Control Engineering's newsletter for process instrumentation - October 2001


In this issue:

Can systems be too open?

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon can be attributed to many factors. To my way of thinking, the determination of the perpetrators to carry out these outrageous acts was helped by their ability to leverage the 'openness' of the United States' telecommunication infrastructure and industry's wholehearted participation in Internet-based commerce. As we have seen, allowing the wrong parties easy access to a wide range of information, including security information and availability of flight training manuals, along with wireless communication can have disastrous results.

Control Engineering has written a bit about security lately, before and after Sept. 11. See 'Software Security' at and 'Review your information backup/recovery plan' at .

Has the role open infrastructure has played in these events forced you to look at technologies such as web-enabled control or information access differently? Let me know. My email address is: .

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Keeping a favorite ISA destination safe in a storm

New Orleans has long history of hosting the big annual ISA show/conference. I have been to at least two shows there in the recent past and look forward to others. However, the fact that the highest point in the city of New Orleans is only six feet above sea level puts it in harms way of any strong hurricane that makes landfall too near the city. The resulting storm surge could inundate city streets making evacuation impossible and leaving people stranded without electricity and access to clean drinking water.

Emergency planners know only too well that it is probably only a matter of time before the Big Easy is hit by a scouring storm surge. Although property damage from a 'big one' probably cannot be avoided, massive loss of life can be. The key is a new emergency warning system developed by Gregory Stone, a professor at Louisiana State University (LSU). The wave-current surge information system (WAVCIS), which is said to fill a major void in the Louisiana storm warning system. The system's sensors are attached to existing offshore oil platforms rather than the floating buoys like the existing Gulf Coast states system. The new system provides an accurate picture of wave heights and approaching storm surges because sensors can be placed both above and below the water allowing for more precise measurement. Data from each of the 13 planned stations will be transmitted to LSU to be interpreted and sent to emergency planning centers via the Internet.

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Are pressure transmitters headed to the trash heap?

Dedham, Mass. - Only the strong survive and according to Wil Chin, ARC director of field devices and author of the recent published 'Pressure Transmitter Worldwide Outlook,' the adoption of pressure transmitters deteriorated precipitously in 2000 as users increasingly looked to other technologies to tackle measurement problems. The resilient pressure transmitter market that lumbered along for years with little change was caught by surprise as the dot com crash ended a long economic expansion. The year 2000 saw the first ever decline in pressure transmitter sales-the first in decades.

The decline of shipments will be felt most acutely in the oil distribution industry. 'With the release of the first ever custody transfer API draft for ultrasonic flowmeters later this fall, investment in new ultrasonic technology will accelerate. With the strike of the gavel, ultrasonic flowmeters will take the center stage and replace orifice flowmeters-once the 'holy grail' of pressure transmitters-as the new industry standard for petroleum products. A similar shift in preference is occurring in refining where vortex flowmeters are replacing orifice meters for all fluids including liquids, gases, and steam,' Mr. Chin adds.

All is not lost yet, however. According to the report, in contrast to the oil and refining industries, the majority of pressure transmitters sold to other industries will enjoy relatively healthy growth. A broad line of transmitter features, such as multivariable capability, special configuration availability, TUV-approval, and low entry cost, are expected to fuel these increases. For more information, visit .

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Where was this technology when I needed it?

As I recall, locating those really tiny pinhole leaks in my daughter's ever-flat bicycle tires was both a time consuming and aggravating experience. The soapy water dunk and inch-by-inch inspection is familiar to any parent who has taken on this task from time to time. It seems that kids just can't run over the really big nails or at least find sharp objects that conveniently stuck in the tire to mark the spot.

Even though JH Technology's (Sarasota, Fla.) probably did not have bicycle tire repair in mind when developing the Versaprobe leak detector/vibration device, the very existence of a leak detector that uses a highly sensitive ultrasonic microphone that readily finds pressurized pinhole leaks of air at distances up to 50 ft remains an intriguing one. The handheld instrument can also detect steam and gas leaks at that distance as well as vacuum leaks at closer ranges. The Versaprobe also comes with an ultrasound transmitter that allows leak detection in non-pressurized systems as well. According its development, other applications for this preventive maintenance/inspection tool include inspection of pressurized air, gas, and HVAC systems, in-process inspection of tanks, chillers, heat exchangers, and gaskets. Ultrasound from electrical arcing and corona discharge can also be detected.

Accessories include a contact probe vibration pickup for advanced warning of impending bearing failure, valve leaks, cavitation, and other mechanical problems. Switches allow selection between ultrasonic and audible sounds. Ultrasonic operation is useful in isolation high sounds (worn bearings, etc.) from ambient low-frequency noise. For more information, contact .

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Heartening news-expansion in a shrinking economy

Houston, Tex. - Magnetrol International (Downers Grove, Ill.) introduced a new company, Orion Instruments (Baton Rouge, La.), at ISA 2001. Orion was created to devise new standards for quality and operability in magnetic level indicators. Organized in four technology groups, Orion's products will combine market-tested magnetic level indicator design principles with advanced level-sensing technology.

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Spring House, Alpharetta, Phoenix

Management-owned MycroSensor Technologies LLC (Phoenix, Ariz.) announced Oct. 5 that it purchased the Moore Products line of field instruments from Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. (Alpharetta, Ga.) for an undisclosed amount. Siemens had purchased Moore Products Co. (Spring House, Pa.) last year. MycroSensor says it 'plans to continue delivering the same high-caliber products and services on which users of Moore Products' family of XTC transmitters and Fluidic Flowmeter products have come to rely.' Products acquired include the XTC line of pressure and differential pressure transmitters, flowmeters, and temperature transmitters, according to Jay Corley, MycroSensor Technologies president, who's invited present and potential future customers' comments about the product lines.

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'A current production instrument, if it had been on board the Andrea Doria or the Stockholm, might have been able to fix the responsibility for the recent collision between the two liners. The instrument is the Mirar, a Fairchild camera, which takes pictures of a ship's radarscope at fixed intervals. It could have determined whether the set was operating at the time of the collision as well as the speeds of the ships and their relative bearings. The device can also chart navigation aids and fixed instructions in rivers, harbors, and places where channels change.' This item appeared in the 'Control Pulses' department in the October 1956 edition of Control Engineering magazine. The disaster took place on July 25, 1956. The Andrea Doria, an Italian luxury liner, sunk the next day. The severely damaged Swedish cruise ship, Stockholm, remained afloat and was towed to New York Harbor. I guess there were no digital storage scopes on the horizon yet in 1956.

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