Taking Control – Selecting the Right Control and Monitoring System for Hazardous Environments

By Pentair Thermal Management , September 19, 2013

Control and monitoring has become a significant challenge in many industries in recent years. The combination of fewer on-site maintenance personnel and strict regulations surrounding industrial environments has increased the need for instant access to information about industrial heat-tracing systems. In addition to safety considerations and peace of mind for plant owners, choosing the right control and monitoring system can be highly cost-effective, saving on both caballing and maintenance costs. As budgets continue to be squeezed, installing the best solution has never been so important. 

Control and monitoring is particularly critical for oil and gas refineries and petrochemical plants, where an uncontrolled increase in temperature could lead to an increased change of explosion. Any control and monitoring products used in these areas should be high quality and designed specifically for that purpose. In the European market, this means complying with stringent ATEX regulations. Here, Robert Kuipers, product manager at Pentair Thermal Management, discusses the different control and monitoring solutions available, and how local control and central monitoring can help plant owners to comply with ATEX regulations, while optimising plant efficiencies.

A World of Choice

Controlling a heat-tracing circuit can be as simple as a mechanical thermostat. However, in larger, more complex environments such as refineries or chemical plants, more sophisticated control and monitoring requirements are necessary. With a variety of options available, plant owners need to know that they are selecting the most appropriate system for their application. This is where complete heat management solutions providers can add real value – by partnering with a heat-tracing specialist at the beginning of the specification and design process, plant owners can be sure they are getting the best system and configuration for them.

Further to a simple thermostat, there are three advanced control options that plant owners can choose from. The first combines local control with local monitoring, with both of these elements located in the field. This is suitable for smaller applications where maintenance professionals are able to get to the site quickly and easily. 

The second option combines central control with central monitoring which addresses the problem of sending maintenance operatives to the field since everything is controlled from a central location. As all systems are in one location, this is a convenient option for the maintenance engineer. However, it can also be costly as each heat-tracing circuit has to have its own power and temperature sensor cable connecting it back to the substation.

The third approach combines local control with central monitoring. A “best of both worlds” solution, this enables areas with small temperature changes to be controlled locally, with all of the source site data sent to a central location away from the field. This is also a highly cost-efficient option as it incorporates “daisy chain” power distribution wiring, wherein the local controllers can be connected to each other, optimising the power cabling infrastructure. 

Safety First

Once a plant owner has decided which type of control and monitoring system is most suitable for his site, he needs to