Contact-Free Emptying Of IBC Tank Containers For Aggressive Chemicals

Barrels and especially ‘intermediate bulk containers’ (IBCs) in which aggressive and harmful chemicals are stored are emptied with barrel pumps as standard. However, there is a risk of employees picking up parts contaminated with chemicals, for example when opening caps or lids.

A new pump set from Sondermann is therefore working with a permanently installed dip tube – this completely avoids contact with the chemicals. The Cologne-based company has tackled this current problem, which mainly affects modern IBCs. These are completely closed and sealed so that neither the contents can come into contact with dirt and foreign substances with the hazardous liquids – nor, of course, people coming into contact either. In order to safely empty the contents of these containers, they are equipped with a permanently installed dip tube. A quick-action coupling prevents the contents from escaping unintentionally.

The core of the set is a self-priming magnetic centrifugal pump. The externally rotating drive magnet transfers the motor power to the inner magnet and thus to the impeller without contact. This means that there is no need for a continuous shaft and thus no shaft seal to the motor that would be subject to wear.

Non-Contact Pumps In Operation

In automatic mode, different filling quantities can be stored and selected. When filling starts, the pump starts and stops automatically as soon as the desired filling quantity is reached. If the container is empty and the pump draws in air, it also switches off automatically. The graphic display of the touch panel shows the operating status and can also be operated with gloves.

The pump set, which was developed in cooperation with the Dutch manufacturer Promens, combines all components such as pump, flow meter, sensors and control in a compact console. It is delivered with a wall bracket, but can also be mounted on a trolley and is therefore very flexible to use. Typical areas of application are places where hazardous chemicals such as sulphuric acid or cleaning agents are stored on sites without a WHG tank.

In terms of good, preventive environmental protection and the applicable Water Resources Act (WHG), this is a good basis for using modern storage technology and protecting employees.

Photo: Danish Khan


AI-Based Simulated Learning For Staff Training And Plant Optimisation

Training specialised personnel in the handling of complex plants is not a trivial task. With "immersive training", this can be realised much better in a kind of game-like approach. It is a process of learning using a simulated or artificial environment. The environment allows learners to be fully immersed in learning in a way that makes them feel like they are experiencing a real learning environment.

Aveva, a company based in Sulzbach, Germany, has developed 'ITS', a process that combines a true-to-life process simulator with a virtual walk-through environment of a plant (a so-called digital twin). Via this, every action in a virtual environment can be set to trigger the dynamically correct reaction in the plant in real-time.

Immersion in applications is created with the help of xR technologies – augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality. In this context, this is often referred to as gamification, as the learning process actually contains something playful - you can 'play around' with the digital twin until you go to the real system.

It is also important to distinguish between interactive and immersive, which is often confused. The difference between immersive and interactive is that immersive means to be truly immersed in something – while interactive expresses to act with each other (persons and objects).

Advantages Of Simulated Learning

AI-driven simulators reduce training time for new equipment, improve cost efficiency and thus optimise the return on investment (ROI). Data collected by Aveva shows that, depending on the company, such a system can cut costs by 30 to 40 per cent, reduce recovery times from shutdowns by 15 to 20 per cent and reduce maintenance budgets by one to three per cent.

'In certain industries, the benefits simply can't really be put into numbers anyway – for example, the avoidance of human error in the operation of nuclear power plants,' emphasises Maurizio Gatardo, CTO of the Hessian branch of the software company with its headquarters in Cambridge (UK).

The real challenge in installation is usually that there is a lack of data. If you want to create a digital twin, you have to have 100 per cent of the construction data of the buildings and installations for the feed. However, not all companies have this information, as they have grown organically over a long period of time and corresponding documentation is sometimes patchy.

Once this hurdle is overcome, the benefits of simulated learning are obvious – humans and machines can interact recognisably better in future.

Photo: Monopoly919




Cyber Security For Production Companies: A Clear Must For The Future

Today, production companies can no longer manage without a high-performance IT environment. Numerous servers work in the data centres of industrial companies, tirelessly exchanging data with the internet. Just like the Macs, PCs or notebooks of the employees in the administrative part of the company. And here is the biggest weak point: the connection to the internet. It is entirely possible to penetrate a networked control system or a production plant via this route.

In industrial production, protection is much more complex and costly than in the private sector. There are many more places where an attack could take place, as there are numerous entry points for viruses or malicious code: For example, via the attachment of an e-mail, via one's own website, via an open port on the web server or a ransomware attack.

