This year’s Emerson Global Users Exchange was held at the beautiful Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX, outside of Dallas. Representatives of companies from 50 countries and six continents joined the gathering, which featured more than 350 workshops, industry and technology forums and short courses covering a huge variety of topics.
Besides being a source of valuable information about products, processes and business practices, events like this are a prime opportunity to network. This was emphasized in the opening remarks of Steve Sonnenberg, executive VP of Emerson and president of Emerson Process Management, who encouraged every attendee to make the most of his or her time at the event. “Introduce yourself to at least five new people and nurture the relationships you already have,” he said. “This is the chance to expand the community of experts and resources you can call upon, and that are so important in this business.”
A highlight of the opening day of the exchange was the keynote address by Mark Thompson, CEO and cofounder of Virgin Unite Mentors. A dynamic and inspiring speaker, Thompson captured the audience’s attention with his colorful and exciting glimpses inside the worlds of Steve Jobs and Sir Richard Branson, both of whom had overcome spectacular failures to become captains of industry. “Like Jobs and Branson,” said Thompson, “Leaders must be willing to realize that success is all about the people they’re working with. We can never succeed just on our own.”
Passion is a key component of success, and, he said, “You need to be able to define what success means to you.” By taking a survey of the room, Thompson helped everyone understand that defining your personal vision of success is one of the biggest steps toward achieving it. Additionally, he said, “You have to blend relentless creativity with fanatical discipline. But you have to balance all of that with humility. To develop and build trust is also critical to success and you have to admit when you’re wrong and be willing to make it right.”
The importance of making the effort to “make it right” was discussed in many other contexts throughout the Exchange.
Teamwork and Overcoming Failure
Many case studies were analyzed during the workshops and were among topics of special interest to readers of VALVE Magazine. In one presentation, Juan Bracho, senior electrical reliability engineer at the Suncor refinery in Fort McMurray, Alberta, described a serious problem the plant had with coker drain valves failing due to extreme temperatures and vibration. In another, the challenge of replacing all old control-disk rotary valves in a TIP refining process was met with new designs and materials that only recently had been developed, and were better suited to the rigors of the process. In both of these cases, the solutions came about only with concerted cooperation between the end users, their manufacturing partners and their local representatives.
These case studies are perfect examples of the ongoing theme of the exchange: teamwork. Sonnenberg used an interesting example: Diana Nyad’s recent successful swim from Cuba to Florida.
While Nyad is the one receiving the accolades, she is the first to admit that her success was the result of having a team of trusted advisers that made it possible to navigate her course and avoid the jellyfish stings that thwarted her last attempt. To get a swim team or a project team together, you must communicate at all times. What is the situation? What is your goal? Is that person or company going to work with you to get the results you need?
During a press conference, Emerson leadership described the company’s vision for the future.
“Pervasive Sensing” is the term they used to describe the environment made possible by increasingly less costly wireless networks, analytical software applications and pervasive sensors that will provide companies the tools to constantly track not just process-critical functions but also business-critical functions including site safety, environmental concerns, reliability and energy efficiency. However, having all that extra data means nothing unless you can analyze it and take action on it. The goal is to be able to conduct strategic interpretation using algorithms and expertise to turn that into actionable data that, when acted upon, will result in greater efficiencies, safer plants and more profitable businesses.
One example is the energy management information system, which will give companies a broad view of energy consumption through the entire facility, not only to see where they might be consuming too much energy, but also creating models to determine what can be done about it.
A New Approach to Gas Leak Detection
Named after one of the three small bones in the ear, a new product was revealed at the exchange. GDU-Incus is an ultrasonic gas leak detector that does not measure gas concentration in terms of percent LEL or ppm (parts per million) as do traditional detectors utilized in catalytic, infrared or electrochemical-based systems. With GDU-Incus detectors, the gas does not have to make contact with the sensor to be detected. It utilizes innovative floating piezo ceramic resonant sensors to detect ultrasonic sound in the 25 kHz to 100 kHz frequency range. The detector responds to the differential in ultrasound generated from a pressurized gas leak and the normal plant process noise. Since it is detecting the leak rather than the gas plume, the GDU-Incus offers the potential to provide early warning of a leak.
As fugitive emissions continue to be amongst the biggest concerns for all process applications, this technology could have far-reaching applications.
The Natural Gas Boom
During VMA’s 2013 Market Outlook event, the important impact that unconventional natural gas and oil production is having on the U.S. economy was discussed in great detail. While the economic ramifications of this phenomena were addressed only peripherally during the Exchange, the impact that technological developments have had on the boom and the demands placed on engineers by the boom were discussed at length, particularly with respect to the plants and processes required to export LNG. Vincent Mezzano of Fluor discussed the valve requirements for LNG trains, and the particular challenges of protecting the compressors involved in these cryogenic and high-pressure processes.
In total, the Exchange extended over 5 days, and while this editor was unable to remain for the duration, it was evident in the three days spent with so many dedicated professionals that the ideals of collaboration and innovation re-affirmed by this event are indeed alive and well in our industry.