Part 2: Instrumentation and Automation

Cantwell, John T.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 66
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1991
INTRODUCTION The process engineer usually is responsible for the design operating philosophy and/or day-to-day operations of a process. Since instrumentation is an integral part of the operation, it is essential that engineers understand the general capabilities of the different types of control equipment available. Many "noncontrol" engineers have become involved with instrumentation for machinery monitoring and control as well as other plant applications. The advent of the microprocessor has led to significant changes in control, both in systems configurations and man-machine interfaces. Today's concept is called simply "distributed control." What is distributed control? Distributed control is exactly what the name implies; the control system is divided into several functional segments and spread out to cover a process. The systems are distributed for physical, functional, and risk reasons. Before delving further into the specifics of distributed control, let's look at the evolution of control systems to see how we got here. Instruments initially were located near measurement and control points in the field. Operators physically had to go to the instrument to change setpoints or take measurements. As processes became more complex, it became evident that a central control area was required. This allowed an operator to monitor and control many variables. The operator's effectiveness was increased dramatically, which resulted in greater efficiency, better quality control, and lower personnel requirements. At the same time, plants became much larger, control applications became more complex, energy became expensive, and the industry became more competitive. All of these factors placed pressure on process and production engineers to get the most for the money. The result was a continuing push to put more instrumentation into a central control room to maximize efficiency and productivity and minimize manpower. This chapter deals in some detail with devices for measuring physical and chemical properties of coal; devices for measuring the weight and weight-rate of flow of coal; devices for the monitoring and control of conveyor systems, solids inventory, fluid flow, liquid level, density, and specific gravity. These instruments have a multitude of uses throughout a coal preparation plant. The discussions cover advancements in "on-line analysis," nuclear control devices, and distributed control using microprocessors, mainframes, and soft-
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