Chemical makers embrace virtualization

The approach can provide significant advantages for automation projects.

By Sean Ottewell, Chemical Processing

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Chemical makers are realizing real benefits from virtualization, an approach to automation that separates the physical and functional aspects of a control project into independent hardware and software activities. Implementation of automation projects can go more quickly, safely and efficiently, report BASF and vendors such as Siemens, Honeywell Process Solutions and Emerson Process Management.

However, using virtualization technologies can pose a number of challenges, cautions Michael Krauss, senior automation manager at BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany.

“Cost is certainly one, along with time and efficiency, because it can be quite a lengthy process with today’s simulation products,” he says.

Engineering efforts are high at the beginning of a project and also during its lifecycle, he explains. For example, keeping the simulation of a plant up-to-date is a big challenge — doing that might require up to one full person per plant.

In addition, setting up a project simulation requires significant preparation time. Often the model might not be fully ready at the time of plant startup, especially if project details change — as often happens — along the way. “So you do need to set an earlier project freezing date for the simulation,” he adds.

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