'In my opinion, attacks become particularly critical when you are in the area of energy supply or in the area of operational technology – OT – in the case of machines or process plants,' Norman Hübner from TÜV Rheinland emphasised in an interview with the trade magazine 'Chemie-Technik'.

This also includes seemingly banal parts such as motors, pumps or valves. In fact, successful cyber attacks on OT systems often lead to particularly high damages for the companies affected. The reasons are obvious: In the chemical industry, for example, it must not happen that liquids are mixed incorrectly due to such manipulation. In the smallest possible case, this leads to significant quality defects, but can also cause entire production branches to fail. 'According to our experience, such areas are a typical point of attack for hackers,' emphasises expert Hübner.

What Are Concrete Measures To Ward Off Attacks?

An important step is to take a look at the control room of a production facility. It is imperative that the responsible employees working there keep an eye on the entire situation and recognise and assess possible attacks. Pishing and social engineering, malware or ransomware and denial-of-service attacks are currently the biggest threats to production processes. It is important to have a complete overview of the machines and systems on the one hand and the incoming and outgoing data traffic on the other. And to register possible changes immediately and, above all, to react to them immediately – every hesitation costs extra.

AI-based systems help, to analyse and document throughout all areas where data is exchanged. This is the only way to determine where there may be security gaps. These should be closed sustainably (together with experts). It must always be borne in mind that almost all production plants are connected to the internet today. This is how updates for control systems are provided or production plans are exchanged – even across locations in different countries. In short: cyber security does not end at the border of the company's premises.

Photo: khampiranon


Avoidance Of Dangerous Electrostatic Discharges In Production Plants

In all industrial areas where flammable liquids or fine-grained, combustible bulk materials are filled, mixed or loaded, explosive atmospheres may form. In fact, such discharges are ubiquitous. However, what usually happens harmlessly in everyday life can have devastating consequences in an industrial environment - for example, when conveyor belts cause permanent friction. An earthing technique to minimise risk is therefore elementary.

The ignition hazard resulting from uncontrolled discharges in real applications depends on their form and the energy emitted. A distinction is usually made between:

  • Tuft discharges occur when charged objects made of insulating material approach conductive objects. Due to the comparatively low energy density, this form of discharge can be reduced to a non-ignitable level by deliberately reducing the insulating surfaces.
  • Corona discharges, which can form at field strengths of 3 MV/m and above on sharp edges or corners of conductive materials, also pose a relatively low ignition hazard.
  • Spark discharge is the abrupt discharge between two charged objects. This is considered the most common source of electrostatic ignition and is avoided by earthing all conductive objects.
  • The most energetic type of discharge is the sliding brush discharge, which typically occurs on thin insulating material surfaces such as foils or coatings. If the high amounts of energy generated by friction are released during a sudden discharge, they are capable of igniting all explosive atmospheres based on flammable liquids, gases or dusts.
  • The fifth, industrially relevant type of discharge, the bulk material cone discharge, occurs when silos are filled with highly charged, insulating bulk material. The strength of the discharges, which occur between the upper part of the bulk cone and conductive silo walls, depends to a large extent on the grain size, conductivity and filling speed of the bulk material. (Stephan Schultz, R. Stahl, in technical journal "PROCESS", 7/2021)

The standard "EN IEC 600792" and the "Technical Rule for Hazardous Substances 727" contain a number of different recommendations and regulations for the avoidance and safe discharge of dangerous electrostatic potentials. The regulations stipulate that all conductive equipment and objects must be earthed or have an equipotential bonding connection in order to limit charging to a safe level. Electrostatic earthing is considered to be ensured when the resistance of objects and materials to earth is less than one mega-ohm.

Observe Wear And Maintenance!

In principle, the prescribed electrostatic earthing can be realised with the help of simple cables and suitable pliers. However, especially in areas where mobile containers such as tank trucks, tank wagons or FIBCs ("Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers") are filled or emptied with flammable substances, passive earthing is risky. Due to frequent connection and disconnection of the clamps, abrasive ground contact or accidental rolling over of the cables with vehicles, the components are subject to high mechanical stresses. Even minor damage to the cables or contact elements can render a safety device ineffective.

In addition, corrosion, dirt or coatings lead to impairments of the conductivity between clamps and the object to be earthed. With passive, i.e. not actively monitored earthings, there is also the danger that interruptions of the conductive connection remain undetected.

Even though the monitoring of permanently installed earthing connections has not been a priority safety measure so far, this topic is becoming increasingly important due to the trend towards plant modularisation. It is therefore becoming a necessity for plants that use a large number of earthed applications such as filling and mixing stations or operate machines connected via pipe systems.

Photo:  Jens Rother


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