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Modernization of Process Plants

Automated Monitoring of Pipe Trace Heating Increases Availability and Reduces Costs

| Author / Editor: Thilo Glas / Dr. Jörg Kempf

Reduced Energy Consumption

It goes without saying that system availability can be increased by monitoring trace heating. Reduced energy consumption is another advantage of the solution. As previously mentioned, older systems in particular are simply switched on at the start of the cold season — regardless of whether this is actually necessary or not. If the corresponding outside temperatures are now taken into account, the costs for many kilowatt hours and, in larger systems, even megawatt hours of electricity can be quickly saved.

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A temperature sensor that switches on the heating only when required via a configurable limit switch is an easy concept to implement. A more technically sophisticated approach would be to use a small-scale controller, such as one from the Inline product family, thereby enabling closed-loop control to be performed correctly. In this case, the heat output is adjusted by means of pulse width modulation. An electronic load relay from the Contactron product family, which can be switched quickly and wear-free, is particularly suitable for this. This type of heat output regulation, i.e. quick switch-on and switch-off, where the output is influenced by the operating time as opposed to the idle time, is also used in industrial machinery such as transfer molding presses, because it can be implemented easily.

Evaluation in a cloud-based database

An industrial cloud solution is the ideal choice if the system operator wants to not only map the measured values to their control system, but also store them in a database so that they can be evaluated later. This approach is suitable for all measured values and heating systems, as well as for numerous other forms of data and applications. User-friendly gateways act as the link between the sensors and actuators installed in the field, e.g. via the Modbus protocol, and the respective database in the cloud. The gateway just requires an Internet connection; the connection to the cloud is then established automatically. There the data is stored in a database with a time stamp. The user accesses the values via a secure Internet connection using their username and password. The database is located in a professionally operated external data center. The level of security and availability is generally higher than if the user were to set up their own server on their company premises.

Additional Information
 
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The measured data can now be compared in the form of a diagram, for example, using a web viewer or archived in csv format, which is compatible with Excel. A control system is often unable to provide these options in such a straightforward manner. Cloud services such as Microsoft Azure or Proficloud from Phoenix Contact are suitable for industrial use.

In this way, optimally equipped, winter can come ...

* The author is Senior Specialist Engineering in the Industry Management Process, Phoenix Contact Electronics GmbH, Bad Pyrmont/Germany.

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