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The Manual or Automatic Decision

Posted July 25, 2011 6:24 AM
User-tagged by 5 users

Deciding whether to automate valves or to operate them manually depends on many factors, including worker safety, application, and cost of operations. Another option is to add mechanical advantages such as longer levers or a larger diameter of the handwheel. What are the most important factors when making this decision?

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Re: The Manual or Automatic Decision

07/25/2011 8:14 AM

Operator safety! I would want my company to make through the lawsuits.

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Re: The Manual or Automatic Decision

07/25/2011 11:46 PM

Operator AND operations safety. Operator safety is as #1 said. Additionally, when automatizing, you have to consider how many different way things can go wrong, and guard against it. Many times a process ok manually cannot survive the translation into automatized operation.

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Re: The Manual or Automatic Decision

07/26/2011 8:20 AM

What about loss prevention, then?

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Re: The Manual or Automatic Decision

07/26/2011 3:57 PM

Type of operation is a factor.

My experience is in designing refineries / LNG trains and similar from the specification of the process point of view. These are huge expensive plants that run continuously for years on end. Almost none of the controls are manually operated. There are manual isolation valves so that if a pump / train / CV is to be taken out of service these are closed. Typically these will have a motor or other actuator above a certain size and pressure rating.

The main area where there are significant manual intervention is in occaisional actions which are hard to automate or which require manual input. e.g. Pipelines from offshore fields are often pigged. Directing the pig into the receiver can be 'automated' - a control room operator will monitor position and feather valves as needed to ensure it arrives in the receiver. Once the CR Op has islated the receiver manual actions with interlocks are carried out to flush, depressure and inert the receiver so that the door can be opened. The final stages in this are opening atmospheric vents and a tell tal to ensure there is no pressure in the receiver which would swing the door very fast. manual intervention is required to then remove the pig (even if this is just hooking the pig to a winch).

Automation is used to maintain a consistency, also there are just too many valves and operations staff are being slimmed down to non existence and my current client would like to operate the plant from the not so near major city and absolutely minimise the amount of time the operators spend on the dangerous side of the fence.

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