Understanding Servers, Converters and Gateways

Emerson's Craig Abbott

As instrumentation and control system, also known as Operational Technology (OT) incorporate wireless and other classic Informational Technology (IT) components, the worlds of OT and IT continue to merge.

For control and automation specialists, it means things like servers, converters and gateways become part of the learning path.

Emerson’s Craig Abbott had a great LinkedIn post, Servers, Converters and Gateways! Oh My!, which I somehow missed when he published it last summer (or winter from his vantage in Australia). I’ll excerpt a few of his thoughts and invite you to read the full post.

Rosemount 1410 / 1420 WirelessHART Gateway

It is important to understand that the gateways do not simply translate the messages. For the most part, WirelessHART data from the field is stored in the gateway and data requests are performed on the stored data. Read requests are not passed through to the field. In the case of a write, the write is applied to the internal data and then an update is sent to the field as a WirelessHART message. HART/IP is the exception here as HART messages need to be sent to the transmitters. All HART messages are converted into WirelessHART equivalents and passed through to the field with responses converted back to HART/IP and passed back to the requestor.

With the Gateway in place, there is no WirelessHART on your IT network, and no Modbus, Ethernet/IP or OPC on your wireless field network. Data requests seem to be converted from the Ethernet Media to the Wireless Media, but they are not, and at a protocol level, there is a lot more management and protocol translation going on.

A Terminal Server is completely at the other end of the scale. Terminal Servers are pure media converters with little or no message management. A Terminal Server captures data arriving at the serial port, wraps it up into an Ethernet packet and delivers the data to a remote location untouched. That last single word is important – untouched. The Terminal Server does no conversion nor translation, it simply delivers data in its raw form. When two Terminal Servers are linked to each other across a network, in what is termed a “Back to Back” configuration, serial data arriving at one end will pop out of the other, and vice versa. Serial cables have a limit of only a few metres in length and are subject to interference in the form of electrical noise. Carrying the data packets over network cables can remove these limitations.

Terminal Servers for Network Transport

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Process Automation and Big Data

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the SyncSort team. Their enterprise software helps organizations collect, integrate, sort, and distribute these companies’ most important data.

The interview, Expert Interview: Jim Cahill of Emerson Automation Solutions on Process Automation and Big Data is posted on the SyncSort blog.

Expert Interview: Jim Cahill of Emerson Automation Solutions on Process Automation and Big Data

Here’s an excerpt from the interview when asked, “What are the most interesting applications of automation you’ve observed Emerson customers using?” Continue Reading

Engineer’s Guide to Tank Gauging

Tank gauging is the process of measuring liquids in storage tanks to determine the volume and mass of the liquid. Typically, these measurements include level, temperature and pressure.

A new user guide, The Engineer’s Guide To Tank Gauging is available to request for download. This 104-page guide explores tank gauging technologies, engineering standards and approvals, volume and mass assessment, accuracies and uncertainties, temperature measurement, liquefied gases, additional sensors, system architectures, overfill prevention and typical tank gauging configurations.

The Engineer's Guide To Tank Gauging

Tank gauging is used in many industrial processes including refineries, petrochemical complexes, distribution terminals, pipeline terminals, fuel depots, air fueling storage and chemical storage locations. Typical applications include:

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Avoiding Dangerous Malware Infections

The malware WannaCry/WannaCrypt has been all over the news recently. Since most of the operator and engineering workstations used in distributed control systems (DCSs) and supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) are PC-based, the question was naturally could these have been/or be impacted by this dangerous malware.

Emerson's Jaime Foose

I caught up with Emerson’s Jaime Foose. She noted that it is important to point out that personal computer users can easily avoid these types of attacks by following some very basic principles. Top of the list is to not rely on unsupported operating systems which are no longer maintained by the supplier. Next is to always keep your PC updated with the latest patches. And, from a user interaction perspective, never click on unknown links or attachments.

Specific to PCs used in control and data acquisition systems, never enable email on these PCs. From an architectural standpoint, do not expose the control system to the corporate local area network and internet, and always block/monitor vulnerable Windows traffic on the network. Also, the control networks and PCs should be hardened to not allow USB sticks and wired or wireless access to the PCs and networks.

By following these practices, systems would have been protected from WannaCry/WannaCrypt and other dangerous malware to date. Jaime also explained that many organizations are stretched very thin with their technical staffs, and lack the time and resources make it extremely difficult to keep pace with the dynamic, complex and serious nature of cybersecurity. Continue Reading

Improving Refinery Corrosion Monitoring

With the diversification of crude oil types brought about by U.S. shale production, refineries have increased risk for vessel and piping corrosion. Many of the aging refineries also are operating past the design life of some of their plant assets.

Emerson's Jake Davies

In a Chemical Processing article, Refineries: Rethink Corrosion Monitoring, Emerson’s Jake Davies describes some of these challenges and ways that wireless corrosion monitoring can help to address them.

Chemical Processing- Refineries: Rethink Corrosion MonitoringCorrosion can:

…lead to deterioration of pipe and vessel walls. Loss of equipment integrity can result in unplanned downtime and costly repairs or, in the worst case, a catastrophic event posing major risk to personnel, the environment and stakeholder value.

Shale oils, crude oils shipped by rail and oil sands crude all may contain various added chemicals from their respective production processes. For example, rail car transported crude may contain:

…H2S passivator chemicals that can introduce other corrosion-related problems. These amine-based compounds can deposit as salts in the top section of crude towers, top pump-around and draw trays — with the resulting possibility of more corrosion.

Jake notes that many of these non-traditional crude oil sources also have a higher total acid number (TAN) which also drives increased corrosion. Two methods for addressing these corrosive effects include: Continue Reading