Emerson Process Management (www.emersonprocess.com) introduced a remote extension to the PlantWeb data exchange platform last week at its Global Users Exchange in Orlando, Fla. The offering is designed to allow users to perform predictive operation and maintenance procedures on upstream oil and gas architectures via remote.

During a press conference at the event, Jon Milliken, president of Emerson’s Flow Computer Division, touted the release as a significant evolution of the PlantWeb architecture, which is a tool for monitoring the health of instrumentation in plant environments. The extension, called Smart Remote Automation, extends the functionality of PlantWeb to remote sites in hard-to-reach locations.

According to Milliken, “Smart Remote Automation represents an entire new category of technology that will give our users continuous visibility to the health of their field instrumentation, enabling operation and maintenance that is more proactive and efficient, and increasing up-time of their dispersed facilities.”

Emerson is positioning the Smart Remote Automation extension for oil and gas installations where production, transportation, and distribution operations cover many miles and require a significant number of man-hours to maintain. With the extension, Milliken said users can now plan maintenance trips to remote sites in an organized fashion instead of under duress. “This launch marks the beginning of the end of run-to-fail practices,” he said. Ultimately, Milliken said he believes the extension will allow users to increase throughput and yield by providing early warning on problematic operating conditions to limit downtime.

Smart Remote Automation provides health information for a variety of equipment, such as pressure, temperature, flow, level transmitters, and control valves. By providing centralized, real-time access to this information, Milliken said the extension provides a higher level of monitoring capability than traditional SCADA systems that only collect process data from remote sites. In addition, he said the extension provides a logical database structure and reporting functionality that goes beyond SCADA.

Smart Remote Automation relies on the digital technology of Emerson’s HART-based field devices that power PlantWeb with predictive intelligence and the ROC800 remote operations controller. Emerson’s ROC Field Server and AMS Suite with ROC Polling Service enable the remote access. AMS Suite is the company’s family of software products that convert health status from intelligent devices into predictive information for use by those running the facility.

ROC Field Server is a field device that manages communications by merging low-bandwidth, low-speed field diagnostics communications with high-bandwidth, high-speed Ethernet host communications. The ROC Field Server overcomes bandwidth problems by prioritizing data packets, caching and bandwidth management, and automatic directory generation.

ROC Polling Service is software that resides on the AMS Suite and provides the communication and database interfacing between the suite and the ROC800 Remote Operations Controller located at each remote site.

ROC800 Remote Operations Controller is a control device that serves as the communication link between smart instrumentation located at a remote site and the ROC Field Server or ROC Polling Service. It passes data between the smart instrumentation and AMS Suite. The ROC800 communicates to smart instrumentation using the HART Communication Protocol. The ROC800 supports a variety of communication and networking technologies, including both low- and high-speed wired and wireless.

To be monitored via the Smart Remote Automation, devices must support the HART protocol. Emerson plans to add FOUNDATION fieldbus support in the near future, which Milliken said will give users more control over their remote sites.

Emerson cites the following items as the key benefits of its Smart Remote Automation extension:
• Process availability by using predictive intelligence to help detect and avoid causes of equipment failure that can lead to unplanned downtime.
• Maintenance efficiency and effectiveness by detecting and diagnosing potential equipment problems before they become issues that detract from performance.
• Regulatory compliance and reporting by enabling companies to provide device alert tracking and a detailed audit trail of operations.
• Throughput and yield by reducing downtime, and by improving basic and advanced control, reducing variability.
• Quality by helping keep instruments and equipment maintained and performing at an optimal level.

— Flow Control Staff