An advanced control and monitoring system can be accessed remotely, allowing one central operator to view the entire freeze-protection-management system.
With summer still lingering, freezing temperatures and your heat-tracing system may not be top of mind. But perhaps they should be: now is the ideal time to prepare your pipelines for the cold weather ahead and ensure you have an integrated, maintained pipe-freeze-protection system in place.
One good way to make sure pipelines are maintained throughout the summer and protected in the winter is to install an advanced control monitoring system. Installing the right system for your pipelines is an integral step in improving process control.
While there are several devices - thermostats, electric distribution panels, and control and monitoring systems, for instance - that can be installed to help maintain the temperature of heat-traced pipelines, it is important to think about the long term when deciding on a system. A basic thermostat may seem like an attractive option due to low upfront costs, but consider what would happen if you were not alerted to a pipeline freeze and suffered a serious shutdown. Although a control and monitoring system has higher upfront costs, it can offer process benefits and cost savings over time.
Used in conjunction with a heat-tracing system, an advanced control system centralizes operations, allowing a user to control and vary the heating cable output to achieve the desired temperature. An added monitoring feature provides real-time feedback on the status of the heat-traced system, which helps deliver data for scheduling predictive maintenance and alerts you if the system is malfunctioning. Many control and monitoring systems include an auto-cycle feature that turns on the heat-tracing system at preset intervals year-round. This helps ensure that your system is still functioning properly throughout the warmer months.
Once winter hits, the monitoring system continues to keep the user updated so the plant is not hit with an unexpected pipeline freeze or burst. The early alarm reporting allows you to begin troubleshooting and remedying an issue before it is serious enough to cause a complete shutdown.
If you decide to install a control and monitoring system in your facility, consider the following five tips for using the system to improve process control.
Consider selecting a provider that designs and supplies each of the individual components needed for pipe-freeze-protection applications and control and monitoring systems to ensure seamless integration.
1 Check the System Status and the Starting Temperature
In general, the application temperature ranges are grouped in three categories:
Freeze protection, which applies to applications that focus on keeping fluids above 32°F (0°C).
Broad temperature maintenance, which applies to applications where the process temperature must be controlled within a moderate range, generally for viscosity control to keep process fluids flowing.
- Narrow temperature maintenance, which applies to applications with fluids that must maintain a tight temperature band to prevent fluid degradation.
It is important to make sure you know the product’s temperature range. Some fluids are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, and you need to be aware of their requirements.
2. Find Your Design Current
Review the heat trace design and identify how much current the design should use, allowing you to see if the control and monitoring system is operating correctly. Most electronic controllers allow the user to select alarm levels that will monitor the system and determine if there is a discrepancy. Understanding the operating current could allow you to prevent any current trips that could potentially shut down your process.
3. Define Your Needs
What applications are you looking to control? Do you need to control and monitor your freeze-protection application, or are you more concerned with temperature control? In addition to asking yourself that question, it is also important to consider the type of circuits that will work best for your system. Individual circuits have a one-to-one ratio of controllers to circuits while group circuits provide multiple circuits that are controlled by an individual device.
Also, think about where you would like to set up. A local control system is a good choice if there is an individual circuit in close proximity to the heat-trace power connection. For large plants or when working in a remote location, a remote control system is a better option.
A local control system is a good choice if there is an individual circuit in close proximity to the heat-trace power connection. For large plants or when working in a remote location, a remote control system is a better option.
4. Decide What Control and Monitoring Methods Are Needed
There are a number of considerations depending on your needs and requirements. When it comes to the control system, an ambient sensing control option is simple to install and requires low maintenance for a single thermostat, but its control usually is limited to freeze-protection applications. A self-regulating control option has high reliability, low installation costs and is best for freeze protection and broad temperature maintenance, but it relies on the performance of the heating cables and has high energy costs compared to other methods. A third option is a line sensing control, which has low energy use, centralized control settings and is well suited for narrow temperature maintenance to prevent fluid degradation. However, it has higher installation costs and maintenance demands.
Once you select the right control system for your installation, it is time to take a look at what applications need to be monitored. If the system only needs to monitor the integrity of the heating cable without monitoring system performance, continuity monitoring is a good option. By contrast, ground-fault monitoring is best used for freeze-protection applications and noncritical process maintenance. There are also monitoring options that provide feedback on the heat-tracing system’s temperature and current.
5. Think of Everything as an Integrated System
Look for a provider that designs and supplies each of the individual components needed for pipe-freeze-protection applications and control and monitoring systems to ensure seamless integration. An integrated approach includes selecting the appropriate heat-tracing cables and designing a customized control and monitoring system as well as providing engineering design services, site services, installation and maintenance. The ability to combine products with post-installation services allows the company to create a turnkey solution that results in an efficient heat management system.
Do not wait until winter to prepare your pipelines for the cold weather. Considering these five tips will help you plan ahead and decide on a control monitoring system to improve process control for your integrated heat management system. PH