Efficiency With Automation

Aug. 17, 2010

About the author: Pete Karangelen is south region manager, Automation Solutions, for Schneider Electric. Karangelen can be reached at [email protected] or 843.814.3577.

Florida Keys reap benefits of new water treatment control system

In 2006, the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) developed a strategic master plan and 20-year water system capital improvement program (CIP) to address increasing water demands from population growth and more stringent environmental protection and regulatory requirements. The CIP identifies short- and long-term improvements to water transmission, distribution, water storage, raw water supply and water treatment plants.

The upgrades increase water treatment and storage capacities, and they improve flows and pressures to meet anticipated water demands. Ultimately, the CIP changes will improve the reliability and quality of FKAA’s drinking water and meet regulatory standards and projected water demands.

As part of its CIP planning, FKAA personnel met with Schneider Electric about standardizing their control system communication platform. The FKAA utilized the Lifebook, an analysis tool that gives customers a facility-wide view of their automation system and helps them determine a long-term strategy for automation infrastructure. The results give customers the basis for evaluating and prioritizing change.

Through this process, the FKAA embarked on an automation system migration to replace 20-year-old equipment that was out of date, expensive and difficult to maintain. One of the other main drivers for the upgrade was to expand the capabilities of the control system. The FKAA wanted to move to a common communication platform and programming language as well as implement remote monitoring capabilities.

The FKAA facilities extend over a 130-mile range on 800 islands. Dispatching service technicians when facing a potential problem is time consuming and costly. Therefore, the authority wanted to establish control of and monitoring access to every unit—from large water treatment facilities to small boost pump stations—via one Ethernet connection. Remote monitoring capability also allows FKAA employees to bring the facilities back online in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Introducing Automation
Schneider’s Automation Services team undertook the project with FKAA staff, migrating 36 stations from their existing control system to new automation hardware and software utilizing the same programming language. Using Unity Pro development software reduced the FKAA’s development costs and will reduce downtime across the application’s entire design-to-maintenance life cycle. The single software package also allows online updates and simulation.

All of the equipment, including Modicon Quantum and M340 programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and Magelis human machine interfaces, is outfitted with Schneider proprietary technology that allows it to communicate on a secure Ethernet connection. The common Ethernet communications platform also enables FKAA staff to remotely access the equipment via a secure Ethernet connection from anywhere in the world to make software and control changes. Schneider also updated the telemetry system, which monitors water flow, pressure, pH balance and other such factors with new PLCs.

Energy Savings & Remote Monitoring Benefits
The new equipment has been a huge boon for the FKAA, improving the water system’s reliability and energy efficiency, and offering remote monitoring capabilities as well.

The new control system gives the FKAA information it lacked before, such as its current water level. Based on this data, the FKAA can make more informed decisions about how much water to pump. Prior to the new system, the authority would run its pump systems at full capacity because it was not sure how much water was needed—a common practice, but one that is neither resource or energy efficient. Now, FKAA staff can make decisions based on actual water levels and can better plan and predict to meet the water need, greatly reducing energy consumption and waste.

The greatest benefit to the FKAA, though, has been the ability to communicate remotely with the PLCs. “Prior to the upgrade we had to travel to each and every PLC, covering over 130 miles. Just the transportation and overtime costs to send a technician to one site was huge,” said Carl Brewster, chief information officer for FKAA. “We are more efficient now because we have eliminated any need to travel to any PLC for troubleshooting. Our technicians can identify the problem remotely and then take any needed equipment with them instead of having to make three to four trips for troubleshooting and then repair.”

The FKAA also installed new water meters that monitor a customer’s water consumption at the account level. Once the control system is interfaced with the meters, it will be able to identify and alert FKAA operators about a water problem, such as a water leak, through programmed alarms. In turn, the FKAA can proactively contact customers who may not be aware that they have a problem.

The control system upgrade has laid the foundation for the future and simplified service and maintenance for customers. From the perspective of Florida Keys’ residents and visitors, the FKAA’s objective is for the water supply to be simply “business as usual.”

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About the Author

Pete Karangelen

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