System 800xA and ABB control room in pilot plant at Imperial College

Educating tomorrow's engineers in unique industrial facility to show latest technology in plant control


At Imperial College’s carbon capture pilot plant, ABB aims to equip today’s students with the skills needed to run tomorrow’s industrial processes. The only facility of its kind in an academic institution in the world, the pilot plant shows students how the latest technologies can help to optimise plant performance and safely manage emergency situations in real-life applications.

Bringing the moste advanced control and instrumentation technology into the classroom

The agreement between ABB and Imperial College gives the university access to the most advanced control and instrumentation technology available from any manufacturer, as well as life cycle services and support for the installation.

In return, ABB has access to the carbon capture pilot plant for its own use and will use the facility for customer demonstrations and training, staff learning such as inter-divisional training and hands on experience for its apprentices and graduate engineers.

The increasingly global nature of the projects that ABB are involved with, particularly in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors, means that engineers from the UK and elsewhere are being called on to work in many different regions worldwide. The aim is to use the plant to create a lasting association between the real-life problems that students will encounter once they qualify and the technology and capabilities available from ABB that can help solve them.

Main facts

Industry Oil, gas and petrochemicals
Customer Imperial College, London
Country United Kingdom

The plant uses over 250 instruments, measuring parameters including temperature, pressure, pH, level, carbon dioxide and flow.

The plant has a capacity for 50 kg per hour capture of carbon dioxide.

The construction of the plant is part of Imperial College’s £8.9 million ChemEngSpace project.

Shaping tomorrow's engineers

The carbon capture pilot plant is part of Imperial College’s £8.9 million ChemEngSpace Project and will be used for undergraduate teaching, with over 300 chemical engineering students having access each year.

The CO2 pilot-scale absorption plant uses an extensive selection of the same ABB proven products and systems that are used in a broad range of industrial applications worldwide.

The plant is designed so that students get hands-on experience of ABB’s product and system integration by showing them in action in a cutting-edge industrial application. By using this equipment, students can gain valuable practical experience of plant operation that will help prepare them for the industrial challenges of tomorrow.

Together, ABB’s control systems, process instrumentation, variable-speed drives, motors and electrical controls, give operators everything they need to run their plant efficiently, safely and with minimum environmental impact.
The plant is designed so that students get hands-on experience of ABB’s product and system integration by showing them in action in a cutting-edge industrial application.

ABB control room with ergonomically desined operator interface

Over 250 separate process instruments provide real-time feedback on flow, temperature, pressure, level, pH and CO2 levels. This data is fed to the control system via several different communication protocols, including Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus DP, Profibus PA and Wireless HART, where it is then shown as part of the real-time process display on dual extended operator workplaces.

Using the latest iPad technology, the plant operators can also remotely monitor the process whilst working outside of the ABB Control Room.
All information from the process is relayed to the ABB Control Room, from where students can monitor and control every aspect of the plant.

Updated with real-time data, these screens provide a comprehensive picture of all aspects of the plant’s operation

System 800xA provides operators with a single, consistent environment for managing their complete process.

Powering instruments using energy harvesting

Wireless instruments offer the ideal solution wherever it may be costly or impractical to run cabling. Battery-powered WirelessHART technology allows for quick and simple instrument installation to allow operators to monitor new process information to improve plant visibility.

However, the battery will eventually need replacing, incurring time and cost. The solution is to use remote instruments powered by energy harvesting technology. The Imperial College pilot plant features ABB temperature transmitters fitted with ABB’s FieldKey WirelessHART adapters and another transmitter using an integral thermal gradient energy harvester.

The FieldKey adapter is for applications where there is local power available but no signal cable back to the control room. It harvests energy from the 4-20mA loop and adds WirelessHART connectivity to any HART instrument. The temperature instrument using thermal gradient energy harvesting is fitted to a steam pipe where the temperature difference from ambient to that of the steam pipe is used to power the instrument.
Energy harvesting provides new and cost effective options for powering wireless instruments.

Obtaining real-time information on plant performance with System 800xA

Problems arise where process data is presented in multiple formats on multiple platforms. Lack of integration in a control system can mean that operators may have no way of pinpointing issues or quickly drilling down into process data or maintenance records, for example. Process performance and operator efficiency suffers and can cause delays in responding to emergency situations.

The solution is ABB’s System 800xA a scalable automation system for control and monitoring, instrumentation, electrical integration, safety and maintenance for process industries. Capable of being integrated with ABB and third party equipment, System 800xA provides operators with a single, consistent environment for managing their complete process.

In common with real-life installations worldwide, the System 800xA in the ABB Control Room at Imperial College enables students to control all aspects of plant operation, including data monitoring and collection, engineering configuration, maintenance and safety routines such as emergency shutdowns.
Quick access to realtime plant data impacts not only performance but also other critical areas, including safety.
The real-time data from the plant room is relayed to the control room via ABB’s AC800M control technology. The AC800M integrates various networks, fieldbuses, serial protocols and I/O ready for presentation to the System 800xA as well as handle the real-time control of the plant.

Plant-wide communication with multiple communication protocols

To enable the process to be managed from the control room, all equipment on the pilot plant is linked via various forms of communication to the System 800xA control system. The Imperial College installation features examples of all of the leading types of plant-wide communications technologies, enabling students to compare and evaluate each one in an actual operational setting.

System 800xA controlling the carbon separation process

Imperial’s pilot plant will be used to run hundreds of different scenarios and experiments in coming years, calling for a highly adaptive set-up which can be readily adjusted to produce the conditions needed. This adaptability is well met by ABB’s System 800xA integrated automation solution. The challenge of maximising carbon separation efficiency.

With all plant equipment being connected to the System 800xA control system, operators are able to easily adjust device settings to experiment with different scenarios. This can be achieved simply by clicking on the icons representing those devices.

Integrated alarm management

To help operators to quickly address a problem, the System 800xA includes visual and audio alarms, CCTV cameras that focus on problem areas via the EOW and facilities to raise and lower the desk to enable the operator to handle a situation whilst standing or sitting.

Automatic shutdown routines are triggered in the event of a safety alarm not being acted upon. All major events within the plant are recorded, producing historical data that can be examined to trace the conditions leading up to the alarm situation. In this way students can work to, and understand, the latest international best practice.

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