Smart structures: Emerson plant studies support use of wireless in capital projects

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


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

In one use case, JDI Contracts applied Smart Wireless technology to applications in a new process plant for a major U.S. chemical manufacturer; in the other, Emerson modeled a hydrotreater capital project. Economics, efficiency, and other advantages made the case for wireless with both JDI and Emerson.

“Our recommendations regarding‘best practices’ are firmly centered 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,” comments Roger Hoyum,principal engineer, JDI Contracts. “With wireless technology, we can deliver a better plant.”

JDI worked with a major EPC and end user to study the project impact of wireless. They compared engineering, construction, start-up, and overhead 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 percent of the total points.

With each paradigm shift—wireless being the latest—plants realized savings and became smarter through simpler engineering and construction, flexible start-up, faster deployment, project completion, and changing automation needs. For the use of Smart Wireless on 25 percent of points, overall plant engineering, construction, and start-up savings were about 10 percent of considered costs as compared with wired HART; for the bus installation, wireless savings were on a par with wired busing. 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,” concludes Hoyum. “It delivers savings, flexibility, and speed of implementation.”

In its own study, Emerson used real data from a near-6,000 point greenfield hydrotreater project. Wireless was applied to 44 percent of all points. Similar to the JDI study, Smart Wireless showed significant savings of 36 percent in automation and installation as compared with a completely wired HART solution; FOUNDATION fieldbus was slightly less expensive than WirelessHART due to 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. And, it’s 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,” summarizes 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 life cycle, wireless adds significant benefits with simplified training, flexibility and allows very easy and lowest cost incremental expansion.”

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