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Forays into Fieldbus Technology Pay Off

Another stellar article by John Rezabek, Ashland Chemical, was published in Control’s magazine last month, and I’d like to highlight it. John, as many of you may know, is the End User Advisory Council Chairman for the Fieldbus Foundation, and a big reason for this is his experience, depth of knowledge, and motivation to understand and keep up with the latest trends in fieldbus.

His article covers the message of what some users have heard about “bitter” experiences with fieldbus in its original days. John goes on to explain the key game-changing factors in successful projects as well as advancements that have and will make things even easier for users. There is no reason fieldbus can’t be a highly-successful wonderful experience for users (John is one of many examples of a user reaping massive benefits from smart digital technology).

As usual, there is no reason to spoil the message and writing John has so eloquently put together so follow the link below to read his post.

Advantages of FOUNDATION in FPSOs

I came across an interesting article on the use of FOUNDATION fieldbus in a Floating Production Storage and Offloading project. I originally posted it to our LinkedIn group but I thought it was a good piece to also share with everyone on our blog.

The article, by Suresh P. Nair, was featured in a web exclusive by InTech.

The article explains all the benefits of having a “plug and play” technology that allows for quick modular connections of instrumentation in a very confined space. As we all know, space on a sea-bearing vessel comes at a premium so the smaller the footprint of your equipment, the more room for raw product. More raw product is the bottom line.

In the LinkedIn group posting I linked above, Jonas Berge talks about what this type of installation means beyond just FPSOs. The overarching benefit here is with regards to the ability to modular construct FOUNDATION fieldbus projects. While the immediate benefits for this type of application on an FPSO is space savings, weight savings, diagnostics, cabling savings, ease of commissioning etc (you all know the extensive list of benefits of FOUNDATION fieldbus by now), the true benefits are something bigger.

With the ability to modularly construct projects, easier project implementation on site greatly increases. Jonas points out that the ability to modularly construct a project allows the user to “reduce labor at the isolated site where resources are scarce, using manpower in the yard where resources are plenty.” There is a powerful message to be learned in that statement. I agree with Jonas that we’re not too far off from major mammoth projects being built offsite and shipped modularly for connection. We already see this type of thing happening across other industrial projects like major roadway/bridges and building construction. In fact, many of our regular homes are being built offsite these days with entire walls being pre-fabricated and delivered to site.

Be sure to read the full article on InTech’s website here: Advantages of FOUNDATION for FPSOs

Also, be sure to read all of Jonas Berge’s insights on the project on our LinkedIn group here: FOUNDATION Fieldbus LinkedIn Group – FPSO

As a side note I can’t help but be reminded of the story of a hotel just south of us in San Antonio that is sitting along the riverwalk that was build in a modular fashion for the Texas World Fair in 1968. It took only 46 days to “build” 496 rooms on the 21 story hotel.

Click Image to Read about the Modular Construction of the San Antonio Hotel

Jim Cahill Blogs About Australian Fieldbus Seminar

Here’s another “From one Blog to Another” post.  In Jim Cahill’s Emerson Process Experts blog, he recently wrote about the Foundation Fieldbus seminar that was held in late 2011 in Australia.  There is also significant input from Jonas Berge, who is one of the leading experts on FOUNDATION fieldbus at Emerson Process Management.  If you are involved in fieldbus in any way, you either know Jonas or have read his work.  There is also a link to a nice YouTube video on the cost benefits of fieldbus that Jonas put together.  There are also lots of links to the seminar presentations (also hosted on the site). 

Emerson Process Experts: Experiences and Life Cycle Opportunities with Foundation Fieldbus

How Much Does Customization Cost the Process Industries?

One of the primary advantages of fieldbus is the elimination of customization in your project.  What do we mean by customization?  It’s all the additional work you have to do to get everything to plug in and play together with everything else.  The early days of digital process automation were an ugly mess of different proprietary protocols, from proprietary digital protocols at the instrument layer to proprietary control networks at the control backbone, to an even bigger mess of proprietary technologies at the operations management and business layer. 

Users can spend more than half of their project costs on activities that can be directly traced to customization.  At the field device level, analog technology creates unnecessary work processes because of the lack of direct, bidirectional digital access to devices for commissioning and diagnostics.  Instrument engineering alone can account for 20 percent of overall automation project costs.  Even if you are using digital devices, customization and proprietary technology at the application and network level meant that much of the data from intelligent devices may not even be accessible, and certainly not easily so, by the people that need it when they need it. 

Many of the stringent objections I get from people in the industry regarding fieldbus technology is that many suppliers already have the capability to do some of the things that fieldbus does without fully adopting the technology, so where is the advantage in adopting fieldbus?  Eliminating the billions of dollars worth of customization seems to be a good reason.  You can have a proprietary digital protocol, a proprietary control network or backhaul network, and proprietary technologies for getting data from one place to another.  But what does that add to the installed cost of your application?  What does that do to the cost of your solution, from products to services to lifecycle and operational costs, maintenance costs, and more? 

That’s the catch.  While the installed cost of an automation solution may be just a fraction of the total cost of a process automation project (in refineries automation can be less than a percent of overall project costs), the impact of the automation solution on the lifecycle and operational costs of a plant is immense.  The automation system is the ultimate factor in plant uptime.  It is your window into what is happening in your plant and your process.  If you are still relying on technology that is 30 years old, you should rethink your approach. 

FOUNDATION technology is an open specification that provides seamless data access from the field all the way up to operations management applications.  Supplier products are tested and registered to ensure they conform to this specification.  We then take input from end users and evolve our specification based on their functional requirements.  It’s a level playing field, but suppliers also have the ability add their own specific functionality and expertise on top of the standard solution.  Looking at your supplier’s fieldbus offerings is a good way to gauge their level of willingness to provide open solutions. 

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