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Study shows wireless as a key component in capital projects

05 February 2009

Emerson Process Management has unveiled quantified results and other findings from two independent real-world greenfield projects that recommend wireless infrastructure be a key component of all new projects.

Study shows wireless as a key component in capital projects
Study shows wireless as a key component in capital projects

In one project, JDI Contracts, a management and technical consulting services company based in Minnesota, USA, applied Emerson’s Smart Wireless technology to applications in a new process plant for a major U.S. chemical manufacturer; in the other, Emerson modelled a hydrotreater capital project.
Economics, efficiency and other advantages made the case for wireless with both JDI Contracts and Emerson.

“Our recommendations regarding ‘best practices’ are firmly centred around procedures and technology required to meet owner objectives and deliver expected project outcomes to our clients, including scope, schedule, budget, and less tangible outcomes such as maintainability and ease of use,” commented Roger Hoyum, principal engineer, JDI Contracts. “With wireless technology, we can deliver a better plant.”
JDI Contracts worked with a major EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor and end user to study the impact that wireless has on a project. They compared engineering, construction, start-up, and fixed costs for approaches using wired Hart, wired bus technologies, WirelessHart, and combinations of each. Wireless was used for non-safety, low speed control and monitoring, amounting to about 25% of the total points.

With each paradigm shift - wireless being the latest - plants realised savings and became smarter through simpler engineering and construction, flexible start-up, faster deployment and project completion, and changing automation needs. For the use of Smart Wireless on 25% of points, overall plant engineering, construction and start-up savings were about 10% of considered costs as compared with wired Hart; for the bus installation, wireless savings were on a par with wired buses. Although not quantified, other considerations of flexibility and schedule impact were deemed very important in each approach.

“Wireless is an important new tool for use with Hart and Foundation fieldbus in capital projects,” concluded Hoyum. “It delivers savings, flexibility, and speed of implementation.”

In its own study, Emerson used real data from a greenfield hydrotreater project with nearly 6000 points. Wireless was applied to 44% of all points. Similar to the JDI Contracts study, Smart Wireless showed significant savings of 36% in automation and installation as compared with a completely wired Hart solution; Foundation fieldbus was slightly less expensive than WirelessHart due to the use of high density temperature measurement, although as mentioned, wireless combines its relative low cost with the advantages of ease of use for difficult monitoring locations, flexibility and future growth.

In combination with its extensive experience in hundreds of wireless brownfield installations, Emerson’s conclusions from the greenfield project studies are that Smart Wireless gives maximum cost advantage where installations are difficult, remote monitoring is required, and auxiliary systems are involved. Wireless eliminates the need for, and cost of, building in spare I/O capacity. Wireless devices are greatly flexible when it comes to making changes late in a project, and for temporary installations for start-up and troubleshooting. It is very easy to add incremental wireless points compared to wired bus points. Training and engineering are simplified with the inherently easy wireless technology, and wireless delivers larger, long-term operational benefits due to its easy, low-cost expandability.

“Our takeaway from these studies is that all three technologies - Hart, Foundation fieldbus and wireless - should be in the design toolbox for capital projects,” summarised Peter Zornio, chief strategic officer of Emerson Process Management. “The studies confirm that Foundation fieldbus continues to offer the lowest cost installation for process control points. For monitoring points, both Foundation fieldbus and wireless offer good alternatives and similar installation savings. However, over the plant lifecycle, wireless adds the significant benefits of simplified training, flexibility, and allowing very easy and lowest cost incremental expansion.”

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