Sunday, June 30, 2019

US Power Grids, Oil and Gas Industries, and Risk of Hacking

A report released in June, from the security firm Dragos, describes a worrisome development by a hacker group named, “Xenotime” and at least two dangerous oil and gas intrusions and ongoing reconnaissance on United States power grids.

Multiple ICS (Industrial Control Sectors) sectors now face the XENOTIME threat; this means individual verticals – such as oil and gas, manufacturing, or electric – cannot ignore threats to other ICS entities because they are not specifically targeted.


The Dragos researchers have termed this threat proliferation as the world’s most dangerous cyberthreat since an event in 2017 where Xenotime had caused a serious operational outage at a crucial site in the Middle East. 

The fact that concerns cybersecurity experts the most is that this hacking attack was a malware that chose to target the facility safety processes (SIS – safety instrumentation system).

For example, when temperatures in a reactor increase to an unsafe level, an SIS will automatically start a cooling process or immediately close a valve to prevent a safety accident. The SIS safety stems are both hardware and software that combine to protect facilities from life threatening accidents.

At this point, no one is sure who is behind Xenotime. Russia has been connected to one of the critical infrastructure attacks in the Ukraine.  That attack was viewed to be the first hacker related power grid outage.

This is a “Cause for Concern” post that was published by Dragos on June 14, 2019

“While none of the electric utility targeting events has resulted in a known, successful intrusion into victim organizations to date, the persistent attempts, and expansion in scope is cause for definite concern. XENOTIME has successfully compromised several oil and gas environments which demonstrates its ability to do so in other verticals. Specifically, XENOTIME remains one of only four threats (along with ELECTRUM, Sandworm, and the entities responsible for Stuxnet) to execute a deliberate disruptive or destructive attack.

XENOTIME is the only known entity to specifically target safety instrumented systems (SIS) for disruptive or destructive purposes. Electric utility environments are significantly different from oil and gas operations in several aspects, but electric operations still have safety and protection equipment that could be targeted with similar tradecraft. XENOTIME expressing consistent, direct interest in electric utility operations is a cause for deep concern given this adversary’s willingness to compromise process safety – and thus integrity – to fulfill its mission.

XENOTIME’s expansion to another industry vertical is emblematic of an increasingly hostile industrial threat landscape. Most observed XENOTIME activity focuses on initial information gathering and access operations necessary for follow-on ICS intrusion operations. As seen in long-running state-sponsored intrusions into US, UK, and other electric infrastructure, entities are increasingly interested in the fundamentals of ICS operations and displaying all the hallmarks associated with information and access acquisition necessary to conduct future attacks. While Dragos sees no evidence at this time indicating that XENOTIME (or any other activity group, such as ELECTRUM or ALLANITE) is capable of executing a prolonged disruptive or destructive event on electric utility operations, observed activity strongly signals adversary interest in meeting the prerequisites for doing so.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Guided Wave Radar Transmitters: Accurate and Reliable Level Measurement for the Widest Choice of Installation Options and Applications

guided wave radar level

Guided wave radar transmitters are widely used across different industries. These devices with their simple installation and trouble-free operations help industrial companies save time and money. They are ideal for a large number of process applications ranging from simple to complex.

How Do Guided Wave Radar Transmitters Work?


Guided wave radar transmitters rely on microwave pulses. Since microwaves are not affected by dust, pressure, temperature variations, and viscosity, this type of transmitter produces highly accurate results. 

A low-energy microwave pulse is sent down a probe, and a part of it is reflected back when the pulse hits the process media. The liquid level is directly proportional to the time-domain reflectometry. The time when the pulse is launched and received back is measured to determine the distance from the surface of the media. 

Types of Guided Wave Radar Level Transmitters


Guided wave radar level transmitters are available in different probe configurations. Selecting the right probe is important for successful implementation of the device. While manufacturers offer a range of guided wave radars, most are derived from the three basic probe configurations: single element, twin element, and coaxial.

Single element probe — The single element probe is the most widely used and least efficient device. The device is popular since it is more resistant to the coating of the liquid. 

Twin element probe — The twin element probe is a good, general purpose probe that is generally used in long-range applications. They are ideal in situations where flexible probes are important for successful reading. 

Coaxial probe — The coaxial probe configuration is the most efficient guided wave radar level transmitters. The probes are used in more challenging low-dielectric applications. 

