PCIC Europe: Pump Automation Stop the Energy Guzzlers: This is how Pumps Learn to Think!

Author / Editor: Dominik Stephan* / Dominik Stephan

Process pumps do not have an easy job, more so in the downstream industry. It is useful to have strong partners on your side in this industry — Be it a refinery or a chemical facility, pumps in all sizes are the ubiquitous workhorses of the branch. However, pumps are also one of the biggest cost factors in the production facility. The technology often does not live up to its full potential when regulated in an insufficient or outdated manner. This is exactly when modern automation and pump management concepts come into play.

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(Bild: chones, Andrei Merkulov - Fotolia)

The chemical industry is addicted to hydrocarbons: Whether they are in refinery processes or in the raw materials industry, conversion of materials and refinement are the bread-and-butter business of downstream specialists. Even green chemistry and the bio-refinery concept cannot exist without the conversion of the sought-after organic compounds. However, expensive material transport is required in order to convert crude oil, gas or biomass into fuel, basic chemicals or high-value products.

Pumps are the beating heart of the downstream industry but they can also quickly turn into a money pit: obsolete material, high maintenance costs or incorrectly designed units can severely affect the bank account of a business. In addition to this, an estimate of up to 80 % of existing pumps is always unregulated — a genuine process optimisation is hardly possible.

Part of a Complex Production Network

Apart from the correct design, experts are of the opinion that monitoring and regulation to adjust to changing operating conditions and early detection of possible breakdowns now form a key factor of increasingly efficient pump technology.

Pumps no longer stand alone but are connected in complex production networks. Even if sophisticated engines, seals or couplings continue to make pumps more productive, stable or efficient, automation is essential for efficient use of continuous-flow machines.

Pumps Take the Spotlight at PCIC Europe

It is no wonder that the topic of pump system monitoring received special consideration at the PCIC (Petroleum and Chemical Industry Committee) Conference Europe 2016 during the class reunion of automation engineers of the petrochemical branch. For this Herculean task, the automation specialists at ABB relied on their Advanced Process Control (APC) system which also enables setting up complex control loops and control circuits as well as the predictive control unit using a wide range of process parameters.