Siemens helps carbon manufacturer modernize DCS

  • July 08, 2020
  • Siemens
  • Case Study
Siemens helps carbon manufacturer modernize DCS
Siemens helps carbon manufacturer modernize DCS

July 9, 2020 - With a footprint extending across 12 countries on 5 continents, Birla Carbon is a manu­facturer and supplier of carbon black. This fine carbon powder is vital for enhancing the strength and color of many products we use daily.

Birla Carbon’s 160-acre plant in North Bend, Louisiana, employs 153 people in two production units: a Rubber Unit that produces carbon black for tires and a Specialty Unit that manufactures the powder for paints, plastics and printer cartridges.

The North Bend plant produces carbon black in a high-temperature reactor through a tightly controlled flame-synthesis process that uses oil, and sometimes natural gas, as feedstock. By adjusting reactor conditions, they can produce a wide variety of carbon black grades to meet the diverse needs of customers. Throughout the multistage process, Birla Carbon uses a distributed control system (DCS) from Siemens to ensure all finished products meet the highest standards of quality.


Multiyear path to modernization

In 2016, Birla Carbon and Siemens ini­tiated a modernization of their Siemens APACS+ DCS, which had been in opera­tion for more than 20 years. Goals for this complex, multiyear project included improving process efficiencies, better managing yields, increasing the number of measurement points and integrating digital technologies on all new devices across both the Rubber and Specialty Units.

Early stages of the upgrade involved installation of the APACS+ OS (HMI) in both the Rubber and Specialty Units, the addition of a Siemens smart motor con­trol center (MCC) to the Specialty Unit, and further enhancement of the MCC with SIMATIC PCS 7 AS410 controllers and PROFINET.

Full migration to PCS 7, which would include operating system virtualization and device integration, began in 2018. This phase required transitioning their APACS+ IO modules to the newer and more flexible SIMA­TIC ET 200SP HA IO, which features a compact footprint, high availability due to redundant PROFINET connections, and field-ready conformal coating with an extended temperature range. But along with a host of benefits came the potential for extended commissioning times and significant hardware replace­ment costs – both of which Birla Carbon wished to avoid.


A smarter way to migrate IO

To support Birla Carbon in achieving a simplified, lower-cost IO cutover requiring minimal downtime, Siemens integrated a solution allowing for the ET200SP HA IO to be installed into the existing APACS+ cabinet, with the APACS+ backplane and Marshalled Terminal Assembly (MTA) cable remai­ning in place. Known as the Front Adap­ter (FAD) Solution, this strategy would preserve the current cable connection to the APACS+ MTA.

The FAD Solution is comprised of three parts:

  • FAD Adapter Rack, which mounts to the APACS+ backplane in place of the APACS+ card cage. The Adapter Rack makes it possible to install a horizontal rail of up to 16 ET200SP HA IO modules.
  • FAD Adapter, which plugs into the existing APACS+ MTA cable termina­ted on the APACS+ backplane. The adapter provides access to all 48 wires within the cable.
  • FAD Adapter Cable, which comes in varying lengths (with 1 m as standard). The connector end plugs directly into the FAD Adapter, while the other end consists of flying leads that enable customized wiring in the panel shop for the appropriate ET200SP HA IO module.

By incorporating the FAD Solution as part of their plant-wide modernizati­on to PCS 7, Birla Carbon drastically reduced the amount of production downtime necessary to migrate their DCS. Once the ET200SP HA IO rails were installed in the FAD Adapter Rack, all they needed to do was remove the old APACS+ modules, install the new IO and connect it to the APACS+ MTA cable – making it a true plug-and-play solution. Additionally, all FAD Adapter Cable wiring was pre-verified during Factory Acceptance Testing. As a result, instead of weeks or months, the North Bend plant returned to full operation in less than three days.

The FAD Solution also lowered the total cost of ownership by maximizing use of Birla Carbon’s existing APACS+ hardware. The FAD Adapter Rack fit right into the APACS+ cabinet and enabled in­stallation of 16 ET200SP HA IO modules in the same space that previously held only 10 APACS+ modules. The upgraded installation retained an identical foot­print without requiring new cabinets. The APACS+ backplane, cable and MTA were also preserved, and the solution design ensured that the existing spare IO was not compromised and could be reused with the migrated system.

Ready for the future

With the ET200SP HA IO in place, Birla Carbon is well equipped to attain their goal of adding digital process instru­mentation throughout the entire carbon black manufacturing process to improve efficiencies, optimize production and keep their competitive edge.

Following completion of the North Bend installation, Siemens standardized all hardware design documentation for the FAD Solution.

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