February 2019, Vol. 246, No. 2


Boost Productivity During Power System Upgrades


By Dan Pender, Rockwell Automation 

Oil and gas plant resources around the globe are feeling the pain of relying on aging power-distribution systems. Using intelligent packaged power can help reduce risk and costs, while unleashing information for performance improvements.

Among the effects of outmoded electrical infrastructures: 

  • Reduced productivity caused by unplanned downtime
  • Safety risks posed by faltering equipment
  • Workers stressed and stretched by the perpetual need for troubleshooting.

The conventional solution has been to replace old equipment with essentially newer versions of the same components and controls. However, in today’s digital age, relying on a replacement-in-kind strategy is a big missed opportunity for oil and gas companies.

When you instead replace hard-wired equipment with digital solutions and integrate the electrical equipment into the plant control system, you gain access to critical operations intelligence that can help with cost containment and asset performance optimization. 

You can identify patterns with equipment that allow for improvement in maintenance plans. And most important, earlier and better visibility into potential failure events helps reduce the need to send employees on-site to address issues.

With the availability of intelligent devices and the wealth of real-time information they provide, replacing old hard-wired electrical systems with digital platform integrated with your process control solution can reap far-reaching business benefits. New intelligent packaged power capabilities can provide unprecedented functionality.

Chief among these is visibility into the performance of your electrical assets, in real-time. Replacing hard-wired equipment with digitally enabled devices can help speed decision making and issue resolution. Consider: Even before an alarm sounds, plant personnel could be alerted to a potential motor failure and begin performing repairs – prior to the failure impacting productivity, worker safety or equipment performance. 

When you connect your intelligent electrical devices (IEDs), you also gain the ability to support remote monitoring – which means your subject matter expertise can be located anywhere in the world. Remote monitoring also directly improves worker safety.  

For example, high-voltage substations pose serious hazards to personnel. But with an intelligent, integrated electrical system, technicians working at a safe distance could quickly determine the source of an event or alarm – even from a smart phone – and take corrective action without endangering themselves or others.

Power of Unification 

Unified data, available in real time, also positions your company to better understand and manage your energy consumption.

These benefits are altering the electrical landscape in heavy industries. In fact, according to an ARC Advisory Group study, 67 percent of new plants implemented intelligent devices as part of their overall electrical system. 

The more smart devices in an electrical system, the better informed you can become. To take it a step further, consider combining your electrical and process systems together. The combination of information provides a more powerful and integrated power and process control solution.  

Using a new intelligent packaged power solution such as the IEC 61850 from Rockwell Automation will seamlessly connect the process control system with electrical equipment and brings information into a single unified network architecture. 

Using the IEC 61850 communication protocol, the system ports data from IEDs, via Ethernet/IP, providing real-time digital access to equipment and operating information across your plant. This eliminates the need for separate process and electrical control systems, creating a centralized information stream.

This next step in implementing an intelligent solution provides even greater visibility into your systems, allowing you to identify any issues in your process that may have been caused by an electrical system event.

Intelligent Savings

With these intelligent solutions, plant personnel can access data from any IED, from any plant operator control station, with a solution that is easier to deploy, maintain and optimize. 

The upfront costs of implementing an intelligent packaged power solution are dramatically lower than a conventional, non-intelligent solution. Traditional hard-wired systems can require five times more engineering time and installation labor. And the more suppliers involved in the project, the bigger the risk to timelines and budgets.

Digitally integrating the electrical and process control systems and using an intelligent packaged power solution results in a single platform for accessing and analyzing all operational data from across operations. We’re talking unified visualization, archiving and reporting capabilities, pulling from synchronized, time-stamped data from a single source. An oil refinery, for example, tapped unified data to cut downtime related to equipment failures by 27%, and reduced costs related to maintenance troubleshooting by 35%. 

When your electrical equipment ages out, it’s not enough to replace it with the latest version. The need to upgrade is an opportunity to tap your existing infrastructure and make sure to grow your digital capabilities. By integrating power and process control, and digitizing, you can add functionality that quickly pays for itself in productivity improvements.  P&GJ

Author: Dan Pender manages the global intelligent packaged power business for Rockwell Automation. He has more than 30 years of heavy industry experience specializing in power systems, power conversion and automation. Pender holds a B.S.E.E. in power and controls from Michigan Technological University 

Related Articles


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}