ABB Technology To Tackle Methane Leakages From Orphan Oil and Gas Wells

Often by the time a tech or business story hits mainstream media or politics the situation is on the downward slope of the sine wave. There was a story in The New York Times today about pollution and emissions from petrochemical plants. Surely that has been a big problem. But companies have been tackling the problem for a while, now. Here is a story from ABB which has developed technology applications to find methane leakages so that they may be repaired.

  • ABB’s proven emissions monitoring technology now extends to tackling the massive environmental problem of millions of leaking orphan oil and gas wells
  • ABB’s OA-ICOS laser-based technology has a track record of providing trustworthy measurements of greenhouse gases that are recognized by global industry bodies, research centers and environmental protection agencies
  • By supporting the work on plugging decomissioned wells in the United States, the technology helps in the fight against climate change
  • ABB’s emissions monitoring technology which is typically used for gas leak detection by oil and gas companies and natural gas utilities is now employed to identify and monitor orphan wells in the United States. 

With the help of ABB technology, organizations such as The Well Done Foundation, the nonprofit organization that works to plug orphan oil and gas wells in the country, can detect leaking wells and, once the wells are capped, continue to monitor the sites to ensure they no longer emit harmful greenhouse gases.

Orphan wells are oil or gas wells that have been deactivated and no longer have legal owners responsible for their care. Due to their age and deteriorated condition, the wells can leak methane and other harmful greenhouse gases through their “plugs”.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that methane emissions from over 2 million inactive, unplugged wells, of which orphan wells are a subset, range from a CO2 equivalent of 7 to 20 million metric tons per year (approximately the emissions of 2 to 5 million cars). Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere, according to the Environment Defense Fund.

Many wells are situated on farmland, and could contaminate land, air and water, potentially harming ecosystems, wildlife, livestock, and people.

In some parts of the United States where towns are growing, housing has been built where oil and gas wells once stood. The Environment Defense Fund estimates that 14 million Americans live within a mile of an orphan well.

“It is extremely rewarding to see our technologies employed in the endeavor of fixing such a pressing environmental problem. We remain focused on accelerating the pace of environmental programs that reduce emissions, especially in the oil and gas industry. Our work on this initiative is a great example of how technology can benefit the environment and help countries achieve their sustainability goals,” says Jacques Mulbert, Division President, ABB Measurement & Analytics.

What can be measured can be improved

Together with channel partner Winn-Marion, ABB worked to create a comprehensive approach that enables the identification, on-site qualification, and monitoring of orphan wells. At the heart of the solution are ABB’s gas leak detection products as well as a suite of flow computers, both used in tens of thousands of industrial plants worldwide to measure and report on emissions.

Initially, ABB’s gas leak detection system is used to find the orphan wells. Depending on their location, the high sensitivity analyzers using OA-ICOS technology are transported by vehicle (using ABB Ability™ MobileGuard), drone (HoverGuard), or backpack (MicroGuard) to the site. The system can detect methane emissions down to 1 part per billion (ppb).

Once on-site, it measures methane concentration and flow with a measuring range as low as 180kg/h. The flow from the thermal mass is logged and visualized on ABB’s gas flow computers, the control devices known in the industry for their extreme accuracy and reliability. In the post-plugging phase, methane emissions continue to be monitored.

A key advantage of ABB’s emissions monitoring technology is that it is fully audited by the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the Federal government’s onshore oil and gas program in the United States.

Rockwell Automation Smart Machine, Safety, Security Announcements

The Rockwell Automation PR team must have worked overtime following November’s Automation Fair. Here are a number of releases on new products and services. These cover a spectrum of technology areas that further reveal the breadth of Rockwell’s reach. 

  • Smart Machine Development
  • GuardLink with EtherNet/IP
  • FactoryTalk Logix Echo
  • Cyber Endpoint Protection Services

Simplify Smart Machine Development with Improved Micro800 Controllers and Design Software

Machine builders can save engineering time and costs with the enhanced Allen-Bradley Micro850 and Micro870 2080-Lx0E controllers using the latest Connected Components Workbench software from Rockwell Automation.

  • Class 1 implicit messaging capability up to eight EtherNet/IP devices support
  • Streamline integration of controller to drives, supporting PowerFlex 520 series and Kinetix 5100 drives over EtherNet/IP with pre-defined tags and pre-developed user-defined function block (UDFB) instructions.
  • Connected Components Workbench software version 21 required.

GuardLink 2.0 with new EtherNet/IP Interface

  • GuardLink 2.0 offers advanced diagnostics by way of the new Allen-Bradley 432ES GuardLink EtherNet/IP On-Machine Interface or a combination of Dual GuardLink Relay and EtherNet/IP Interface. 
  • GuardLink 2.0 protocol also enables safety-rated control device status reporting and automatic diagnostic reporting to an HMI using CIP Safety over EtherNet/IP.
  • Connect up to 96 safety devices via three independent safety channels. 
  • The interface can cascade power to additional interfaces and can keep track of timing and frequency of events to improve maintenance and create process efficiencies. 
  • The 432ES supports linear, star and Device Level Ring topologies while meeting safety ratings up to SIL 3, Cat 4 PLe.

