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With smart devices, much deeper integration and enhanced tools to collect, collate and exploit this data, operators and plant owners now have a level of insight into their operations that gives them the ability to make more informed process-critical decisions faster than ever before.
This data-driven paradigm does however rely on robust systems at every level; and even one weak link in a network can negate the efficacy of the data being collected in terms of its speed, effectiveness, security, timeliness and volume. For this reason, a data infrastructure should encompass every facet of a plant’s operation in order to extract the best possible information for the optimisation of operations.
Gürmat Elektrik, which operates the biggest geothermal power plant in Turkey, faced this scenario recently, recognising that the existing data and networking infrastructure was not only incapable of delivering contemporary levels of performance, but also lacked robust cyber security.
It was seeing issues with a SCADA system that was slow and getting slower. Software was outdated and no longer supported and the mean time to repair (MTTR) for any network-related breakdown was high. There was also no integration with any other systems in the plant. As well as network delays and less-than-acceptable levels of performance and security, the plant also had a large amount of legacy hardware and proprietary ‘black box’ controllers.
To counter these issues, Gürmat contacted Rockwell Automation in Turkey, asking it to assess and propose a solution. With its extensive experience in the assessment, design, implementation, validation, monitoring, security and management of modern industrial network infrastructures, the Rockwell Automation team was an ideal fit for Gürmat Elektrik’s needs.
The Rockwell Automation team faced a number of challenges. In addition to the general network and security issues, the geographical spread of the plant presented data-transfer hurdles. It also had to make sure that the elements of the plant remained operational during the incorporation of multiple hardware and software additions and updates.
Timescales had to be factored in too, with the original stop date being brought forward by six weeks due to other works being performed. The team then had just a week to undertake the modernisation work.
“Our team saw a chance to provide a holistic digital migration project for Gürmat Elektrik – to design, deploy, manage and provide a more secure network infrastructure,” explains Gert Thoonen from Rockwell Automation. “The first step was an onsite walkthrough assessment by our networking specialists in order for us to understand how the network was configured and what the issues were. After two days onsite the picture became clearer. Gürmat had an unsecured, unpatched network, coupled to obsolete controllers, servers and software, with very little access control.
“What Gürmat needed,” Thoonen continues, “was Rockwell Automation to migrate the existing infrastructure over to an entirely new Connected Enterprise network, which would integrate different, isolated standalone systems into one standardised, higher-reliability solution. This solution would not only offer the required security, but also deliver detailed information and diagnostics to avoid downtime, while giving Gürmat the ability to collect, collate and deliver the information in a format that allowed it to make real-time operational decisions.”
At controller level, older Allen-Bradley CompactLogix programmable automation controllers (PAC), which were sited remotely at the end of kilometre-long fibre lines, were replaced with newer models, while the larger Allen-Bradley ControlLogix controllers were enhanced with redundancy and up-to-date network cards, including Modbus+ cards from Molex Electronic Solutions, which are used to collect data from third-party systems, including controllers, vibration monitors and motor control centres.
The network was redesigned and migrated to a more secure infrastructure that used zoning, with all existing switches being replaced with Stratix Ethernet switches – from the valves at layer one up to the controller level. At the server level, an ftServer model 4800 from Stratus Technologies was deployed in conjunction with FactoryTalk View SCADA and a more up-to-date version of FactoryTalk Historian, which has resulted in performance increases and continuous availability of real-time data.
Both Stratus Technologies and Molex Electronic Solutions are members of the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork program as an Encompass Product Partner. The Encompass program is a product-referencing program designed to identify, qualify and jointly market third-party manufactured products that complement the breadth of products developed by Rockwell Automation.
Since the introduction of the new hardware, including the Stratus server, and the migrated networking infrastructure by Rockwell Automation, Gürmat Elektrik has seen significant performance increases, coupled to the availability of far more pertinent real-time data signals from all aspects of the plant. Diagnostics are also a lot easier and more effective and the all-important cyber security issues have been addressed.
According to Mustafa Yalvaç, Automation Chief at Gürmat Elektrik: “The old DCS system used to cause interruptions in the PLCs and computers, due to the network. Also some diagnostics could not be monitored on the old SCADA due to incompatibility. With regards to the upgrade, the preliminary work was well-planned prior to the DCS revision and the time was used very well, even though the shutdown period was quite short during.
“We work with Rockwell Automation because we enjoy the higher reliability and lower failure rates of its software and hardware solutions. The relationship with the technical team is also effective; any time we request support they are always keen to help. The technical support team also has the correct level of knowledge for our applications and is well equipped to solve the problems we face.
One of the biggest advantages we are now seeing, in addition to the higher speeds and greater reliability is the exclusion of multiple brands across the control infrastructure and network. We now have a single vendor that is well equipped in both products and knowledge to cater for our precise needs; and we will certainly be contacting the Rockwell Automation team for our future projects, some of which are already in development.”
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