Thursday, August 31, 2017

Process Instrument Calibration

Meriam MFC5150 HART Communicator
Meriam MFC5150
HART Communicator
Calibration is an essential part of keeping process measurement instrumentation delivering reliable and actionable information. All instruments utilized in process control are dependent on variables which translate from input to output. Calibration ensures the instrument is properly detecting and processing the input so that the output accurately represents a process condition. Typically, calibration involves the technician simulating an environmental condition and applying it to the measurement instrument. An input with a known quantity is introduced to the instrument, at which point the technician observes how the instrument responds, comparing instrument output to the known input signal.

Even if instruments are designed to withstand harsh physical conditions and last for long periods of time, routine calibration as defined by manufacturer, industry, and operator standards is necessary to periodically validate measurement performance. Information provided by measurement instruments is used for process control and decision making, so a difference between an instrument's output signal and the actual process condition can impact process output or facility overall performance and safety.

In all cases, the operation of a measurement instrument should be referenced, or traceable, to a
universally recognized and verified measurement standard. Maintaining the reference path between a field instrument and a recognized physical standard requires careful attention to detail and uncompromising adherence to procedure.

Calibration gauges
Calibration gauges (Permacal)
Instrument ranging is where a certain range of simulated input conditions are applied to an instrument and verifying that the relationship between input and output stays within a specified tolerance across the entire range of input values. Calibration and ranging differ in that calibration focuses more on whether or not the instrument is sensing the input variable accurately, whereas ranging focuses more on the instrument's input and output. The difference is important to note because re-ranging and re-calibration are distinct procedures.

In order to calibrate an instrument correctly, a reference point is necessary. In some cases, the reference point can be produced by a portable instrument, allowing in-place calibration of a transmitter or sensor. In other cases, precisely manufactured or engineered standards exist that can be used for bench calibration. Documentation of each operation, verifying that proper procedure was followed and calibration values recorded, should be maintained on file for inspection.

As measurement instruments age, they are more susceptible to declination in stability. Any time maintenance is performed, calibration should be a required step since the calibration parameters are sourced from pre-set calibration data which allows for all the instruments in a system to function as a process control unit.

Typical calibration timetables vary depending on specifics related to equipment and use. Generally, calibration is performed at predetermined time intervals, with notable changes in instrument performance also being a reliable indicator for when an instrument may need a tune-up. A typical type of recalibration regarding the use of analog and smart instruments is the zero and span adjustment, where the zero and span values define the instrument's specific range. Accuracy at specific input value points may also be included, if deemed significant.

The management of calibration and maintenance operations for process measurement instrumentation is a significant factor in facility and process operation. It can be performed with properly trained and equipped in-house personnel, or with the engagement of subcontractors. Calibration operations can be a significant cost center, with benefits accruing from increases in efficiency gained through the use of better calibration instrumentation that reduces task time.

Contact Flow-Tech at 410-666-3200 in Maryland and 804-752-3450 in Virginia for any calibration question or requirement.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Installation and Operation of the Brooks Instrument GF40

Brooks Instrument GF40
Brooks Instrument GF40
The Brooks® GF40 (elastomer seal) thermal mass flow controller (MFC) and thermal mass flow meter (MFM) achieves unprecedented performance, reliability, and flexibility in many gas flow measurement and control applications.

At the heart of the GF40 is Brooks’ patented 4th generation MultiFloTM capable device. MultiFlo overcomes a long-standing limitation of many thermal MFCs – when changing gas types, a simple correction factor, such as the ratio of heat capacities between the calibration gas and new gas, cannot account for accuracy-robbing viscosity and density differences. The Brooks MultiFlo database is built on thousands of native gas runs to establish correction functions that account for both thermal and physical differences among gases making the GF40 Series among the most accurate and flexible MFCs/MFMs available today. The Brooks GF40 Series is the perfect choice for customers who use thermal mass flow controllers or thermal mass flow meters on a variety of gases, who need to change gas type frequently, or who need to re-range while preserving gas measurement and control accuracy.

We have provided a Brooks GF40 installation and operation manual below for your convenience. To download your own Brooks GF40 IOM (PDF), click this link.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Explosion and Fire at Chemical Plant Case Study

Fire and explosion testing to mitigate risk.
Fire and explosion testing to mitigate risk. (Fike)
Industrial accidents, whether minor or catastrophic, can serve as sources of learning when analyzed and studied. Operators, owners, and technicians involved with industrial chemical operations have a degree of moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to conduct work in a reasonably and predictably safe manner without endangering personnel, property, or the environment.