New Capabilities in Emulation and Support with First expansion of FactoryTalk Logix Echo

  • Attention was dedicated to improving testing, giving users access to more than 20 variations of the 5580 ControlLogix platform at their disposal.
  • FactoryTalk Logix Echo simplifies the emulator experience by providing users the opportunity to download directly to FactoryTalk Logix Echo without modifications. 
  • Having the emulation of the 5580 ControlLogix Ethernet port means that to other software, FactoryTalk Logix Echo looks like another controller, offering flexibility to expand your emulation to visualization or other controllers.
  • Version 2 will be the first emulation platform to support safety controllers by introducing GuardLogix 5580 controller catalogs. 
  • The inaugural version supported one 17 slot chassis, but the latest release now supports the creation and communication of multiple chassis with one FactoryTalk Logix Echo license. 

Comprehensive Endpoint Protection Services

  • For organizations to secure their operations and reduce cyber threats, a successful cybersecurity strategy requires solutions to secure endpoints – any device that is connected to a network outside of its firewall, including laptops, HMIs, switches, IoT devices, and more.
  • Rockwell Automation and CrowdStrike are providing manufacturers with comprehensive Endpoint Protection Services, combining Rockwell Automation’s Industrial Cybersecurity Services and CrowdStrike Falcon platform to monitor, protect, investigate, and respond to incidents. 
  • Purpose-built in the cloud with a single lightweight-agent architecture, the CrowdStrike Falcon platform delivers rapid and scalable deployment, superior protection and performance, reduced complexity, and immediate time-to-value.
  • When customers choose the CrowdStrike Falcon platform through Rockwell Automation, they receive the industry-leading software coupled with OT-specific Falcon policies, developed by Rockwell Automation cybersecurity specialists, and backed by software and phone support. 
  • Endpoint Protection fits into the expansive Rockwell Automation portfolio of Managed Services along with Incident Response and Threat Detection to provide customers with a holistic cybersecurity solution.

Wearable Robotics Demonstration

While we are on a robot/human collaboration theme, take a look at this exoskeleton from WearTech Center. The evolution of ergonomics and human-assist tech has fascinated me for a very long time. I’m old enough to remember the hard and dangerous ways. Given some of the stuff I’ve done early in my career, I’m lucky to be hear with all my extremities intact.

The WearTech Center, an applied research center accelerating the development of emerging technology products, along with Arizona-based wearable device companies GoX Labs and AKE, and Arizona State University’s top mechanical engineering researchers, are advancing worker wellness and safety with new exoskeleton technology. Through the public-private collaboration, Arizona-based innovators announced they are developing a new exoskeleton that will make workplaces safer for millions of workers in many industries. The wearable exoskeleton technology called PhenEx will help workers squat and lift heavy loads promoting overall worker health.

Previously, GoX Labs, AKE and ASU successfully developed a similar ex called the Aerial Porters Exoskeleton, or APEx. More than $31 million is spent annually in disability benefits for retired aerial porters, who had a high incidence of musculoskeletal injuries, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center study. To promote worker wellness and make pushing and lifting easier and safer, APEx is designed to assist people in loading a 10,000-pound pallet and pushing it onto an airplane.

“There are 89 million workers exposed to injury at work every day. As Arizona continues to grow as a hub for many different industries, the need for exoskeletons that promote workplace wellness only increases. Working through the WearTech Center to collaborate with ASU’s researchers gives us the push we need to take our technology to the next level,” said Dr. Joseph Hitt, CEO of GoX Labs.

At the WearTech Center, GoX Labs’ and AKE’s exoskeleton technology product development follows the applied research model which accelerates the process via collaboration with public and private sectors partners. The center shepherds these innovative products through the idea generation, project formation, validation, and commercialization phases.

“Innovations like what GoX Labs, AKE and ASU are developing through the WearTech Center have a high impact on reducing workplace injuries and enhancing Arizona’s economic development,” said Wes Gullett, Operations Director of Applied Research Centers for the Partnership for Economic Innovation. “The Arizona Legislature’s public investment in applied research capabilities and our ability to connect innovators to the tools they need to accelerate their product’s development grows Arizona’s economy and fuels its innovation opportunities.”

APEx is already being used by the U.S. Air Force by aerial porters to load heavy cargo onto planes. GoX Labs, AKE and ASU are continuing their collaborative efforts creating the quasi-active exoskeleton PhenEx with the support of the WearTech Center. The wearable PhenEx leverages sensors to activate spring elements when workers need to perform physical activities for their jobs. The quasi-active exoskeleton unlocks when the worker is at rest, walking or driving as to not hinder motion. The WearTech Center will assist with applied research and testing for product development.

