Decentralised Level Monitoring With Digital Technology

Purely analogue measurement of liquid, gaseous and vapour media is increasingly becoming a technology that does not meet today's requirements. Digitalised level monitoring, on the other hand, offers the possibility of monitoring tank installations in real-time – no matter where they are located. This involves automated data collection, data transmission as well as data visualisation and analysis, which ultimately serves to reduce operating costs and optimise the transaction between industrial consumers and suppliers. The manufacturer's tank monitoring data acquisition hardware continues to consist of proven gauges for differential pressure and flow. The docked microprocessor-controlled digital unit records the fill level as well as the absolute operating pressure on stationary or transport vehicle-mounted (pressure) tanks by measuring the differential pressure. Additional functions for determining the density of gases and liquids in the tank, as well as volume and mass measurements for any container shape, are also possible and can even be switched on and off by remote maintenance, used as required. The data is transmitted via the cellular network. This is normally independent of the mobile phone provider, which ensures almost complete, cross-border radio coverage.

Economic Advantages Through Digital Fill Level Monitoring

When supplying geographically widely distributed buyers of industrial gases and liquids, information on the fill level and consumption behaviour is a decisive feature for optimised route planning by suppliers, write Christian Brockschnieder (Product Manager Digital Solutions) and Matthias Gast (Sales Manager Sam Tank Management, Samson) in the October 2020 issue of the trade journal 'Chemie Technik'. This also allows, for example, a consumption trend to be read, which accurately predicts the day of the next filling for the supplier based on the historical withdrawal pattern by the consumer. In addition, the consumption trend is an indicator for the appropriate tank size. If this shows the need for short refuelling intervals, it makes sense to resize a tank to reduce the refuelling intervals and thus the kilometres to be driven. Another great advantage of digital, decentralised measurement technology is that it is continuously updated and one can thus react immediately to unplanned events. For example, individual alarms can be generated that are triggered as soon as a previously defined limit value is reached. In this way, suppliers can guarantee significantly increased security of supply and, under certain circumstances, achieve an additional economic advantage.

Sensors Of The Future: Quantum Technology In Industrial Manufacturing

Quantum systems can be used to measure physical quantities such as temperature, speed, electric and magnetic fields or positions with much higher precision than any other existing sensors. A quantum optical sensor that can be used for mass production would therefore already be a real leap into the future of manufacturing a whole range of products. "Quantum technology is the next step for sensor technology because it pushes technical boundaries that have been firmly anchored up to now," confirms Dr Robert Bauer, CEO of Sick, the southern German sensor specialist.

Previous sensors mainly used the methods of classical physics – and if no specific signals could be measured, the possibilities were exhausted. Now, quantum effects can be used to make additional details perceptible within the signal noise. One is tempted to say that this new precision represents a "quantum leap" in development. In fact, quantum sensors can measure up to a million times more accurately than conventional technology in magnetic or gravitational field measurements. Such high-precision measurements and discoveries can lead to completely new applications in industry.

Lightning-Fast Measurement – Versatile Applications

Quantum sensors are designed to enable ultra-fast measurement of the motion and size distribution of particles. But how do they work? Laser light is used to generate a polarisation superposition pattern that is already known. The different polarisation states are superimposed, which makes it possible – compared to the measurement with a simple laser beam – to read out three pieces of information about a particle in the measuring beam. And all this simultaneously. This includes the size of the particle, its speed and the direction of its movement.

Thanks to digitalisation and algorithms, the result is "to enable a significantly greater performance promise with regard to process control in the industry", according to the developers in the February 2021 issue of the trade journal "Produktion". The quantum sensor should then be able to measure particles that are a fifth of a micrometre small. This makes it possible to analyse particle contamination sources within the manufacturing process, which in turn helps to avoid production downtimes. In addition, continuous real-time measurement of even the smallest particles is possible, for example in powder production – and the data can be retrieved online at any time for quality assurance.

In the case of the powder example cited, the bandwidth ranges from the pharmaceutical industry to cement production and only just hints at the range of possible applications. With the industrialisation of these processes, the market for quantum sensor technology should undoubtedly grow very quickly.

 

Leaks In Compressed Air Systems Cost Companies A Lot Of Money

An absolutely tight compressed air network is more of a myth than reality, even with the greatest effort. Even if a little escaping air doesn't seem dramatic at first, in the long run it can quickly become expensive. The point is: compressed air is not free.

