Severe storms and lightning strikes can knock out electricity for millions, forcing reliance on backup generators and risking the unplanned shutdown of critical facility operations. With the seeming rise in extreme weather and aging grid and automation infrastructure, this is an increasingly likely scenario and requires a new approach to how we manage electricity and other critical infrastructure components.
Across the industrial spectrum—from manufacturing, to power and water utilities, to oil & gas and transportation—billions of dollars are lost annually due to unscheduled downtime. The time, effort, and resources associated with recovery are significant, and further exacerbated by lost productivity and profitability.
For high-value assets, companies often use control redundancy to ensure continuous operation of their automation systems. What has been missing in the industry is a scalable solution that seamlessly works across high-, medium-, and low-value assets to prevent unplanned downtime, reduce risk, and increase safety.
The Rx3i CPE400 has been developed to be secure by design. A centralized configuration allows encrypted firmware updates to be executed from a secure central location.
Most industrial processes involve some combination of extreme temperature, high pressure, vibration, and corrosive gases or liquids. While businesses operating controls in these harsh environments are the ones who stand to benefit the most from redundant control systems, they have also historically been less inclined to utilize control-redundancy technologies for smaller installations due to cost and space constraints.
Thanks to recent technological advances, though, scalable high-availability solutions have been developed by GE in terms of automation equipment to help overcome those hurdles.
Maximizing Uptime in Real Life
Customers are demanding a more dynamic, rugged, and compact redundant control system that seamlessly activates a hot-backup controller in the event of an unplanned system failure. On this front, GE recently rolled out the a dual-redundant, outcome-optimizing controller. Powered by PACSystems’ High Availability technology, the RX3i CPE400 standalone outcome-optimizing controller can operate over a −40 to +70°C temperature range. It’s embedded with Ethernet technology, and has up to a 60% smaller footprint than comparable devices, according to the company.
GE’s PACSystems Rx3i is a flexible control system that’s used in a diverse range of applications, including water/wastewater.
The dual-redundancy controller system, part of GE’s Industrial Internet Control System, also can combine real-time deterministic control with embedded Predix technology. Thus, it’s able to deliver advanced analytical capabilities to help increase performance, reliability, and insights on the same physical controller platform.
Reliability and Ruggedness are Keys
A dual-redundant controller is important for companies operating in industries that benefit the most from compact and rugged redundancy solutions. For example, increasing concerns about climate impact coupled with the rise in availability of natural gas are changing traditional consumption patterns of fossil fuels. As a result, coal and oil are being supplanted by liquefied natural gas as a source for reliable heat and electricity.
Unfortunately, the sources for natural gas aren’t always in close proximity to demand centers, resulting in the need to transport the volatile fuel in a safe and economical method. This requires transport ships and loading and unloading terminals to deliver reliable and efficient processes for managing gas transfers and storage operations, while minimizing the loss of gas. Unexpected failures can quickly add days of delays to these processes, driving the need for compact, cost-efficient high-availability solutions.
In such cases, the dual-redundancy controller system provides the processing power and connectivity to keep the LNG cargo properly managed throughout the transport process. The PROFINET-based system helps speed implementation, lower installation costs, and ensure maintenance savings due to ease of configuration and built-in Ethernet switches. Conformal-coated components, coupled with the −40 to +70°C temperature range, further girds the system in these harsh environments.
Hydro power stations can benefit from the redundancy and migration features of CPE400 and the Rx3i product line.
Through GE’s pilot testing, using its own machines, and external customers, several features and areas were identified as most critical when considering and deploying dual-redundancy controllers:
- Reliable, high-speed performance: True “hot-standby redundancy” capabilities built into the controller system with a dedicated redundant synchronization link over Gigabit Ethernet accelerate program execution and controller switchover times (up to 300 ms) should the need arise.
- Advanced security: A secure-by-design hardware platform with trusted and measured boot enable a hardware root of trust for the overall application. A centralized configuration allows patches and updates to be executed from a central location.
- Application-specific control: The option to access an analytics platform for augmented real-time control with external intelligence delivered through machine learning, fleet and enterprise data analytics, and asset/process knowledge.
When People, Data and Machines Come Together
No matter where your business is in terms of readiness for digital transformation, it’s important to start investing in hardware embedded with the ability to connect to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Doing so means when your business is ready, you can take advantage of real-time response and advanced analytics to help inform strategic and operational decisions more quickly and with minimal equipment updates.
The role of the controller is no longer static. Controllers with access to real-time data and analytics will play a more advanced role in industrial operations to increase efficiency and improve performance for every machine in the fleet.
It’s clear that any failure of mission-critical systems can wreak irreparable havoc on a company’s bottom line. And in the midst of so much disruption happening in the industrial sector right now, from decentralized energy sources to climate change to digitization, businesses have to adapt more quickly to find new ways to approach both emerging and legacy challenges. By harnessing the power of dual-redundancy connected controller systems in industrial environments, companies will be able to enable a more secure, reliable, and profitable control solution to optimize business operations.
Rich Carpenter is the General Manager of Control and Edge Platforms for GE Power’s Automation & Controls business.