State-of-the art control system to support research with CompactRIO

Challenge:

The Finnish oil refining company Neste is the world’s leading supplier of renewable diesel. The company invests significant resources on continuous research activities. While most of the equipment of the company’s R&D unit is controlled by automation systems, part of the laboratory scale equipment was based on manual unit controller technology. As the experiences from a modern and efficient automation system were extremely positive, a decision was made to also have the smaller-scale equipment integrated into a modern control system.

Neste aimed to find an agile control system providing all the necessary features and that would be particularly suited to laboratory-scale research equipment.

The tools have already been introduced in two micro-sized research devices and the project is under way in a third one.

See how Neste utilised the services

Solution:

The solution was a highly customised automation and data collection system utilising National Instruments’ CompactRIO system. The laboratory scale of the equipment was taken into account in the implementation. This enabled a light and agile system without the need to connect small devices to a larger automation system.

This resulted in a system, which is now continuously used in two pieces of research equipment and will be introduced in a third one in 2019.

"We analysed other solutions during the first project but could not find other high-quality choices meeting our needs."

Read the whole project description…

The R&D unit of Neste follows the company’s vision by “creating responsible choices every day”.

The R&D unit carries out research that is crucial for the company’s development by utilising test equipment of various sizes. The purpose of the research is to continuously generate better and more usable information, for example, in the area of raw material research.

It is essential to collect a maximum amount of data to be used by experts – in a high-quality, visual and easily readable form. Naturally, process control must be easily modifiable as needed, while the actual software requirements emphasise particularly the process safety as well as operational reliability.

Protacon, an alliance partner of National Instruments, was selected as the partner for a modernisation project of the control system for smaller-scale test equipment. In fact, a partner who has gathered solid competence in industrial automation and processes.

Aiming to cause minimum disturbance to R&D

The project was carried out following the traditional method as far as possible while trying to avoid interruptions in the research activities. Therefore, preparations were made to the extent possible in external locations.

At the first stage, the customer provided the control diagrams and the process PI diagrams, which determine how the control should work in all conditions. Circuit descriptions and other specifications, as well as the preferences of the researchers and users were reviewed during the kick-off meeting discussing also in detail the requirements and needs of the solution.

After the specification phase, the actual application programming was done at Protacon and the necessary features and software were finalised for the Factory Acceptance Test.

The system was delivered to Neste, carefully tested together with the personnel, thanks to which only two working days were necessary for taking the system into actual use. During the introduction, it was confirmed once again that everything worked reliably and as planned. The quality of the project and delivery is best described by the fact that there were no disturbances in the automation system, and research work could continue according to the scheduled R&D programme.

PI-kaavio

Piping and Instrumentation diagram.

automaation ohajuskaavio

Automation control diagram.

Necessary features in a light package

Versatility, visuality and accuracy of finish are the key benefits of the CompactRIO system that forms the core of the automation system. CompactRIO is also perfectly suited to control equipment of this size, because, despite its lightness, it ensures a sufficiently high level of features and functionalities for this particular research need.

Through the customer’s eyes, a key success element in the project was Protacon’s application knowhow in National Instruments’ environments as well as knowledge of control principles of continuously operating processes.

During the cooperation, services of National Instruments’ alliance partner, Protacon, were used in updating, modification work and communication with National Instruments.

Renewed system offers new tools for researchers

To the reseachers, the renewed system entity enables a more intuitive control of the test equipment and easier processing of measurement data.

A special thanks was given to the partner, Protacon, for their flexibility in schedule changes and excellent availability of the application expert.

Cooperation is currently under way related to modification work for a third piece of test equipment.

"Two projects have already reached their goals and a third one is under way. The desired project goals were achieved and there are currently no specific development areas to identify."

Minna Toriseva

Project Manager, Automation system specialist
Research and Technology

Project in brief

1

The new system enables a more modern process control at the destination plants

2

Regarding cooperation, the flexible implementation schedule has proven to be particularly relevant

3

The system has already been taken into use in two pieces of test equipment and modification is under way in a third one

4

As the result of the project, information is available to the R&D personnel in a much easier way than before

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