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ABB technologies that changed the world: distributed control systems

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In the year that ABB in Switzerland celebrates its 125th anniversary, we take a closer look at some of the technologies that have contributed to our position as a global leader in power and automation. In this story we join the Dutch to celebrate 30 years of success for the Oosterscheldekering: a 9 km flood protection barrier controlled by ABB’s Extended Automation System 800xA.

Distributed control systems lie at the heart of the process industries, from chemicals, oil and gas to power generation, they carefully coordinate the complex processes used to convert raw materials into a continuous flow of high-quality products. They are also used to control critical infrastructure, including the flood protection barriers.

Storm barriers automated with ABB technology

The Oosterscheldekering is the largest of the Netherlands’ Delta Works, a series of dams and storm-surge barriers that protect the country from North Sea flooding. For 30 years now, the flood barrier, automated with ABB technology, has been protecting a large area of land from the sea. Under normal conditions, the barrier remains open, but when sea levels rise, thanks to ABB technology, the barrier comes down and repels the incoming waves.

ABB pioneered one of the world’s first distributed control systems in the early 1980s and remains to this day the global market leader and the company with the largest installed base of process automation systems worldwide. The construction of the Delta Works was in response to the widespread damage and loss of life caused by the North Sea Flood of 1953. A combination of wind, low barometric pressure and high tide caused sea levels to rise up to 5.6 meters, impacting the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. The Netherlands was worst affected because of its low-lying land – 50 percent of the country is less than 1 meter above sea level. 1,836 deaths were reported in the country after existing sea defenses were overwhelmed. As the largest of 13 Delta Works, the Oosterscheldekering plays a vital role. It relies on 260 ABB AC 800M controllers, which, at the push of a button, set the 62 steel compartments of the barrier (each weighing between 260 and 480 tons) in motion, to either close or open the barrier. The controllers execute, monitor and control the door-closing process, making adjustments as necessary.

The largest of 13 Delta Works, Oosterscheldekering, relies on 260 ABB AC 800M controllers, which, at the push of a button, set the 62 steel compartments of the barrier (each weighing between 260 and 480 tons) in motion, to either close or open the barrier.
The construction of the Delta Works was in response to the widespread damage and loss of life caused by the North Sea Flood of 1953. A combination of wind, low barometric pressure and high tide caused sea levels to rise up to 5.6 meters, impacting the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Over the last 30 years the full dam has been closed twenty-five times when the water level exceeded, or could possibly exceed, the three metres. ABB has supplied the control systems for several other storm barriers in the Netherlands.

Facts and figures

  • The construction of the Oosterscheldekering started in 1976 and was finished in June 1986.
  • The Oosterscheldekering is sometimes referred to as the eighth Wonder of the World. It has been declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • Over the last 30 years the full dam has been closed twenty-five times when the water level exceeded, or could possibly exceed, the three metres.
  • ABB has supplied the control systems for several other storm barriers in the Netherlands, including Maeslantkering, Ramspolkering and the Haringvlietdam.

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