Part of a diligent safety culture should include reviewing industrial accidents at other facilities. There is much to learn from these unfortunate events, even when they happen in an industry that may seem somewhat removed from our own.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, or CSB, is an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents. Below, find one of their video reenactments and analysis of an explosion that occurred at a Louisiana chemical processing plant in 2013. A portion of the reenactment shows how a few seemingly innocuous oversights can combine with other unrecognized conditions that result in a major conflagration.

For more information on industrial plant safety products that mitigate fire and explosion risk,  contact Flow-Tech at 410-666-3200 in Maryland, or 804-752-3450 in Virginia

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pressure Sensor Accessories - Filled Impulse Line

welded isolating diaphragm for pressure sensing line
An isolating diaphragm, such as this variety
pictured, can be used as a barrier between
process fluid and sensing line fill.
Image courtesy REO Temp 
Pressure sensors intended for use in industrial process measurement and control applications are designed to be robust, dependable, and precise. Sometimes, though, it is necessary or beneficial to incorporate accessories in an installation which augment the performance of pressure sensors in difficult or hazardous environments. There are some scenarios where the sensor must be isolated from the process fluid, such as when the substance is highly corrosive or otherwise damaging to the pressure sensor.

A way to aid pressure sensing instruments in situations where direct contact must be avoided is by using a filled impulse line. An impulse line extends from a process pipe of vessel to a pressure measurement instrument or sensor. The line can have a diaphragm barrier that isolates the process fluid from the line, or the line can be open to the process. There are best practices that should be followed in the design and installation of an impulse line to assure that the line provides a useful transmission of the process pressure to the sensor and whatever degree of isolation or protection is needed remains in effect.

The filled impulse line functions via the addition of a non-harmful, neutral fluid to the impulse line. The neutral fluid acts as a barrier and a bridge, allowing the pressure sensing instrument to measure the pressure of the potentially harmful process fluid without direct contact. An example of this technique being employed is adding glycerin as a neutral fluid to an impulse line below a water pipe.

Glycerin's freeze point is lower than waters, meaning glycerin can withstand lower temperatures before freezing. The impulse line connected to the water pipe may freeze in process environments where the weather is exceptionally cold, since the impulse line will not be flowing in the same way as the water pipe. Since glycerin has a greater density and a lower freezing point, the glycerin will remain static inside the impulse line and protect the line from hazardous conditions.
pressure transmitter
Filled impulse lines protect pressure
transmitters from the adverse impact
of aggressive process fluids.


The use of an isolating diaphragm negates the need for certain considerations of fill fluid density, piping layout, and the need to create an arrangement that holds the fill fluid in place within the impulse line. System pressure will be transferred across the diaphragm from the process fluid to the fill fluid, then to the pressure sensor. It is important to utilize fluids and piping arrangements that do not affect the accurate transference of the process pressure. Any impact related to the impulse line assembly must be determined, and appropriate calibration offset applied to the pressure sensor reading.

An essential design element of a filled impulse line without an isolating diaphragm is that the fill fluid must be compatible with the process fluid, meaning there can be no chemical reactivity between the two. Additionally, the two fluids should be incapable of mixing no matter how much of each fluid is involved in the combination. Even with isolating diaphragms employed, fluid harmony should still be considered because a diaphragm could potentially loose its seal. If such a break were to occur, the fluids used in filled impulse lines may contact the process fluid, with an impact that should be clearly understood through a careful evaluation.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fieldbus Equipped Instrumentation - Part Two

Since automatic control decisions in FOUNDATION fieldbus are implemented and executed at the field instrument level, the reliance on digital signals (as opposed to analog) allows for a streamlined configuration of direct control system ports. If the central control device were to become overloaded for any reason, tasks related to control decisions could still be implemented by operators in the field. This decentralization of the system places less burden and emphasis on the overall central control unit, to the point where, theoretically, the central control unit could stop functioning and the instrumentation would continue performing process tasks thanks to the increased autonomy. Allowing for the instrumentation to function at such an increased level of operation provides a proverbial safety net for any system related issues, with the capacity for independent functionality serving as both a precaution and an example for how process technology continues to evolve from analog solutions to fully end to end digital instrumentation.

