How measurement instruments can make a world of difference | Control Engineering

Process instrumentation insights

  • Field instruments, measuring parameters like flow, pressure, temperature and level,play a critical role in minimizing environmental impact.
  • The digitalization of flowmeters and field instrumentation offers advanced capabilities, including remote diagnostics and configuration changes, allowing for timely intervention in case of malfunctions and significantly reducing maintenance time and costs.
  • This digital transformation also enables easy access and analysis of process trends and histories, leading to enhanced production efficiency, reduced energy consumption, and improved regulatory adherence.

Much of what we know about the impact of industrial activities on the environment stems from data collected by analytical instruments which can provide up-to-the-minute data.

While these instruments are invaluable, they only tell a small part of the story. Equally, if not more important, is the role played by the thousands of field instruments that measure key parameters such as flow, pressure, temperature, and level. By closely measuring and monitoring performance, these instruments play a critical role in helping to minimize environmental impact by ensuring that processes are operating optimally.

Measurement accuracy is crucial, as even a slight deviation in measured values can have potentially major repercussions on multiple aspects of operational performance as operators or control systems make incorrect decisions based on inaccurate data.

Yielding greater measurement through digitalization

The digitalization of flowmeters and field instrumentation has unlocked an array of possibilities for optimizing the performance of both production processes and the instruments themselves.

Many modern instruments offer remote access to diagnostics and configuration changes. In the event of problems with power management, or a broken sensor element or cable, exact information on the time of the event and the exact location of the affected device can be obtained, either at the device itself or via a centralized control system. This prevents problems from escalating and cuts maintenance time and costs.

Trends and process histories are also much easier to access and analyze when they are based on a stream of easily storable and accessible data that can be analyzed and interpreted and turned into readily interpretable graphical formats.

Flow: Accurate measurement of flow is a key requirement in a wide variety of processes and can have a major impact on environmental performance. In applications where steam is used for production purposes, for example, measuring steam flows can be a useful first step in finding ways to improve the energy efficiency.

Measuring flow can also be a prerequisite of environmental compliance, such as in effluent discharge applications, where the quantities of industrial wastewater returned to watercourses may be subject to strict regulatory limits.

Pressure and temperature: The close relationship between pressure and temperature makes them two of the most widely measured parameters in industrial processes. Accurate measurement of both is a key prerequisite in ensuring that processes are running at peak efficiency.

Measuring pressure in a pumping system, for example, allows operators to ascertain whether the pump is operating at or near its best efficiency point. The data provided by pressure transmitters can provide a useful first step in helping to identify issues with pump performance.

The data provided by temperature instruments can provide similar benefits where energy conservation and environmental performance are key requirements. Non-invasive temperature measurement allows process owners to consider how temperature measurement at different points in the process can help deliver energy efficiency strategies.

Actuators and positioners: Actuators and positioners are key to the effective control of actuated equipment such as valves, fans and dampers used in process and combustion applications. In power plant and combustion applications, for example, using the latest generation of digital high-accuracy actuators and positioners to control air flows and other variables during key stages such as shutdown and start-up, cooling water injection and steam generation can make a material difference to both environmental and overall lifetime performance of boiler systems.

As a means of gathering up to date data on process conditions, instrumentation is key in any efficiency improvement program. By combining accuracy and reliability with the possibilities for analysis and communication offered by digitalization, operators can identify areas for improvements that can help maintain production and improve cost efficiency, reducing energy consumption and ensuring regulatory compliance.

– This originally appeared on Control Engineering Europe. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology,