Coal Age

JUN 2019

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22 June 2019 slurry pumps A Sector in Search of Answers The latest slurry handling solutions indicate the core needs of miners facing uncertainty By Jesse Morton, Technical Writer These hard times in the coal sector may someday prove to have had an upside, according to some insiders in the slurry handling solutions space. For example, better days and markets may have had the dubious side effect of validating inefficient processes and technologies at mines. "The min- ing sector already tended to be old school," Trey Walters, the founder of a company that makes software that models fluid system dynamics. "It is also the case in developing countries where the engineers have lower labor costs and sometimes less budget to procure the latest technologies." Ben Ornstein, a strategist at a slur- ry density meter maker, agreed. "If we look at instrumentation as a whole in the coal industry, historically, what we accept from that instrumentation is something we would not accept in our day-to-day life," he said. The decline in coal prices and demand has forced companies that otherwise wouldn't ask some key questions, he said. "How do we make our processes more efficient? What new technology can we imple- ment to make our end result better? All of these things are kind of where we are at now." Such questions prompted the latest round of innovations, which are pitched as speaking to the core needs of a miner facing uncertainty. A few exam- ples reveal both the ingenuity of suppli- ers as well as the topmost concerns of miners and plant managers today. Totalizing the Targets With the announcement of the lat- est round of updates, Red Meters's V2, featuring an onboard computer, has transcended the confines of the non-nuclear slurry-density meter space, the company reported. "What we've tried to do is put a full solution in a device," Ben Orn- stein, head of strategic planning, Red Meters, said. "It went from a density meter sensor to really a process-mon- itoring and characterization device. This product now functions as a con- trol system for a client that doesn't have the money to spend on a new or upgraded DCS or SCADA." Launched in 2019, the V2 is adver- tised as capable of continuously mea- suring "the process characteristics of any wet or dry continuously flowing media, while producing a unique process signature." The company re- ported that via the Red Meter "critical information is provided, so a user can receive SPC measurements and pro- cess capability, as well as providing the data to diagnose process faults, leakage, flocculation, clogs, and pro- cess blowbacks, to name a few." With the latest updates, V2 "elec- tronics boast HART Protocol, which acts as a bridge between old and new technologies, as well as Modbus," Red Meters reported. "V2 electronics sup- port HART output out of the box for any of the variables being measured, not just density or percent solids." Further, the V2 "can be used as a Modbus slave." Software updates allow for remote support and diagnostics, and enable customers to request remote assistance. These features scratch the surface of the value the V2 brings to a plant or pro- cess, Ornstein said. "Some of the things that we have implemented recently such as an expanse of different com- munication protocols, cloud comput- ing techniques and connectivity things, these are all looking towards the future of industrial process control," he said. "Our device is an IoT design device." The onboard computer "allows users to receive the many direct mea- surements that we take," Ornstein said. Included are slurry weight, tem- perature and pressure measurements, made roughly 3,000 times per second. The computer leverages "a series of algorithms" to "assess the different sensors and put them into the appro- priate format and analyze them to equate an end result, whether that is density or specific gravity or percent solids," Ornstein said. "We take all of these different di- rect measurements and then we allow the client to customize the analysis that happens inside our unit," he said. The resulting multipower, multi- point datasets can then be output to a DCS or SCADA system. Thus, the V2 "allows for this re- al-time statistical process control at a localized source as opposed to having to do that work in the SCADA or DCS," Ornstein said. "The processing power that you have in the SCADA or DCS system can be used to do other things." While the meter functions offline, an internet connection unlocks criti- cal capabilities and benefits. For example, an internet connec- tion enables "setting alarms so that you know that your process is in control and that you can know the instant it goes out of control or if there is a trend of it going out of control," Ornstein said. "The internet connection allows you to send it to third-party sources, such as an email account or a cell phone." Above, the onboard computer and display for the V2 non-nuclear slurry-density meter. (Photo: Red Meters)

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