DCS Cybersecurity Tips and Updates

Emerson's Rick Gorskie


Most of the process manufacturing facilities across the world is considered critical infrastructure. From the energy we consume to the medicines we take, manufacturers work to deliver these products as safely, reliably and efficiently as they can. And with the threat of cyber-attacks growing more common, cybersecurity remains a growing concern and focus.

Emerson’s Rick Gorskie has been sharing a series of Cybersecurity Moments. Although they are specific to the DeltaV distributed control system, much of the guidance is beneficial no matter what control or data acquisition system you might have. I’ll recap a few items from his recent posts in the Emerson Exchange 365 community here.

In a post, Cybersecurity Protection Starts at The Front Gate!, Rick opens highlighting the critical importance of the human element in cybersecurity:

No matter who you are or what your job title is, YOU are an integral part of the cybersecurity protection at your site. The very moment that you pass through the front gate, your cyber-related actions could possibly lead to the compromise of your site’s cyber-protection strategy. Human error is responsible for some of the worst data breaches on record and, because of a lack of cybersecurity awareness, organizations are risking their reputation, customer trust, and potentially their bottom lines when employees mishandle data.

Education of the plant staff in the collection of cybersecurity policies and procedures is critical. Some of these elements to highlight and continually reinforce include spear-phishing or phishing, indiscreet use of USB sticks, computer lock screens, unauthorized software downloads, and strong passwords (see Rick’s earlier post, DeltaV Secure Passwords: The Do’s and Don’ts). A security-minded culture must be built as a safety culture has been built, in the vast majority of manufacturing facilities. Continue Reading

Improving Petrochemical Plant Operational Performance

Emerson's David Gustafson


Top performing petrochemical producers operate safely and securely, reliably, use energy efficiently, and achieve operational efficiently. The difference between top and average performance can be and has been measured across these four areas. In fact, it is estimated that across the global industrial sector, annually as much as $1 trillion is lost as a result of subpar performance.

I connected with Emerson’s David Gustafson about a new 4-step roadmap process for petrochemical producers to improve operational performance. This process is described in a whitepaper, 4-Step Roadmap to Top Quartile Performance, which you can register to download. I highlight a few items from the whitepaper.

Whitepaper: 4-Step Roadmap to Top Quartile PerformancePerformers in the top quartile of their industry peers achieve:

  • HSSE [Health, Safety, Security and Environment]: 3X fewer recordable process incidents
  • Reliability: 4% higher availability and half the maintenance costs
  • Energy: 30% lower emissions and 30% less energy use
  • Process: 20% lower operating costs and 10% higher utilization rate

Moving into this top quartile of performers also means your plant can experience a 15% improvement in operating margins. Headwinds from achieving these levels of performance improvement include increasing regulatory compliance challenges, aging plant equipment, use of different from traditional feedstocks, and loss of expertise from retirements.

While easy to state the four steps to improvement, in practice they can be difficult to implement. These steps include: Continue Reading

Monitoring Your Medium Voltage Switchgear

When I worked in the offshore oil & gas business many years ago, production platforms typically had low-voltage electrical systems running motors no larger than 480VAC. Over the years as the process sophistication grew and motors with variable speed drives replaced engine-driven compressors and other assets, the need for medium voltage systems (between 1KV and 35KV) grew. For most other industries with access to an electrical grid, these medium voltage systems are common.

Emerson's Craig Abbott


Like other assets in a plant, these electrical systems should be monitored to avoid unplanned downtime and operate more reliably. In this 19:21 YouTube video, IntelliSAW – Safely monitor medium voltage switchgear, Emerson’s Craig Abbott describes how medium voltage switchgear should be continuously monitored to avoid safety, reliability and lost production incidents.

He opens citing some numbers showing that plant assets, often designed for a 20-year lifespan, exceed 25 years in age. He describes the cost to fix failed assets being 50% higher than servicing that asset before the failure condition occurs. And the earlier the problem is identified and resolved, the less the cost. He also notes that 20% of power disruptions are due to failure of electrical system components.

Craig shared several examples of where a component failure has resulted in millions of dollars in lost production, so the business case for continuous monitoring can be very strong. Continue Reading

Proof Testing Level Measurement Devices

Emerson's Teddy Tzegazeab


Safety instrumented systems (SIS) include the sensor(s), final control element(s) and logic solver(s) for each of the safety instrumented functions (SIFs) in the SIS. To verify the SIFs are performing the amount of risk reduction intended for their application, they must be periodically proof tested.

PCN Europe magazine interviewed Emerson’s Teddy Tzegazeab on how proof testing has changed for SIFs with liquid level measurements. The article, Proof-Testing: An Effective Way to Increase Safety describes how digital technologies available in modern instrumentation enables proof testing to be performed remotely instead of the traditional on location approach.

PCN Europe: Proof-Testing: An Effective Way to Increase SafetyThe article opens describing this traditional approach:

Traditionally, proof-testing has been performed with multiple technicians in the field and one in the control room, verifying the safety system reaction. This requires a considerable amount of time and effort, can pose safety risks to workers who need to climb tanks to perform the test, could take the process offline for an extended period, and can be prone to errors.

The frequency of these proof tests is: Continue Reading

Optimized and Flexible Refinery Blending for Current Market Conditions

Refinery blending operations are the “cash registers” since it “…is the last chance to optimize the final saleable product, as well as the final opportunity to achieve as close to product specifications as possible.

A recent RBN Energy blog post, The Price You Pay (For Premium Gasoline) – The Widening Price Differential Between Premium And Regular Gasoline, notes the growing cost spread between regular and higher octane grades of gasoline:

…as of July 2017 the premium -vs.-regular differential reached $0.53/gallon — more than double the differential in 2012.

Over the past 12 months, the premium-vs.-regular price spread at the pump has consistently exceeded $0.50/gal (more than $3.50/octane-barrel).

This pricing differential makes it even more important for refineries to optimize their blending operations so as not to giveaway octane levels which could be sold more profitably in higher grades. Also, with increasing shale oil production in the U.S., refineries can purchase these sources of crude oil for less. But these lighter crude oils also have lower octane ratings which must be carefully managed in blend operations.

Emerson's Sudhir Jain


I caught up with Emerson’s Sudhir Jain to discuss the RBN Energy post and how refiners are addressing the challenge to optimize their blending operations. Sudhir explained that optimized and efficient inline blending control starts with accurate and reliable measurements.

These instruments are part of integrated blending skids which accurately dose the component ratios into a blend header equipped with an in-line mixer. Fourier Transform Near Infrared (FTNIR) spectroscopy analyzers provide real-time property analysis to meet product specifications with excessive octane giveaway. An integrated control system with inline blending control assists the operations staff in managing, operating, controlling, optimizing, and reporting on all blend operations. Continue Reading