The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control and embedded systems. Control Engineering answers questions from readers of Control Engineering's print and online magazines, newsletters and other publications.

Large-scale fieldbus installations

Dear Control Engineering: I’ve been investigating using fieldbus architecture for field device wiring in a process unit, and it has the potential to be a fairly large installation if we proceed. Given that this technology has been around for many years now, how broadly has it been used in high-device-count installations?

March 27, 2010


Dear Control Engineering: I’ve been investigating using fieldbus architecture for field device wiring in a process unit, and it has the potential to be a fairly large installation if we proceed. Given that this technology has been around for many years now, how broadly has it been used in high-device-count installations?

The two main fieldbus platforms for use with process instrumentation are Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus PA. There are other possibilities, but these two are the most common with typical process plant applications.

Both have been deployed around the world, but if you’re interested in really large installations, you have to look at plants that have been built from scratch using fieldbus wiring concepts from the drawing board. Retrofits of fieldbus wiring are usually more modest. With that in mind, turn your gaze to parts of the world where greenfield construction has been going on over the last five or ten years.

The plant that claims the prize as the largest Foundation Fieldbus installation in the world is the Jamnagar Export Refinery Project (JERP) built by Reliance Industries in Jamnagar, India. This is a very large scale refinery and petrochemical plant with crude processing capabilities of 580,000 barrels per day. For purposes of this discussion, it has more than 15,000 tags spread across more than 3,600 fieldbus segments.

Given the nature of the processes involved, JERP probably has just about every kind of process instrumentation you can think of, including:

• Pressure and differential pressure;
• Temperature sensors and multiplexers;
• Coriolis flowmeters;
• Vortex flowmeters;
• Magnetic flowmeters;
• Radar level sensors;
• Motor operated valve actuators; and
• Digital valve positioners.

The list of manufacturers is just as long, but all the devices work together on the network providing process variables and diagnostic data to a huge state-of-the-art control system.

Read Fieldbus Growing Globally and Safety on Fieldbus in Control Engineering.

–Peter Welander, process industries editor

Posted by Ask Control Engineering on March 27, 2010