Q&A: Emerson's Jeff Householder
Emerson's Jeff Householder talks process control and automation
Describe your portfolio of process control and automation solutions that fit with the utilities business (power and water / desalination)
Emerson has a full array of products and services targeted to the power and water utilities industry. Starting with field devices, we have process instrumentation that measure pressure, temperature and level through our Rosemount division. Fisher control valves are used in flow and pressure control, especially in the area of fuel management for the power portion. We also have an array of flow measurement technologies provided by our Daniel and MicroMotion divisions that measure inlets and outlets within water plants and fuel inlets to power plants.
Online analyzers for combustion optimization, environmental monitoring and water quality are provided by our Rosemount Analytical division. We also portable and online health monitoring systems specifically developed for rotating equipment that enable the gathering of equipment health characteristics for protection and even prediction of health issues.
These devices feed our Ovation control system platform. The Ovation system is further enhanced by our Asset Management Software solution. AMS consolidates the device health data from the previously mentioned field devices and consolidates and transmits this data to the plant maintenance systems together with machinery health data via our Asset Portal application.
Our Asset Portal solution is based on technology collaborator, Meridium, which is favoured in many plants as the software of choice for the broader plant asset management program.
How was business for this sector in the Middle East throughout 2009?
We are fortunate in the power and water segment that many of the projects are well planned into the future. In spite of changes to the economy these programs tend to go forward. We therefore enjoyed solid growth for the region and are optimistic that 2010 will also be a good year.
Has this proved one of the more resilient market sectors in the region for you?
It has been a solid growth area for the past several years and we see it growing through the economic downturn. Now as most economies are considered to be in recovery, we believe the growth will continue.
What has been the most resilient product line for you in the Middle East, and why do you think that is?
2009 was a major challenge for process automation companies globally. Certain areas decreased spending rapidly. Of all the world areas, the Middle East was impacted the least. Power and water projects tended to fair well across the world and due to their nature were often included in the governmental stimulus packages instituted to protect against local impact of the global recession. For that reason, although we experienced downturn in certain areas of our company, products related to the power and water industries tended to fair well, with some producing excellent growth.
Which countries have you seen the most utilities infrastructure investment from, and do you expect this to remain roughly the same in 2010?
There is substantial investment across the region. Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in modernisation of their power plants. We see Kuwait entering a similar phase for power and water. Egypt has consistently invested over the last several years and we see this continuing. The UAE is investing in new plants and modernization, driven by their growth in population and industry. Overall, it is a very healthy market space for companies such as ours and we are happy to be here and investing along with the local utility companies.
What should procurement managers be looking for when they are looking for a process control and automation system for a new power / desalination facility?
The automation industry has changed significantly as new technologies continue to be developed by companies such as Emerson. By increasing the intelligence of the field devices and broadening the options for connectivity to include high speed busses such as FOUNDATION Fieldbus, HART 7 and even wireless employed with highly secure, self organizing networks, we have dramatically increased the potential to optimize plant operations and avoid unplanned shutdowns. We often work collaboratively with our customers to help develop plant management philosophies based on the increased plant intelligence to assist in creating a roadmap for the plant.
This roadmap drives increased plant performance. When planned properly, the increased performance comes with little investment cost as the devices and systems often have much more embedded functionality than is described in project specifications. From the platform perspective, the system must be designed to support the increased volume of data served by the field and have the ability to use the data to optimize the control, intelligently manage alarms, consolidate health data and perform predictive analysis for health and neatly integrate this data and functionality with the plant enterprise systems.
Has energy efficiency grown in importance for your customers?
We have experienced a heavy demand increase for any technologies which support optimisation and efficiency improvements; both in newly constructed plants as well as those being modernised. Such demand has traditionally been driven by the need for utilities to compete in a ever more bottom-line focused market. More-so recently, demand has picked up due to recent hikes in fuel price and the economic crisis.
Performance efficiencies are mainly sought within a plant’s main process areas such as boilers, turbines, condensers, and large pump/motor skids. For plants with multiple units, a more technically advanced plant-wide program is available which prioritizes efficiencies across multiple units. Such optimisation is achieved by developing working models of each unit’s specific operational characteristics and the facilities overall economic drivers.
In the foreseeable future, we expect continued growth as efficiency increasing optimisation packages are natural extensions to our base control & instrumentation solution, are easily implementable, and offer significant financial value as their rate of returns are considerably higher than the cost of capital.
What can the latest generation of systems / instrumentation that you offer deliver that can keep costs down in the long run?
Emerson Process Management has always been an industry leader with the introduction of innnovative technology. We are a huge supporter of open standards which allows end users the choice to integrate different vendors devices. With the technology that we have invested in and made readily available, end users see benefits in modular design, smaller footprint, lower engineering costs, ease of expansion during and after final design.
Maintenace reduction costs by using Assett Management system and Smart device technology such as HART, Foundation Fieldbus and now WirelessHART. These technologies moves the bar on maintenace as it takes it from a preventative maintenance role into a predictive a maintence role. These technologies have the effect of not only reducing the CAPEX spending but also the OPEX spending budgets.
Are you involved in any major utilities projects in the Middle East right now?
We feel fortunate to be experiencing rapid growth in our Middle East power installed base. Since 2006, over 20 power generating locations and 80 units have been added to our regional installed base. Currently, we are actively implementing contracts/projects in seven Middle East countries (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE).
What has the appetite for wireless instrumentation been like in the utilities field, and are you optimistic this will continue to grow?
We have seen a significant amount of interest in wireless in utilities. Considering that wireless adapters (THUM) can be retrofitted to devices already installed in the field, networked and transmitted to the central asset management system, there are many opportunities for non-invasive application of the technology. Certain areas in the facility that are challenging from the health and safety aspects are normally targeted for use of wireless technology. We are seeing increased demand and with our introduction of a redundant wireless gateway, we anticipate more positive reaction from the industry. We have also implemented Wireless on and existing Power Plant for floating roof tanks.
Tanks would raise and lower as the capacity inside either increased or decreased. Previous method used was cable which over time had the tendency to break. Wireless became a great differentiator as the device moved with the tank roof. WirelessHART devices also provide for the ease of maintenance as the devices not only provide the Process Variables but also the inbuilt HART 7 diagnostics.
As mentioned previously devices such as the THUM (The HART Upgrade Module) can greatly reduce the maintenance periods required on plants as the devices diagnostics report direct to the Gateway and then to the Asset Management System where today’s maintenance technicians receive. Alerts and information on the failures