Sunday, June 30, 2019

US Power Grids, Oil and Gas Industries, and Risk of Hacking

A report released in June, from the security firm Dragos, describes a worrisome development by a hacker group named, “Xenotime” and at least two dangerous oil and gas intrusions and ongoing reconnaissance on United States power grids.

Multiple ICS (Industrial Control Sectors) sectors now face the XENOTIME threat; this means individual verticals – such as oil and gas, manufacturing, or electric – cannot ignore threats to other ICS entities because they are not specifically targeted.


The Dragos researchers have termed this threat proliferation as the world’s most dangerous cyberthreat since an event in 2017 where Xenotime had caused a serious operational outage at a crucial site in the Middle East. 

The fact that concerns cybersecurity experts the most is that this hacking attack was a malware that chose to target the facility safety processes (SIS – safety instrumentation system).

For example, when temperatures in a reactor increase to an unsafe level, an SIS will automatically start a cooling process or immediately close a valve to prevent a safety accident. The SIS safety stems are both hardware and software that combine to protect facilities from life threatening accidents.

At this point, no one is sure who is behind Xenotime. Russia has been connected to one of the critical infrastructure attacks in the Ukraine.  That attack was viewed to be the first hacker related power grid outage.

This is a “Cause for Concern” post that was published by Dragos on June 14, 2019

“While none of the electric utility targeting events has resulted in a known, successful intrusion into victim organizations to date, the persistent attempts, and expansion in scope is cause for definite concern. XENOTIME has successfully compromised several oil and gas environments which demonstrates its ability to do so in other verticals. Specifically, XENOTIME remains one of only four threats (along with ELECTRUM, Sandworm, and the entities responsible for Stuxnet) to execute a deliberate disruptive or destructive attack.

XENOTIME is the only known entity to specifically target safety instrumented systems (SIS) for disruptive or destructive purposes. Electric utility environments are significantly different from oil and gas operations in several aspects, but electric operations still have safety and protection equipment that could be targeted with similar tradecraft. XENOTIME expressing consistent, direct interest in electric utility operations is a cause for deep concern given this adversary’s willingness to compromise process safety – and thus integrity – to fulfill its mission.

XENOTIME’s expansion to another industry vertical is emblematic of an increasingly hostile industrial threat landscape. Most observed XENOTIME activity focuses on initial information gathering and access operations necessary for follow-on ICS intrusion operations. As seen in long-running state-sponsored intrusions into US, UK, and other electric infrastructure, entities are increasingly interested in the fundamentals of ICS operations and displaying all the hallmarks associated with information and access acquisition necessary to conduct future attacks. While Dragos sees no evidence at this time indicating that XENOTIME (or any other activity group, such as ELECTRUM or ALLANITE) is capable of executing a prolonged disruptive or destructive event on electric utility operations, observed activity strongly signals adversary interest in meeting the prerequisites for doing so.”

Friday, June 28, 2019

A Mass Flow Meter that Works with YOUR Control System: The Brooks SLA5800 Series

SLA5800
Improve your processes with the EtherNet/IP-enabled SLA5800 Series MFC. By adding non-proprietary communications and lightning fast data transfer to the SLA5800’s high accuracy, repeatability and rich data, Brooks Instrument just made the most stable mass flow controller even better. Best of all, it's compatible with all major control system manufacturers, including Allen-Bradley (Rockwell Automation), Emerson DeltaV and Siemens.

The SLA5800 Series mass flow meters and mass flow controllers have gained broad acceptance as the standard for accuracy, stability and reliability. These products have a wide flow measurement range and are suitable for a broad range of temperature and pressure conditions making them well suited for chemical and petrochemical research, laboratory, analytical, fuel cell and life science applications, among others.

Highlights of the SLA5800 Series mass flow products include: industry leading long term stability, accuracy backed by superior metrology systems and methods using primary calibration systems directly traceable to international standards, and a broad range of analog and digital I/O options to suite virtually any application. An independent diagnostic/service port permits users to troubleshoot or change flow conditions without removing the mass flow controller from service.



