Special Report: Editor's Comment: A more dynamic process industry

Highest quality equipment are to be used to ensure that the process industry remains safe and compliant with regulations that have been imposed upon it.

Martin Menachery, editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery, editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

Products from downstream industry are generally hazardous, or extremely flammable, or explosive. Hence, extreme caution must be practised by the players of this industry and many strict regulations have been imposed on companies to ensure that both the employees and surrounding environments are safe. Highest quality equipment are to be used to ensure that this industry remains safe and compliant with regulations that have been imposed upon it.

The downstream industry is facing an increasing demand for customised products. This results in short development and product life cycles, which are challenges to conventional plant concepts. In order to meet the changing customer expectations, modular plants are on the rise, worldwide. These facilitate for flexibility in terms of production capacity, product variety, raw materials and location. In general, available standardised modules enhance competitiveness, especially if those are used by many organisations and are thus produced in large volumes at low cost. Thus, modularisation paves the way to ‘Process Industry 4.0’.

It is a fact that more and more of what goes on in the chemical industry takes place in cyberspace. As a result, if there is wireless connectivity between the sensor and the pump, what happens to system security? It is essential that prior to system commissioning, a security strategy, which includes all measures for protecting the system, is defined. The objective is to recognise and assess risks and take suitable measures to minimise incidents from occurring. Normally, the operator will install and operate a system with monitoring capability in accordance with the state-of-the-art technology. It is mandatory to conduct a risk assessment before a system is put into operation, including an estimate of the effects and dispersion of chemicals, fire and explosion protection, an assessment of the risks, and an analysis of the reactions which take place.  The result of the security analysis is the security strategy, which is implemented using process control technology safety measures, among other things. Thus, a combination of functional safety and IT security provides an adequate level of protection for industrial systems.

In the process industry, the need for flexibility, a higher level of product customisation and faster product introduction continues to grow. As of now, how process equipment manufacturers fulfil all these demands remains something that the companies have to manage on their own. Probably, exotic solutions are not the best choice. Downstream industry users tend to make conservative choices when they select equipment that plays a critical role in the process such as pumps and compressors. Always a proven track record is more reliable than abstract claims. Here, Industry 4.0 and digital transformation solutions are a priority for many process equipment manufacturers.

The process equipment used in downstream industry are designed to perform specific, singular tasks as varied as storage, controlling flow, and containing chemical reactions. Because of the integrated nature of downstream facilities, the design and analysis of process equipment must be carried out by considering the equipment’s role within the processes of the whole plant. When designing process equipment, it is important to take into consideration the kind of environment in which the equipment will be operating.

Above-mentioned trends are key discussion points for ACHEMA 2018. This powerful event in the world as far as process equipment are concerned is happening during 11-15 June in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Organised once in three years, ACHEMA is, was and always will be the global platform for the process industries. This year’s event is home to three cutting-edge focal topics: Flexible Production is the process industries’ response to Industry 4.0; Biotech for Chemistry stands for the merging of chemical and biotechnological processes; and the focal topic Chemical and Pharmaceutical Logistics symbolises the paradigm shift of the supply chain empowered by digitalisation. Around 3,800 exhibitors from around the world will converge in Frankfurt with futuristic product ideas for the process industries. The key takeaway from this powerful event is expected to be a more dynamic, cost effective, energy efficient and profitable process industry in the years to come.

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