Emerson Process Management in early April announced production gains and reduced plant downtime through a multi-year digital automation project at Petrobras Zarate, a polystyrene manufacturing facility 80 kilometers north of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Through the modernization, production rose by 3 to 5 percent – to 66,000 tons per year. The plant’s availability is now 99 percent and product reliability is up by 2 to 3 percent.

The plant, which produces high-impact, general-purpose crystal and bi-oriented sheet polystyrene, is part of Petrobras Energia, an integrated energy company in Buenos Aires. Polystyrene is a lightweight plastic used to make items such as disposable food containers and cutlery, footwear, school materials and parts used in refrigerators, air conditioners and vacuum cleaners.

As Petrobras Zarate’s process automation supplier, Emerson provided consulting, staff training and installation of its PlantWeb digital architecture, AMS Suite asset management software and DeltaV automation system. The project modernized the plant’s high-impact and crystal polystyrene facilities, including the water, steam and air utilities and the reactor operations.

Polystyrene production at Petrobras Zarate had been limited by a 1980s-era distributed control system.

“We needed modernization to place the plant in the vanguard of technology and ensure it could respond to the needs of the market,” said Roberto Gorbaran, instrumentation supervisor at Petrobras.

Plant managers had several goals in mind when they decided to partner with Emerson for the technology upgrade.

“We discussed a migration strategy toward a control system that could give us greater reliability, would fall within our budget, would comply with medium- and long-term strategy, and satisfy management and the business,” said Adolfo Suiffet, maintenance manager at Petrobras Zarate.

The transformation to digital was implemented in stages between 2002 and 2005. Petrobras Zarate saved $1.13 million in 2005 when, with Emerson’s assistance and aided by its digital valve and instrument technology, plant personnel completed the final hot cutover of operations control to the DeltaV system without stopping production. Annual plant stoppages have been reduced by half, to once every two years, because plant staff can now make decisions based on more reliable data about their operations.

“Thanks to being able to intervene at the right moment, with the right diagnosis, maintenance costs have been cut. In the last two years, we’ve been running 10 to 12 percent under budget,” said Suiffet.

“The accomplishments of the Petrobras team are highly valuable to the plant and a great example of the results possible through engineering expertise and technology,” said Leo Rodriguez, president of Emerson Latin America. “Through their innovation, the plant team assisted by Emerson has used PlantWeb digital technology for operational excellence and manufacturing success.”

The Petrobras Zarate plant uses Foundation fieldbus communications to network Emerson’s DeltaV digital systems, Rosemount flow, level and temperature instruments, Micro Motion Coriolis flowmeters and Fisher valves with Fisher FIELDVUE digital valve controllers.

Advanced control tools increase production quality and capacity. For example, application of neural network software in the DeltaV system made quality prediction in the reactors more effective, and Petrobras Zarate was able to up rates for certain products in the plant. Predictive diagnostics from AMS Suite: Intelligent Device Manager deliver information to operations and maintenance personnel for fast decisions on field devices. The plant has also added mobility enabled by a wireless network that allows them to perform asset maintenance in the field since personnel can use their laptops to access operational and diagnostic data through remote DeltaV desktop and AMS Suite applications. 

PlantWeb architecture is an open, standards-based digital automation solution that networks intelligent field devices, digital systems and software to control processes and manage equipment and other assets. It delivers information for facilities management, including predictive alerts of pending malfunctions and guidance for corrective action to avoid production interruptions and shut downs.

About Emerson Process Management
Emerson Process Management (www.EmersonProcess.com), an Emerson business, helps businesses automate their production, processing and distribution in the chemical, oil and gas, refining, pulp and paper, power, water and wastewater treatment, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and other industries. The company combines superior products and technology with industry-specific engineering, consulting, project management and maintenance services. Its brands include Rosemount, PlantWeb, Fisher, Micro Motion, Mobrey, Daniel, Bristol, DeltaV, Ovation and AMS Suite.

About Emerson
Emerson, based in St. Louis, is a global leader in bringing technology and engineering together to provide innovative solutions to customers through its network power, process management, industrial automation, climate technologies, and appliance and tools businesses. Sales in fiscal 2007 were $22.6 billion.

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