Process control takes to the sea

12 June 2012

Appreciation of open, off-the-shelf networks and automation infrastructures are growing within the marine industry and many vessel operators and shipbuilders are looking at adopting control and communication hardware more commonly seen in manufacturing applications.

When Ingeteam Marine S.A was approached to develop and install the complete electric plant, automation systems and power management systems for two of the biggest dredgers ever built, it turned to Rockwell Automation to supply some vital control equipment.

Along with a third ship – a 33,500 ton rock dumping and fall-pipe vessel – Ingeteam Marine's task was to design and install a network of controllers and sub-systems that would highlight the potential that an industry-proven – albeit normally land-based solution – can have in a marine environment.

"We knew that our customer had used PLCs from Rockwell Automation in other vessels," explains Santiago Crespo, managing director of Ingeteam Marine. "We had used equipment from Rockwell Automation previously, in land-based industrial projects, so we were familiar with the technology. We also knew that there was good integration between the PLCs and SCADA."

Two sub systems were developed – one being handled by Ingeteam Marine, the other by another subcontractor – and although it was not a specified requirement, both companies used equipment from Rockwell Automation; leading to the creation of a completely integrated network. Indeed the only elements not on the common network were the HMIs.
The Allen-Bradley-based solution used by Ingeteam Marine on the two dredgers comprised a hot standby redundant ControlLogix Programmable Automation Controller (PAC) for the primary control, two additional processors for control of serial communications and managing the Allen-Bradley PanelView HMIs, two redundant ControlNet networks, 18 remote I/O cabinets (all with Allen-Bradley ControlLogix), 4,600 I/O, master and back-up Allen-Bradley FactoryTalk SCADA servers, five control workstations (SCADA clients) and 13 Allen-Bradley PanelView HMIs redundantly connected to the ControlNet for the Extension Alarm System (EAS).

For the propulsion system, a Modbus network was used for the connection to the two main diesel engines, the two main propellers and the five fuel and lube oil purifiers. Profibus was used to connect to the two dredge pumps, frequency converters and the two jet pumps frequency converters. Finally, a serial connection was used for the Voyage Data Recorder.

The EAS system required a redundant PanelView connection so that anyone on call would have access to information from the engine room and machinery plant when no one was in attendance. PanelView HMIs were sited in cabins and even in the ship's gym.

According to Crespo, this sort of infrastructure would typically require two years from conception, through installation and commissioning to hand over and operation, however, Ingeteam Marine was able to complete its part of the project in just one and a half years. The second vessel was a direct copy of the first so required much less engineering effort.

The open network and infrastructure used in the ship comprises nothing that would be classed as niche technology or 'black box' and, thanks to the Ethernet network, additional upgrades at a later date should be very straightforward.

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