Corrosion Management and Fieldbus

The ExxonMobil pipeline rupture looks to be the most significant thing to happen in the world of process automation this week.  Like much of the North American industrial infrastructure, the pipeline is quite old and was originally constructed in the 1940s.  Although there has been no official prognosis or root cause of this incident announced, the incident has sparked discussion about the role of corrosion measurement in process automation applications.  I wrote about bad corrosion management practices when I was at ARC and the BP Alaska pipeline ruptured back in 2008.  According to ARC, the process industries spend shockingly little on corrosion management systems annually.  Here is an excerpt from the 2008 article:

ARC Advisory Group’s Plant Asset Management (PAM) Systems Worldwide Outlook estimates that manufacturers spend over $50 million on corrosion monitoring million annually. One of the fastest growing segments of PAM, the corrosion monitoring market will nearly double over the next five years. The traditional method for monitoring corrosion in pipelines is through metal coupons that are weighed, inserted into the process stream, then periodically removed to determine if corrosion has occurred, by recording the average weight loss over time. Pipeline operators also use ultrasonic testing modules on smart pigs to measure the thickness of the pipe. These are not real time measurements for corrosion, however, and merely confirm that corrosion has taken place.”

Like many of the variables in process automation, particularly in remote applications like pipelines, corrosion measurement is moving from the realm of the transactional to the realm of real time.  Methods such as electrical resistance (ER) and linear polarization resistance (LPR) can measure the resistance across wires that are inserted into the process.  We are even reaching into the realm of more localized corrosion detection through methods such as harmonic distortion analysis, which is used in this Pepperl+Fuchs product.

Obviously, this is an excellent use case for FOUNDATION for ROM as well.  This is one of those variables in remote applications that is moving from a transactional variable to a real time variable that can be measured from a remote location.  Sadly, none of the latest breed of real time corrosion measurement devices are tested or registered for FOUNDATION fieldbus, but we would have the capability to integrate with such devices with our FOUNDATION for ROM solution.  
But why should you think about FOUNDATION fieldbus for your corrosion measurement solution?  Simple, FOUNDATION fieldbus was design to report the condition of the sensor and provide a mechanism for the quality of the data coming from the sensor itself.  This allows you to immediately distinguish between problems in the process versus problems with a sensor, or sensor electronics, or memory, or other aspects of the device. Our diagnostics go deeper, they are managed much better, and they provide instant notification.  
In a corrosion monitoring solution, you would have much better information about wear on the sensor, and that critical information is reported to the operator much more quickly.   That real time view of corrosion also means that you can schedule maintenance and shutdowns exactly when they are needed, with a much better planning window.  FOUNDATION fieldbus then lets you prioritize that information more effectively, so the operator sees only the information that is critical to the process, while maintenance sees information that is relevant only to maintenance.  We do this through our Diagnostic Profile and adoption of NAMUR NE 107 guidelines.  So, consider asking your supplier to make a FOUNDATION fieldbus compatible version of their corrosion monitoring sensor, or you can use FOUNDATION for ROM technology to integrate wired HART or WirelessHART into a FOUNDATION fieldbus infrastructure for your remote application.  

About FieldComm Group

The FieldComm Group is a global standards-based organization consisting of leading process end users, manufacturers, universities and research organizations that work together to direct the development, incorporation and implementation of new and overlapping technologies and serves as the source for FDI technology. The FieldComm Group’s mission is to develop, manage and promote global standards for integrating digital devices into automation system architectures while protecting process-automation investments in HART and FOUNDATION Fieldbus communication technologies. Membership is open to anyone interested in the use of the technologies. For more information, visit their web site at www.fieldcommgroup.org.

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