Even in terms of the FOUNDATION instrumentation itself, there were two levels of networks being developed at this increased level of operation, initially: the first, H1, was considered low speed, while H2 was considered high speed. As the design process unfolded, existing Ethernet technology was discovered to fulfill the needs of the high speed framework, meaning the H2 development was stopped since the existing technology would allow for the H1 network to perform to the desired standards. The physical layer of the H1 constitutes, typically, a two-wire twisted pair ungrounded network cable, a 100 ohm (typical) characteristic impedance, DC power being conveyed over the same two wires as digital data, at least a 31.25 kbps data rate, differential voltage signaling with a defined threshold for both maximum and minimum peak receive rates, and Manchester encoding. Optical fiber can be used on some installations in lieu of the twisted pair cable.

Most of these specifications were exactly designed to withstand extremely challenging process control environments while still not abandoning the philosophy of being easy to build and implement, especially in terms of new system establishment. The most crucial aspects of many process control systems are streamlined together, allowing for consistent communication and synchronization. All aspects are viewable from both the legacy central controller and also via each individual device. Despite the data rate of 31.25 kbps being relatively slow, what is sacrificed in terms of speed is more than made up for in terms of the system being compatible with imperfect cables and other hiccups which may destabilize a network with faster speeds. The evolved technology, ease of installation, and durability have made the H1 network a widely used implementation of the FOUNDATION fieldbus technology. Fieldbus is currently considered one of a few widely adopted industrial process control communications protocols.

For more information contact Flow-Tech in Maryland at 410-666-3200; in Virginia at 804-752-3450, or visit http://www.flowtechonline.com.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Fieldbus Equipped Instrumentation - Part One

Autonomous control and digital instrumentation are two capabilities enabling highly precise or complex execution of process control functions. FOUNDATION fieldbus instrumentation elevates the level of control afforded to digital field instrumentation where, instead of only communicating with each other, instruments involved in particular process control systems can independently facilitate algorithms typically reserved for instruments solely dedicated to controlling other instruments. Fieldbus capable instrumentation has become the standard instrumentation for many process industry installations due to the fact the FOUNDATION design principle streamlines process systems. A large contributor to FOUNDATION's success has been faster installation as opposed to operational controllers which do not feature the fieldbus configuration. Newer process companies, or process control professionals seeking to establish a new system, have gravitated towards fieldbus due to the combined advantages of system conciseness and ease of implementation.

In a typical digital control system, dedicated controllers communicate with field instrumentation (the HART protocol is a prime example of digital communication at work in the industry). The host system controls configuration of instruments and serves as a central hub where all relevant control decisions are made from a single dedicated controller. Typically, these networks connect controllers and field devices through coupling devices and other buses which streamline many different instruments into a complete system.

FOUNDATION fieldbus approaches the same network scheme with an important difference. Whereas in a legacy or more conventional system, either algorithmic or manual decisions would need to be implemented via the dedicated system level controllers, instruments utilizing FOUNDATION fieldbus architecture can execute control algorithms at the local device level. The dedicated controller hub is still present, so that operators can view and monitor the entire network concurrently and make status changes. Algorithmic execution of control functions becomes entirely device reliant thanks to the FOUNDATION protocol. Additionally, even though FOUNDATION implements an advanced configuration, some operators use the capabilities introduced in the fieldbus upgrade to implement specific algorithms via each device while concurrently maintaining algorithms in the central controller. This dual algorithmic configuration allows for several advantages, including the ability for increased system precision.

Since individual devices in the control process are calibrated and able to execute their own control functions, issues in the process with particular devices can be isolated and dealt with in a more specified manner by technicians using the instruments in the field. The central operator retains the capacity to use the control hub to alter and direct the control system.

For more information contact Flow-Tech in Maryland at 410-666-3200; in Virginia at 804-752-3450, or visit http://www.flowtechonline.com.

Watch for Part Two of this series to be posted soon.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Solving Critical Process Applications for the Water and Wastewater Industry

Thermal Dispersion and Coriolis technology
From the early 1960s, Fluid Components International recognized the need for flow and level instrumentation which met specific customer requirements and demands for the Water and Wastewater Industry. By utilizing Thermal Dispersion and Coriolis technology exclusively in all FCI flow, level, interface, temperature switches and mass flow meters, our products solve typical Water and Wastewater Industry application challenges with standard product features such as:
  • No moving parts
  • All welded materials of construction 
  • Direct mass flow measurement
  • No pressure drop
  • Explosion-proof design
  • Wide flow range
  • Low flow capability
The document below outlines where and how Thermal Dispersion and Coriolis technology are used throughout water treatment facilities around the USA.

For more information on any water treatment process application, contact Flow-Tech at 410-666-3200 in Maryland, or 804-752-3450 in Virginia, or visit http://www.flowtechonline.com.