Benefits of Guided Wave Radar Level Transmitters


Dielectric Constant and Reflectivity - Guided WaveRadar (GWR)
(Courtesy of Schneider Electric Foxboro)
Guided wave radar level transmitters provide a range of benefits in different applications. The concentration of the measuring signal is strong and clean. This is due to the narrow path of the signal propagation that reduces the chances of impact by stray signals due to obstacles or construction elements inside the tank. 

Another benefit of guided wave radar level transmitters is that they are easy to install. No mounting holes are required to install the device. This results in cost savings for the organization. The waveguide can be formed to follow the tank’s contours or mounted at an angle. 

The device is ideal in situations where an interface measurement is required. The measuring signals can penetrate the medium deeply, resulting in more accurate results. The waveguide technology is suitable for applications where the medium is subjected to heavy vapors, foam, and dust. 

Guided wave instruments can detect changes in dielectric consents on the boundary of a property. The device can be configured to detect level at both the top and the bottom of a layer of emulsion. 

Industrial Application of Guided Wave Radar


Guided wave radar level transmitters are increasingly being used in process industries. The sensors are used in situations that previously employed ultrasonic, hydrostatics, and capacitance. The accuracy specification of the basic model range is up to ±5mm, while the accuracy of the advanced models is up to ±2mm. 

The device is generally used in industries to take level readings. The readings are used for local indication and visualization in control systems. 

Moreover, guided wave radar level transmitters are also used for managing liquid inventory, determining safety limits, dry run protection, and leak detection. Other applications of guided wave radar level transmitters include communicating low limits to suppliers, automated ordering systems, and streamlining the logistics process. 

Guided radar level measurement is also suitable for bulk solids. The surface type is not restricted to liquids since the reflected waves are guided easily through any medium. Foam formation and turbulent liquid surfaces and different angled surfaces (as is the case with bulk solids) don’t influence the accuracy of the reading.

Selection of Guided Wave Radar Level Transmitters


Selection of guided wave radar level transmitters should be based on the requirements of the task. Generally, the rigid single element probe configuration is ideal for angled installations for flowing liquids. The dual flexible wire probe is suitable for most other common applications. 

A coaxial probe configuration is recommended for liquids that are cleaner with low dielectric constant and with turbulence on the product’s surface. This type of guided wave radar device is also recommended for installations where the probe is near the tank wall or other obstacles. 

Make sure that the device can withstand the range of temperature within the tank. Most GWR devices are rated up to 850 deg F or 450 deg C. You should select a device with added signal strength since this will result in increased reliability and accuracy of the devices. 

Guided wave radar level transmitter with dynamic vapor compensation is recommended where a high level of accuracy is required under a high-pressure environment. The measurement taken from the device can compensate for changes in vapor dielectric, which results in improved accuracy. 

Other factors that should be considered include mounting and proximity. Single probe configuration can be installed almost anywhere. But the single probe configuration can only to apply to specific situations. 

Lastly, the probe length of the device should be of the right length. The length should be according to the measurement rate. This is an important consideration as it can help in ensuring accurate reading with minimum chances of an error. 

Guided wave radar level transmitters can also be used with an agitator. However, certain things must be considered prior to use the device. The probe must be prevented from contacting the agitator blades. Make sure that you confirm the ability of the probe to withstand the force inside the medium. This is important since turbulent on the surface may decrease the accuracy of the measurement. You can install the device in a bypass chamber or stilling well for an agitated tank.

For more information on guided wave level transmitters, contact Swanson Flo by calling 800-288-7926 or by visiting their web site at https://swansonflo.com.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Hazardous Area Classifications in the USA

Hazardous Area Classifications
Understanding Hazardous Area classifications is critical.
An important aspect of safe installation is to determine the hazardous area classification in the area. Checking the area classification is also important for safe electrical wiring. The hazardous area classification should be known by personnel before starting work in an area.

Hazardous areas refer to locations with a possible risk of explosion or fire due to dangerous atmosphere. The hazards can be associated with flammable vapors or gases, ignitable fibers, and combustible dusts.