Flow-Tech, Inc.
410-666-3200 MD or 804-752-3450 VA
https://flowtechonline.com

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Variable Area Flow Meters

Variable area flow meters

Variable area flow meters, also referred to as Rotameters, have diverse industrial processing applications that range from simple to sophisticated. The devices are easy to install, require no electrical connection, and provide direct flow rate reading. They provide fail-safe flow rate readings in a wide array of industrial applications.

Variable Area Flow Meters: An Overview 

Developed by German inventor Karl Kueppers in 1908, Rotameters measure the volumetric flow rate of liquids and gases. 

Important elements of a variable area flow meter include the tube and the float. Their operation is simple. The tube is fixed vertically and the fluid is fed from the bottom. It travels upward and exits from the top. The float remains at the bottom when no liquid is present and rises upward when fluid enters the tube. 

The float inside the tube moves in proportion to the rate of fluid flow and the area between the tube wall and the float. When the float moves upward, the area increases while the differential pressure decreases. A stable position is reached when the upward force exerted by the fluid is equal to the weight of the float. A scale mounted on the tube records the flow rate of the liquid. Usually, the flow can be adjusted manually using a built-in valve. 

Types of Variable Area Flow Meters 

Variable area flow meters can be categorized by the type of tube they use, which relates to their ability to withstand various pressures, temperatures, process media, and cost. Process connection size and wetted part materials vary as a function of the rotameter type and construction. 

Plastic variable area flow meter
Plastic Tube
Rotameter
(Brooks)

Plastic Tube Variable Area Flow Meter

For many non-corrosive, low-pressure air, water and gas flow applications. Made of machined acrylic or molded polycarbonate.

Applications:
  • Water treatment systems
  • Gas analyzers
  • Air sampling equipment 
  • Desalinization equipment
  • Medical equipment
  • Photo processing equipment
  • OEM machines
Glass variable area flow meter
Glass Tube
Rotameter
(Brooks)

Glass Tube Variable Area Flow Meter

The basic glass variable area flow meter consists of borosilicate glass tube while the float is made of either glass, plastic, or stainless steel. The most common combination is a glass tube and metal float. This is suitable for a measure the flow rate of liquid of low to medium temperatures and pressures. 

Applications:
  • Analytical instrumentation
  • Industrial processes
  • Chemical production
  • Pharmaceutical production
  • Oil & gas extraction
  • Refining processes
  • Fuel cell research
  • Water treatment systems
Metal variable area flow meter
Metal Tube
Rotameter
(Brooks)

Metal Tube Variable Area Flow Meter

Metal tube variable area flow meters are another type that is suitable for temperatures and pressures beyond the physical and mechanical limits of glass tube versions. They are generally manufactured of stainless steel, aluminum, or brass. The piston position is determined by the mechanical and magnetic followers that can be read from the outside of the tube. They are suitable in situations where applications conditions would damage the glass metering tubes, such as steam applications.

Applications:
  • Purge liquid or gas metering
  • Liquid, gas, or oil flow measurement
  • Chemical injection
  • Rotating equipment flow measurement
  • High-pressure flow meters for offshore oil platforms
For more information, contact Flow-Tech, Inc. by calling 410-666-3200 in Maryland or 804-752-3450 in Virginia. Or, stop by the website at https://flowtechonline.com.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Electromagnetic Flowmeters and Dual Frequency Excitation

Magnetic flowmeter
(Yokogawa)
The electromagnetic flowmeter, commonly known as the "magmeter", gets its name from the magnetic field generated within the float tube that produces a signal proportional to flow. This principle employs Faraday's Law of Electromagnetic Induction. Magnetic flowmeters are built so the direction of the magnetic field is perpendicular to the flow and the line between the electrodes is also perpendicular to the flow. As a conductive liquid flows through the flowtube, an electro-motive force is generated. The electrodes detect the electro-motive force. The electro-motive force is proportional to the flow velocity, flux density, and the meter inner diameter. The flux density of the magnetic field and the meters inner diameter are constant values, therefore the magnetic flow meter can calculate the flow velocity and volumetric flow from the electro-motive force.

