OPC Supports Chemical Reclamation Project

April 25, 2008
The OPC DataHub from Cogent Real-Time Systems is used by a chemical reclamation company to provide the real-time, reliable and secure data link for a network of geographically distributed plants.

Fielding Chemical Technologies, the largest solvent and refrigeration reclamation company in Canada, is using the OPC DataHub from Cogent Real-Time Systems, located in Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, to distribute the process data from its new Pervap project across the corporate network and the Internet. Last year Fielding embarked on an ambitious new project to develop a cost-effective way of removing water and other impurities from isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and other chemicals to reach at least 99.5 percent purity.

To achieve this goal, Fielding has patented a custom, vacuum-enhanced refining process that pulls the moisture out of the IPA through specially designed membrane plates. A pilot project has been set up that can refine more than 2,000 gallons of IPA per day. The project has been a great success so far, except for one major problem—transport costs.

Problem: Transportation Costs

Shipping contaminated IPA is expensive because it is mostly water. Large quantities of alcohol are being used in pharmaceutical companies in the East Coast of the United States, for example, but the cost of trucking the waste product to the nearby Fielding facilities in Canada would be more than the profits generated by the sale of the refined product. For this reason the plant is currently refining only locally generated waste, running at less than one-third capacity.

Solution: OPC DataHub-Connected

To address this problem, Fielding plans to install a network of small plants in various parts of Canada and the U.S. Each of these plants will be connected via a data link to the central office, for process monitoring and gathering data. To provide a real-time data link for each location, Fielding relies on OPC and the Cogent OPC DataHub.

“The OPC DataHub is an amazing piece of technology,” said Robert McGregor, Pervap project researcher. “It is reliable, secure, easy to use, and it does exactly what we need.”

The Pervap project requires data to be collected from various locations and displayed live in Web browsers running in workstations in the central office and off-site. The data must also be stored in a SQL Server database for archival and analytical use.

Using Java applets that come with the OPC DataHub, McGregor created a Web page that displays live data overlaid on top of a system diagram, along with a table showing status messages and alarms. Then he configured the DataHub to write data to his SQL Server database. Finally, he installed an OPC DataHub in the central office, and configured a secure, SSL-encrypted tunnel between the two DataHubs to mirror the data.

“I’m really fond of the OPC DataHub,” said McGregor. “It works so well. The Java applets are very reliable. My background is in computer science, so I know how difficult it would be to create this kind of functionality myself.”

Expanding the project from the field office to the central office was technically easy because the two DataHubs simply mirror the data between each other. Security was assured by the built-in features of the OPC DataHub.

“What I really appreciate are the various levels of security,” said Nick Kucharew, Fielding’s IT Manager. “We have complete control over user access and authorization, and the SSL encryption layer across the network gives us the protection we need.”

The Pervap project is currently in the pilot stage, with one field installation at the company location. Now that the technology and data communications have been thoroughly tested, the company is ready to grow the project across the continent.

For more information on OPC solutions from Cogent Real-Time Systems, visit www.opcdatahub.com.

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