Bespoke burner controls

Burner manufacturer EOGB Energy Products has announced the launch of a new service to design, develop and integrate bespoke burner controls for commercial heating and industrial processes. The company’s Sales Director, Phil Pett, discusses the advancement of such controls and other technologies, and the role these will play in boiler and burner applications of the future…  

Boilers and burners play a key role in providing space heating and hot water for commercial buildings, as well as being a critical component of industrial process operations. However, managing their sequencing, whilst running different operating modes and states, can present complex challenges.

Therefore, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are often used to modify the operation of a control system. PLCs are used in many heat applications, helping to improve operation and controllability of the burner or boiler system, resulting in lower operating and maintenance costs.

Over the years, with the advancement in new technology, PLCs have evolved to offer improved features such as greater programming flexibility, smaller sizes and integrated wireless operation.

The heating system of the future

A ‘heating system of the future’ solution starts with the Internet of Things (IOT) and Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to collect and track heating system data via a Wi-Fi connection. This allows for a holistic system which will manage a process with safety, efficiency and improved preventive maintenance on a single platform. Augmented Reality (AR) can also enhance the management of complete systems.

Existing operations management is improved by using these technologies, allowing further automation at lower cost due to a reduction in PLC I/O (input/output) loading and no hard wiring. Safety and efficiency are also enhanced, and by creating a plant plan that can provide an inventory of the assets (such as boilers, tanks and piping), process equipment (including pumps, control valves and meters) and their maintenance/service history.

We will see RFID/IOT gradually replace distributed control systems (DCS), but it is likely that traditional master control PLC-based units will remain in place for many more years due to their perceived reliability and inherent safety level (although the connected security of such systems has been highlighted by malicious attacks such as Stuxnet).

The Internet of Things 

The Internet of Things (IOT) is the collective term for equipment, gadgets and components that produce data and can be connected to the internet, allowing other devices (or humans) to share and interact with the data produced in real-time.

Increasingly many commercial and industrial components, as well as domestic, are starting to be connected via the internet or closed ‘intranet’. Systems such as Genius Hub can replace traditional heating control devices in commercial buildings or the home such as thermostats and radiator valves by utilising wireless connections to save energy and gather data.

It has been predicted that by 2020 each human will have more than four devices connected to the internet, showing the exponential growth of the internet worldwide and the evolution of IOT.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID)

RFID is the use of radio waves to identify, track and interact with information stored on a miniature electronic printed circuit board or ‘tag’. RFID tags can be assigned to items in a wide range of applications including retail supply chains and banking such as contactless payment cards.

For heating, a typical application is on the production of components for HVAC equipment. The tag stores the history of the job materials and equipment in addition to spare part numbers, maintenance and troubleshooting information, which can be extremely beneficial in complex structures such as burners, boilers, and high-pressure tubing.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is the integration of visual based graphics over real-world data.

AR, in conjunction with RFID, can be used to identify components of the boiler plant and superimpose these graphics over a live camera image on a tablet or smartphone. By touching any superimposed graphic, more detailed information can be displayed such as part identification, an interface for ordering replacement parts, process data and service history and help in maintenance troubleshooting with remote technical support.

AR applications improve plant safety by eradicating the need for personnel to touch any part of the plant such as high pressure/temperature apparatus, live voltage equipment or rotating heavy machinery, while still being able to acquire and identify its status.

Benefits of new technology 

When we use IOT technology, we can eliminate many of the system components of a typical PLC control system, and use the IOT platform, along with RFID, to collect the physical data and send the commands over the internet or intranet.

For example, if we have a hot water generator used for an HVAC system in a large building controlled by a BMS, we would need at least one I/O node for each of the control and measurement devices throughout the system (including duct filters, pressure switches, fan coil, temperature thermostat for each room, boiler/burner operation I/O commands, etc). In a typical high-rise building, this can amount to hundreds of I/O points.

When we use IOT and smart devices, process data and control commands are transmitted over the internet or intranet, so equipment and wiring is significantly reduced. It also makes functional programming and human interface operation much easier as programmers can be in a remote location to access secure data on IOT connected devices.

Looking to the future

Working closely with customers to understand their production process and specific heat control requirements, EOGB engineers utilise the above advancements in technology to design PLCs that ensure the highest production yield and energy savings.

Martin Cooke, Technical Director at EOGB, said: “Unlike other PLC developers, EOGB has over 25 years’ experience in combustion industry, meaning we are uniquely placed to provide PLC solutions to integrate with combustion equipment.”

New technology offered by PLC systems along with other advanced technologies provides a great opportunity for commercial heating systems and applications to improve efficiency, flexibility, reliability and plant safety.

It’s an exciting period of technological advancement, with digitalisation set to dramatically change the face of the combustion industry as we know it.

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