How much leakage a company wants to allow and what is proportionate in terms of regular efforts to seal it in order to realise continuous savings becomes a crucial question. For larger compressed air networks, it is assumed that five to fifteen percent is still acceptable; anything above that should be urgently looked at more closely and renewed or significantly improved. For compressors with a poor energy balance, extensive treatment technology for the compressed air produced - and taking maintenance costs into account – a price of 3 to 4 cents and more per cubic metre of compressed air is not unusual.

Of course, quite a few operators of compressed air systems know about this and are conscious of the issue and well aware of the costs - and simply switch off the compressors in the evening or at the weekend. Problem: In the process the pressurised air tanks lose the expensively generated compressed air up to atmospheric pressure and have to be refilled daily to operating pressure. A solution, for example, with pressure-retaining valves installed for this purpose, would be relatively simple and also usually inexpensive to implement, writes Dirk Gros of Flex-Air in the trade journal 'MM MaschinenMarkt'.

Awareness Of Costs Is The Most Important Step

Even though it may sound trivial to immediately remedy directly audible leaks, this often assures the greatest savings potential. However, if the operator is not a large consumer in terms of compressed air demand, where a permanent search for leakage is financially worthwhile, medium-sized companies quickly succumb. After all, daily work has to be done without spending the whole day looking for leaks, Gros writes in his article.

In the company, therefore, a fundamental understanding must be developed that compressed air is expensive, not free. Just as most employees are aware of the electricity costs in their own homes. Employee motivation, communication and many other aspects are therefore linked to the elimination of leakage.

Besides, in times of climate change and 'Energiewende', it is not just a matter of buying a machine that is as cheap as possible, but a machine that has, for example, a volumetric flow meter for compressed air installed and thus reports unusually high consumption.

This makes it evident that each company must first determine the costs of its leakage individually. The second step would then be to define the company's own permissible leakage rate and the tolerable amount of work required to eliminate it. Once this has been achieved, the path to saving energy and money is not far away.

Optimised Filtration For More Productivity And Safety In Fuel Desulphurisation

Established plants for the desulphurisation of fuels by filtration with amine are unfortunately often outdated and neglected, but today filtration can be implemented much more efficiently. Filtration technologies actually play an important role in the performance of amine plants and have evolved significantly since their development and introduction into production. These improvements have an impact on both maintenance and reliability. But more importantly, they can provide a cost-effective route to operator safety while significantly reducing environmental impact.

All this, plus an ever-increasing number of processes, makes amine plants an increasingly important element in fuel production and the associated production of sour gas. ‘Given their importance, it would be logical for amine plants to be at the top of any list of technical upgrades, but we are far from that today. The truth is that most plants currently in operation are older and often neglected, with outdated technologies and mediocre efficiency,’ writes Cyril Coutures (Eaton Corporation) in the October issue of Chemie Technik.

Inadequate filtration is the most obvious cause of many maintenance problems. Perhaps the most common symptom is blockage of the activated carbon filter, usually indicated by an increase in differential pressure in the filter due to excessive contamination. In almost all cases, the cause is poor performance of the upstream filter. To extend run times and reduce maintenance costs and associated downtime, low-efficiency filter media is used, according to Cyril Coutures' analysis.

Improving Efficiency Through Modern Technology

The impact of inappropriate filtration technology that is most likely overlooked is that on the heat exchanger. Because the pipe that transports rich amine is often completely unprotected, contaminants collect in the heat exchanger's housing and pipes – resulting in unplanned maintenance to clean these elements.

With today's technologies, such problems can be completely avoided. The typical configuration used in virtually every plant offers some opportunities for improvement in terms of efficiency, environmental impact and, more importantly, operator safety. The use of filtration technology in the form of a backwash filter with automatic self-cleaning significantly optimises the points described.

During operation, contaminants accumulate on the outside of the filter media, forming a particle cake that gradually increases the differential pressure in the filter. Once the differential pressure reaches a preset value, the flow through the filter is reversed to remove and flush out the dirt particle cake. The advantage for operator safety is obvious. If a filter does not need to be opened, operators do not need to be in a hazardous environment and the likelihood of accidents is minimal.

The second advantage of a self-cleaning backwash filter is an economic one. There are no filter cartridges or filter bags to replace and dispose of – and all the associated costs are simply eliminated. The same applies to the costs of the associated downtime and the labour involved in changing them.

In this way not only can operating costs be reduced and the environmental impact minimised, but the operating time of the amine plant can also be extended.