The basic components of the magnetic flow meter body are:
  • A lined flowtube (typically Teflon)
  • Excitation coils
  • Two electrodes mounted opposite of each other within the flowtube.
Current is applied to the coils in the magmeter to generate a magnetic field within the flow tube. As a conductive fluid flows through the meter, an electro-motiveforce is generated. This force is detected by the electrodes and the resulting value is converted to flowrate.

When magnetic flow meters were originally designed over 50 years ago, they utilized AC type excitation. AC powered magnetic flow meters use line frequency to generate the magnetic field. The frequency of AC excitation is typically 50 to 60 Hertz. This type of excitation has a very fast response time, making it suitable for slurry applications. The weakness of AC type excitation is that it has an unstable zero, and the accuracy is a percent of span, as opposed to a more accurate percent of reading. Because this type of excitation uses line frequency, the power consumption is also very high, making this an expensive meter to operate.

AC and DC excitation
Dual AC and DC excitation
In an effort to improve accuracy and reduce energy cost, pulsed DC type excitation was introduced several years later. The average excitation frequency is between three to eight Hertz, but can go as high as thirty Hertz. The major benefits of pulsed DC excitation over AC excitation is the improved accuracy and zero stability. The accuracy of a DC type meter is a percent of reading. This gives you a more accurate measurement throughout the entire measuring range. Unfortunately, because of the low frequency, the response time is very slow, making it a poor choice for noisy applications.

To overcome the disadvantages of the standard AC and DC excitation methods, and keep the advantage of a high signal-to-noise ratio, Yokogawa's patented dual frequency excitation is the ideal combination. Dual frequency excitation combines the positive benefits of both AC and DC excitation, using both a high 75 Hertz frequency, and a low frequency excitation of approximately six Hertz to drive the coils. Dual frequency excitation is an innovative method that superimposes high frequencies on low frequencies, and utilizes the advantages of each, while eliminating the previously discussed disadvantages. The combination of these methods results in the flow noise immunity and fast response of the high frequency excitation method, and the high zero stability of the low frequency excitation method simultaneously.

For more information on Fike products and capabilities, contact Flow-Tech, Inc. by calling 410-666-3200 in Maryland or 804-752-3450 in Virginia. Or, stop by the website at https://flowtechonline.com.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Demonstration of Techniques Used to Mitigate Industrial Explosions and Overpressure Situations


There’s a number of different things that happen with an overpressure event or explosion at an industrial facility. Some are minor. Some are catastrophic. Improved industrial safety can start with something as small as paying careful attention to a speck of dust. Fike’s Combustion Test Lab offers comprehensive explosibility dust testing, providing invaluable data that ultimately helps protect lives and assets.

In August of 2018 an international audience of students, professors and other experts came together at the International Symposium on Hazards, Prevention and Mitigation of Industrial Explosions (ISHPMIE).  Fike Corporation, recognized globally as the most trusted producer of risk mitigation products, presented innovations and solutions at the Combustion Test Lab. This video highlights the demonstrations where a wide variety of overpressure and explosive situations were neutralized using specialized Fike equipment.

The kinds of events that were demonstrated were:
  • Open Air Deflagration
  • Explosion Venting (far right side of screen)
  • Flameless Venting (Fike's Flamquench product)
  • High Rate Discharge (Fike's HRD explosion suppression product)
  • Explosion Suppression (yellow cube with clear panes)
  • Active Isolation (Chemical and Mechanical)
  • Passive Isolation
  • Pressure Relief (featuring Fike's RD500 Atlas rupture disc)
  • Dust Collector Strength-of-Enclosure Test
  • Active Conveyance
  • Metal Dust Deflagration
For more information on Fike products and capabilities, contact Flow-Tech, Inc. by calling 410-666-3200 in Maryland or 804-752-3450 in Virginia. Or, stop by the website at https://flowtechonline.com.