5 Questions for Advanced Control Consultant Lou Heavner

One of the new things I want to try here on the blog is a podcast series asking many of our experts five questions. The questions will revolve around how they got started into the field that they’re in, challenges faced, spare time activities, and guidance for younger folks in pursuing a similar career.

Emerson’s Lou Heavner, whom you may recall from numerous advanced process-control related posts, shared his thoughts with me. We hope you enjoy the series over time and if you have specific requests for experts or questions to ask them, leave a comment below!


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Level Switch Diagnostics for Remote Proof Testing and Instrument Health

Many of the “things” in the Industrial Internet of Things are the sensors that measure not only operating, but also safety-, reliability- and efficiency-related parameters from a manufacturing and production facility.

Emerson's Marianne Williams

In a Process Industry Informer article, Enhanced Diagnostics Help To Ensure Reliable Level Monitoring, Emerson’s Marianne Williams shares how technology advancements in vibrating fork level switches help improve operational performance.

Marianne highlights the importance of sensors in optimizing reliability practices:

…such as increased condition monitoring and analysis-based predictive maintenance activities – drive down operating costs and improve product or batch quality, health and safety, and environmental compliance.

Advanced diagnostics in these instruments are important, because if:

…potential problems can be diagnosed early, before a failure occurs, then problems can be avoided and maintenance can be scheduled during a planned period of downtime, reducing costs.

Level measurement is often a critical measurement for control and safety shutdown applications such as high- and low-level alarming, overfill prevention, and loss of fluid flow to downstream pump. Vibrating fork level switches can be effectively used in these applications. This technology often replaces traditional mechanical and float technologies: Continue Reading

Remote and Continuous Tank Floating Roof Monitoring

Emerson’s Ulf Johannesson

As oil & gas supplies continue to exceed demand and the need to store crude oil, natural gas liquids and other petroleum-based products increases, storage tanks remain critical elements in the global supply chain.

In a Tank Storage magazine article, Stay Afloat Using Radar Technology, Emerson’s Ulf Johannesson describes how radar technology is used to improve safe and reliable operation on storage tanks with floating roofs.

Tank Storage magazine: Stay Afloat Using Radar TechnologyHe opens the article noting that more:

…than half of the world’s larger tanks used for storing common petroleum products have floating roofs, and this proportion is likely to rise due to tightening demands for reduced vapour emissions.

Floating roofs have an advantage over fixed-roof tanks in cost and vapor balancing and recovery. They also come with their own set of issues:

…such as sinking, tilting, leaking and sticking decks can affect the performance of floating roofs – potentially leading to costly structural damage and major environmental and safety risks.

Traditionally, manual inspection of these floating roofs has been the way to try to spot these issues. Not only does this practice put operating personnel in hazardous areas, this inspection can be only performed on a periodic basis, it may also not find the issues in time before an abnormal situation develops.

Tank farm operators: Continue Reading

Start with Improvement Opportunities in Modernization Projects

Emerson's John Dolenc

Author: John Dolenc

It is nice to hear from our customers and read in the literature that it has become important to not just replace obsolete control system equipment, but to also provide operational improvement. For the longest time, I have been puzzled by the idea of not taking the opportunity to improve process operations when installing a new control system.

I guess I was indoctrinated as a young engineer to always look for ways to improve operations and plant profitability. I also had the opportunity to design and start-up a few small chemical plants, which instilled in me the important role of process automation and how a well-designed control scheme can improve process operations.

It is important to realize that operational improvements do not just happen by replacing an older control system with a state-of-the-art system. Automation modernization projects need to be planned to get desired results just like any other project. When planning a modernization, we engineers like to jump into the technical problems and engineer the modernization execution plan. Then we might think about where the value will come from. Continue Reading

Focus on the Process in Your Safety Requirements Specification

A safety requirement specification (SRS) for a safety instrumented system (SIS), as part of the IEC 61511 global safety standard [from the exida blog]:

…incorporates all the analysis done during the Risk Assessment, HAZOP [hazard and operability study]/PHA [process hazard analysis] and LOPA [layer of protection analysis] reviews.

Emerson's Russell Cockman

Emerson’s Russell Cockman presented at an Institute of Measurement and Control meeting about why it’s important to embrace the concept of the safety requirements specification.

He opened citing statistics for the UK Health and Safety Executive on the Primary Cause of SIS Failure:

Russell noted that success of any safety instrumented function (SIF) within the SIS is entirely dependent on it doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. Given this common goal of both process safety and functional safety, it is strange that there is often such a disconnect between them throughout their lifecycle. He asked the attendees how many SIS specifications do they see with no mention of the process being protected at all? Continue Reading