Up next: More open process automation?
The deadline for open, interoperable process automation systems is 2021. Those involved in multiple efforts remain confident in the promise of greater efficiency, higher safety, greater ease of use at a lower cost, and without conflicting standards. Experts outlined the vision and progress of Open Process Automation (OPA) standards efforts in the U.S. and Europe at the 2019 ARC Industry Forum conference by ARC Advisory Group in February.
OPA vision and objectives
David DeBari, process control engineer, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering and OPA program prototype lead engineer, joined the effort seven years ago after seeing inefficiencies in the migration process for process automation systems—also called a process control system (PCS) and distributed control system (DCS).
“About seven years ago, I said this is crazy, but I’m in. I did not like the migration process,” DeBari said, for DCS and programmable logic controller (PLC)-based systems—not including safety systems.
The industry put in different kinds of computers 30 and 40 years ago, which replaced pneumatic process control systems. The need to lower lifecycle costs, get more benefits, lower the expense to integrate third-party components, add best-in-class devices from other manufacturers, and economically scale and update as needed, with intrinsic security.
The vision is to have a control system architecture flatter than the Purdue Reference Model (layers 0 through 4, physical layer through business systems) to reduce the scope of failures and improve reliability. It should be more than a device from one vendor, reduce scope of failure, and keep operations running. The distributed control network (DCN) should include a real-time (RT) communications network, operations platform with RT services (abnormal event detection, procedural automation, advanced control, and process optimization).
Proof of concept occurred in April 2018 in the London Open Process Automation forum meeting with ExxonMobil/Lockheed Martin, about 50 devices, and 10 vendors, DeBari said. The effort demonstrated interoperability, configuration portability, network throughput, interchangeability, application portability, and control application capabilities.
After a prototype on a pilot unit, a test bed to support field trials, and field trials with seven companies in 2020, a full standard is expected in 2021 for commercial use. More 80 participants including users, vendors, suppliers, and academics are involved.
More interoperability efforts
Separately, but with many similar goals, European standards body NAMUR is working on its module type package (MTP) program and technology. NAMUR and The Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) agreed to collaborate to converge initiatives into a consistent overall architecture. Other industry organizations also agreed to help.
Also at the ARC Industry Forum, Ted Masters, president and CEO, FieldComm Group (HART, Foundation fieldbus, and FDI Group) said it’s strengthening support of process automation standards and compliance with OPC Foundation, NAMUR, Profibus/Profinet International and OPAF.
Many in the industry are trying to think again about years of requests from end users for interoperability.
Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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