Different hazardous area classifications exist in the North America and Europe. Generally, the National Electric Code (NEC) classifications govern hazardous areas in the US. While in Europe, hazardous area classification has been specified by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

CLASS
NATURE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIAL
CLASS I
Hazardous area due the presence of flammable vapors or gases in sufficient quantities to produce ignitable mixtures and cause an explosion.
Examples include natural gas and liquified petroleum.
CLASS II
Hazardous area due the presence of conductive or combustible dusts in sufficient quantities to produce ignitable mixtures and cause an explosion.
Examples include aluminum and magnesium powders.
CLASS III
Hazardous area due the presence of flammable fibers or other flying debris that collect around lighting fixtures, machinery, and other areas in sufficient quantities to produce ignitable mixtures and cause an explosion.
Examples include sawdust and flyings



Division groups hazardous areas based on the chances of an explosion due to the presence of flammable materials in the area.

DIVISION
LIKELIHOOD OF HAZARDOUS MATERIAL
DIVISION 1
Areas where there is a high chance of an explosion due to hazardous material that is present periodically, intermittently, or continuously under normal operation.
DIVISION 2
Areas where there is a low chance of an explosion under normal operation.


Group categorizes areas based on the type of flammable or ignitable materials in the environment. As per NEC guidelines, Groups A to D classify gasses while Groups E to G classify dust and flying debris.
GROUP
TYPE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIAL IN THE AREA
GROUP A
Acetylene.
GROUP B
Area contains flammable gas, liquid, or liquid produced vapor with any of the following characteristics:
  • Minimum Ignition Current (MIC) value equal to or less than 0.40
  • Maximum Experimental Safe Gap (MESG) value equal to or less than 0.45 mm
  • Combustible gas with more than 30 percent volume
Examples include hydrogen, ethylene oxide, acrolein, propylene oxide.

GROUP C
Area contains flammable gas, liquid, or liquid produced vapor with any of the following characteristics:
  • Minimum Ignition Current (MIC) value between 0.40 and 0.80
  • Maximum Experimental Safe Gap (MESG) value greater than 0.75 mm
Examples include carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, ether, cyclopropane, morphline, acetaldehyde, isoprene, and ethylene.

GROUP D
Area contains flammable gas, liquid, or liquid produced vapor with any of the following characteristics:
  • Minimum Ignition Current (MIC) value greater than 0.80
  • Maximum Experimental Safe Gap (MESG) value greater than 0.75 mm
Examples include ammonia, gasoline, butane, benzene, hexane, ethanol, methane, methanol, natural gas, propane, naphtha, and vinyl chloride.

GROUP E
Area contains metal dusts such as magnesium, aluminum, chromium, bronze, titanium, zinc, and other combustible dusts whose abrasiveness, size, and conductivity present a hazard.

GROUP F
Area contains carbonaceous dusts such as charcoal, coal black, carbon black, coke dusts and others that present an explosion hazard.
GROUP G
Area contains combustible dusts not classified in Groups E and F.
Examples include starch, grain, flour, wood, plastic, sugar, and chemicals.


NOTE: This post serves only as a guide to acquaint the reader with hazardous area classifications in the USA. It is imperative to discuss your instrumentation, valve, or process equipment requirement with a qualified applications expert prior to installing any electrical device inside of any hazardous area.

800-288-7926 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Flowserve Valtek Control Valve Packing Adjustments


Flowserve Valtek offers packing in many different types, styles, and materials for a wide range of applications. One thing they all have in common is that they require periodic adjustment to ensure optimal performance. Adjusting packing is a necessary and important valve maintenance practice. Neglecting packing can lead to a leak path formation that may be impossible to repair without packing replacement. Packing leaks should be addressed as soon as possible to ensure safety and optimal reliability. This video demonstrates basic packing adjustments and procedures.

For more information about Flowserve Valtek valves, contact Swanson Flo by calling 800-288-7926 or by visiting https://swansonflo.com.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Wireless Networking in Industrial Plants

Wireless Networking in Industrial Plants
Wireless networking serves as the ideal alternative to high-cost industrial wiring. The setup also provides superior performance, solving the problem of electrical surges that result from field wiring.

Using a wireless system can result in an efficient supply of networking resources to field devices. The system facilitates an effective exchange of data between the host server and the field devices in the industrial setting.

Only a few industry-grade wireless field sensors have been offered so far in the year 2019. The reason for this is mainly a lack of information regarding its benefits. Once the cost-saving aspects of wireless networking become known in the industrial setting, it will likely spur the demand in the market and lead to an influx of innovative wireless devices for different field applications.

Benefits of Wireless Networking Systems in the Industrial Setting Explored 

Wireless technologies offer great value over wired solutions. A reduction in cost is just one of the many benefits of switching to the wireless networking system. There are many benefits, including enhanced management of legacy systems that were previously not possible with a wired networking connection.

