Daniel Gutiérrez González
Pepperl+Fuchs Mexico

Safety Solutions Focused on Uptime

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 08:31

Safety solutions focused on uptime

Any modern industrial plant relies heavily on sensors to monitor valves and flow efficiency. Where Pepperl+Fuchs technology is most useful for Pemex and its army of contractors is in safety systems. Its intrinsic safety (IS) and explosion protection safety solutions have become the world’s most chosen products in high-risk areas. IS solutions are Pepperl+Fuchs’ answer to safety solutions that focus on maximising uptime for clients. Daniel Gutiérrez González, Director of Pepperl+Fuchs Mexico, explains that “IS is the current concept that is driving safety in hazardous areas in the Mexican oil and gas industry. Today, Pepperl+Fuchs employs ‘barriers’ in potentially explosive areas: devices that are positioned between the controllers and the instruments deployed on the field, in the controlled area, which protect the rest of the field. To do this, the barriers limit the amount of energy in place on the field, in order to ensure that there is not enough energy being used to initiate an explosion.”

Maintaining uptime by preventing explosions

With the implementation of IS systems, companies in the industry such as Pemex, can sustain the operating time of their fields in demanding environments. “There are three items to consider when we are talking about uptime. The first one is that our IS System protects humans, the environment, installations and investment by preventing an explosion. While the impact of an explosion on installations and investment generally results in the shutdown of facilities, lasting for a short time or months depending on the severity of the accident, the damage to humans and the environment can sometimes not be reversed unfortunately. The second is that our IS System has a high proven reliability and high proven availability which improve uptime of processes and prevent explosions. Finally, the IS System is the only system on the instrument side that allows online maintenance, without losing the explosion protection or uptime during instrument maintenance,” says Gutiérrez González. These systems are especially useful in environments that handle or produce explosive materials such as oil, gasoline, gas, chemicals, and explosive dust, among others. As a result, Pepperl+Fuchs is aiming to install IS systems across petrochemical facilities, refineries, chemical plants, oil platforms, gas processing facilities, mining operations, pharmaceutical facilities, and painting areas.

Introducing new technology

Gutiérrez González explains that Pepperl+Fuchs is currently developing new technology that will “change the concept of IS.” Known as DART, this new technology supplies electric current without restriction. DART sensors located in both the DART power supply and DART segment protector detect a fault in the electrical system at the outset and switch it off before the energy released reaches a safety-critical level.

In the past, IS explosion control systems have caused issues at fields because they limit the amount of energy, and therefore the scope of the technology that can be used at the site. “DART technology will allow the use of a higher energy IS System in areas with explosion risk, which means that more instruments with high energy requirements can be connected, online instrument maintenance is facilitated, and expensive explosion proof technology is no longer necessary,” says Gutiérrez González. “DART will also increase flexibility in segment design by overcoming electric current and distance restrictions. On fieldbus, DART will reduce the number of devices, in turn reducing capital expenditures and operational expenditures.

While DART solves a range of problems, the technology will take a while to appear in Mexico, as Gutiérrez González explains: “the system is currently being tested to European safety standards, but in order to bring this product to the North American market, it will take some time for the same quality testing procedure to be conducted. We expect to have DART technology in Mexico by 2015.”

Such a system does not come without concerns; in order to be effective, DART will have to maintain 100% efficiency, as with any safety system. Gutiérrez González is aware of the challenge. “You have to be 100% sure that your product will offer protection, 99.99% is not enough. You have to be totally sure that that device will save you when it is needed. Problems do not occur all the time; however, something will go wrong every few years, and the product has to be ready for that. However, our testing procedures are rigorous, and we feel confident in offering our customers products that are 100% safe. Today, Pepperl+Fuchs is working on products that will be the future of safety for Pemex.”