.

I thought I share some of these basics in case you are a college student or new to our world of process automation. Fair warning–for those experienced automation professionals, quickly hit the “back” button to avoid going any further into this post.

Terry begins his introductory presentation with organization and layout of a process manufacturing plant with the caveat that there is no “typical”. Plants are divided into process areas and these areas are defined based on the equipment or process grouping. Examples are tank farms, boiler houses etc.

Terry gave a field device and wiring overview, showing examples of two-wire, four-wire, HART and Foundation fieldbus devices and how they connect into an automation system’s I/O.

Next, he covered documentation of the plant control and instrumentation. Typical documentation includes a plot plan, which is a physical layout of the plant. Process flow diagrams show the major pieces of equipment in a process area and their design operating conditions. A P&ID (Process & Instrumentation Diagram) shows the piping and instrumentation installed. Loop sheets show the details of instrumentation and field wiring. Terry referenced the ISA S5.1 tag number convention standard that helps identify I/O as pressure, flow, temperature etc. and its readout and output function.

Terry showed the change in technology in distributed control systems over time from a hardware and field wiring perspective from individual wiring per device, to bus-based I/O. To familiarize the students with the hardware they might see in plants, he showed pictures of controller and I/O cabinets, marshalling panels, junction boxes, and panels with connections to other intelligent devices.

He then got specific with the hardware components and software applications in the DeltaV system and showed how the students could set up virtual plants with simulations of a running process against their control strategies.

After I passed a draft Terry’s way for review, he pointed me to one of his earlier posts, Control Basics and Terminology that covered these basics plus more including:

He even posted a test for those of you really ambitious new learners out there. If you’re new to the world of process control, take a look at these links when you have some bandwidth and see if you find them valuable.

Update: A colleague from our DeltaV Twitter community points out that my hyperlink to Characterizing the Process, Terminology was not linked correctly. I’ve now updated it. Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

Update 2: Another reader found my incorrect use of “are” instead of “is” in the second paragraph. Specifically:

Consortium is a collective noun and therefore singular, not plural. The same applies to nouns such as group, herd and flock. The predicate (are/is) relates back to the singular subject (consortium), not to the plural object (universities).

As regular readers can attest, I need all the help I can get when it comes to grammar!

Update 3:Greg McMillan had sent me two MATLAB-related presentations which you may find useful, DeltaV Users Benefit From Matlab Computing and DeltaV to MATLAB OPC connection.

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