Here is an overview of some of the value-added benefits of adopting wireless networking in industrial plants.

Reduced Installation Costs 

Savings in installation costs is the key benefit of a wireless networking system. The cost of installing a wireless solution is significantly lower as compared to its wired counterpart.

Installing a wireless network requires less planning. Extensive surveys are not required to route the wires to control rooms. This reduced installation cost is the main reason industrial setups should consider going wireless instead of having a wired networking system.

Improved Information Accuracy 

Adopting wireless networking also results in improved accuracy of information. The wireless system is not prone to interferences. As a result, the system ensures consistent and timely transfer of information from one node to another.

Enhanced Flexibility 

Enhanced flexibility is another reason for deploying wireless networking solutions in an industrial setting. Additional points can be awarded easily in an incremental manner. The wireless system can also integrate with legacy systems without any issues.

Operational Efficiencies

Migrating to wireless networking can help in improving operational efficiencies as well. Plant managers can troubleshoot and diagnose issues more easily. The system facilitates predictive maintenance by allowing the monitoring of remote assets.

Human Safety 

Another critical factor that should influence the decision to migrate to wireless networking is the human safety factor. Wireless technologies allow safer operations, reducing exposure to harmful environments. For instance, a wireless system can be used in taking a reading and adjusting valves without having to go to the problematic area to take measurements.

Efficient Information Transfer

Another advantage is that the time required to reach a device is reduced. This results in a more efficient transfer of information between network segments that are geographically separated. The industry wireless networking standards use IP addresses to allow remote access to data from field devices.

With wireless networking systems, readings can be taken more frequently that can help in early detection and reduction of possible incidents.

Wireless Networking Standards for Industrial Plants

The ISO100 standards committee has introduced a whole set of new standards for wireless communication in industries. The first standards include the ISA100.11 that pertains to processing data transfer while fulfilling limited control needs in the industries.

Wireless Networking in Industrial Plants
Hybrid architecture using WirelessHART mesh networking coupled
with ultra-efficient BLE Instrument Area Networks.
Image courtesy of Foxboro Schneider Electric.
ANSI and ISA have adopted the ISA100.11a standards for wireless communication in process industries. However, the standard has yet to pass through the international IEC standardization. This is due to the fact that ISA100.11a and IEC’s WirelessHART standards address the same market.

Technical Basis 

ISA100.11a is based on IEEE 802.15.4:2006 standard, similar to WirelessHART with 15 to 16 channels in the ISM band 2.4GHz range. However, the former can be used for a wider networking application in the industrial sector such as peer-to-peer messaging and network segmentation.

Distinct Hopping Patterns

Each segment in the network may use a distinct hopping pattern, unlike the WirelessHART. Moreover, the network segment has a dedicated time slot that results in the formation of large networks with overlapping segments.

Mesh Networking 

Another important point to note is that the ISA1001.11a wireless networking standard for industrial process makes use of mesh networking, which is similar to WirelessHART. However, the standard also allows devices at the network’s edge to not route information to different devices. This results in increased security that prevents unauthorized access to networks.

While not being technically different, the details of the two standards set them apart. However, the IS100.12 is already in development, and it will reduce the divergence in specifications between WirelessHART and ISA100.11a.

Challenges in Adopting Industrial Wireless Networking

Industrial wireless communication technology is a work in progress. A lot of work is required to address specific technical challenges for adopting the networking solution. Some of the challenges include evaluation and communication of the wireless technologies that are available for industrial concerns.

Another challenge in the adoption of wireless technology is solving the issues of latency or time synchronization. This is important to ensure the reliability of data transferred in the industrial setting.

Based on the challenges identified, here are three key suggestions for implementing wireless technology in the industrial setting.

  • Create a science-based methodology for measuring the performance of wireless communication
  • Create guidelines for the deployment of wireless networking in an industrial environment
  • Address issues of latency in systems with high-reliability aspects with error rates less than 10 percent

Key Takeaway

Wireless networking is an enabling technology that can result in improved operational efficiency in the industrial systems. The technology can improve control and safety and lead to enhanced cost savings.

Adoption of the wireless networking system creates huge potential for increased operational efficiencies. The system can reduce installation cost, enable enhanced monitoring, reduce risks, and improve profitability.

For more information on industrial wireless networking, contact Swanson Flo by calling 800-288-7926 or by visiting https://swansonflo.com.