Natural gas quality monitoring over the Internet, No programing required

Natural gas quality monitoring over the Internet - No programmers required

By Bill Lydon - Editor
The PlantGard natural gas remote monitoring device was demonstrated by Steve Jeane, a Chemical Engineer from PECOFacet, at NI Week 2010. Jeane explained that they developed the device without having to do traditional programming. The key feature was remote monitoring over the Internet. Jeane commented, "Our customers can now easily access real-time 24/7 gas quality updates remotely through their mobile device so they can to take immediate action on any critical issues." "PECOFacet has been in the oil and gas business for over 50 years and we understand the importance of adopting cutting edge technology. The internet has fundamentally changed customer's expectations of what companies should provide."
PECOFacet is a world leader in providing advanced vessel and element filtration product and services to companies in the oil and gas natural resources industries. PECOFacet provides devices that automatically analyze samples from a gas pipeline and continuously monitor it for cleanliness. The largest application is for natural gas fired power generation facilities that require a clean gas stream to operate at maximum efficiency. The unit consists of a laser device and a National Instruments CompactRIO controller that monitors real time particle distribution, flow rate, and process conditions in the pipeline.  In addition, units now communicate via satellite to provide information over the Internet to users using Web services and Microsoft Silverlight. This was accomplished using National Instruments new LabVIEW Web UI Builder.
PlantGard Demonstration Unit
CompactRIO is the “brains” of PlantGard and is also a WEB server.
LabVIEW 2010 Web UI Builder
The PlantGard units provide remote monitoring over the Internet using Microsoft Silverlight.  Microsoft Silverlight is a web application framework that integrates multimedia, computer graphics, animation and interactivity into a single runtime environment.   It is compatible with Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X operating systems and with popular browsers, including Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Opera.
The process of building an application starts by using a LabVIEW wizard to create web services that expose variables and controls from a LabVIEW 2010 application. The next step is to use National Instruments LabVIEW Web UI Builder to create a Silverlight application that will provide displays and controls in a web browser. The LabVIEW Web UI Builder has the look and feel of a typical HMI editor. The difference comes when your application is complete - a Silverlight xap (pronounced zap) file is created that contains the compressed assemblies and resources of this Silverlight application. It is important to note that the applications are created using graphical icon programming in keeping with National Instruments’ philosophy.
PlantGard WEB Screen Created with National Instruments LabVIEW Web UI Builder
Jeane explained, "My background is in chemical engineering and not computer science.” “One big advantage of using LabVIEW Web UI Builder is that the software is intuitive, so I'm confident anyone with a little time and effort could produce these types of thin client applications. On the client side, only the small Silverlight browser plug-in is required and all the network traffic is standard HTTP protocol."
PlantGard Report Available via WEB
The Silverlight browser plug-in is required to use the application and it is free from Microsoft. An application can be displayed from a browser by entering the IP address of the CompactRIO with a command to invoke the web service, which is essentially a remote procedure that uploads and runs the xap file stored in the CompactRIO. Web services can be called from nearly all programming languages, in this application the CompactRIO is the server and user display devices are the clients.
Thoughts & Observations
This is a great application of open Internet technology by National Instruments. I walked through a live demonstration to create an HMI and controls with the LabVIEW Web UI Builder and it is easy to use and included a number of features.
National Instrument is leveraging the free availability of Microsoft Silverlight to deliver a great deal of value to users.
Steve Jeane is a chemical engineer who was able to directly apply his knowledge using graphical programming without the have to become a procedural programming expert.