GoX Labs and AKE will test out PhenEX on local employers like Amazon, Lucid Motors, and other industry partners through WearTech. Arizona employers can get involved in the testing of PhenEx by emailing [email protected].

ABB Announces Many New Automation Projects

ABB keeps a flow of automation news through my inbox that I can’t keep up with. There are only a few companies maintaining this much publicity. A few of the larger industrial automation (and software) companies have almost completely closed the valve. I have six interesting items from ABB of a variety of process automation use cases.

  • process upgrade to a cement plant
  • high payload hoists in mining
  • Flow Control Mold electromagnetic stirring and braking technology for steel production
  • production control and process solutions for lithium plant
  • electromagnetic stirring for steel arc furnace project
  • digital transformation in a large sawmill

ABB upgrades process control systems and cement grinding units in UAE

ABB upgrades process control systems and cement grinding units in UAE for increased uptime and uniformity across multiple sites

•   ABB installs state-of-the-art distributed control system (DCS) automation platform at Star Super Cement cement grinding plants in UAE

•   Upgrade to central processing units brings uniformity across Star Cement clinkerization plant as well as Star Cement grinding plants in the Middle East to lower maintenance downtime

•   ABB has also installed the latest generation automation controllers for high availability of control applications at the Ultratech Cement subsidiaries

ABB has installed ABB Ability System 800xA to upgrade three grinding units at Star Super Cement in Dubai, UAE, and ensure optimized operations with the Star Cement clinkerization plant in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

The scope of work undertaken by ABB included the upgrade of all previously installed central processing units (CPUs) and controllers to the latest version of ABB Ability System 800xA. The project also involved the complete erection and installation for the new panels while keeping the field wiring intact. Minerals libraries were introduced to the system. Project panels were manufactured and delivered locally.

high payload hoists ensure safety and efficiency at major Australian mine

OZ Minerals will install a production hoist (winder) which can carry nearly 40,000kg of ore to the surface

•    The hoist system will have the highest available levels of safety through ABB Ability Safety Plus for hoists, the first fully SIL 3 certified suite of solutions for hoists

•    Contract is part of a $400 million shaft expansion at the mining company’s Prominent Hill mine in South Australia

ABB has won a large order for its highest payload Koepe production hoist, associated infrastructure, and safety systems from Australian mining company OZ Minerals. The contract will help to ensure efficient processing performance and a long service life as part of an ongoing $400 million expansion at the Prominent Hill mine in South Australia.

The hoist, which will be designed and supplied by ABB, has a capacity of 39,400kg and the strongest drivetrain that ABB has ever installed in Australia. ABB specialists will also supervise installation and commissioning.

Installing the Wira shaft will increase the annual underground mining rate, extend the mine life, reduce operating costs, lower emissions intensity, and reduce overall operational risk, according to OZ Minerals.

optimize production for major steelmaker thyssenkrupp

ABB has been awarded a major contract by Primetals Technologies to help optimize production at thyssenkrupp Steel Europe’s (tkSE) Duisburg-Bruckhausen plant in Germany, using the unique and proprietary ABB Flow Control Mold electromagnetic stirring and braking technology for higher quality steel produced faster and at lower cost.

The construction of a casting rolling mill and the upgrade of an existing continuous casting plant is part of a wider project awarded to Primetals Technologies, a global leader in plant engineering for the metals industry. It is part of tkSE’s Strategy 20-30 which aims to optimize operations for the requirements of automotive customers seeking improved surfaces, thinner and high-performance steels to meet crash safety standards in the growing e-mobility market.

By using FC Mold G3 (generation 3), thyssenkrupp can prevent gas bubbles and impurities from becoming trapped in the solidifying steel as the technology will offer simultaneous stirring and braking from one fixed position on the caster. In continuous slab casting, conditions in the meniscus area of the solidifying steel are crucial to determining end-product quality and have a major impact on productivity and overall operating costs. Integrated with the caster, FC Mold uses electromagnetic fields to control meniscus flow speed and fluctuations. It enables improved process control and increased resource efficiency, requires very little maintenance and typically has a long lifespan.

zero emission lithium project in Europe

• Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Savannah Resources plc and ABB signals intent to work together to explore electrification, automation and digital solutions for the Barroso Lithium Project in Portugal

• ABB will provide technical expertise to outline production control and process solutions for lithium production in line with Savannah’s decarbonization strategy and aim of zero emission operations by 2030

• The project is the largest known resource of hardrock spodumene lithium in Europe and could be a significant source of carbon-neutral lithium concentrate to help meet growing electric vehicle (EV) battery demand

Under the early-stage agreement, ABB will apply its technical expertise to outline production control and process solutions for lithium concentrate production and integrated spodumene mining operations in line with Savannah’s target of zero emission operations by 2030.

Savannah is focused on responsible development of the Barroso Lithium Project by using 238 individual measures to eliminate or mitigate environmental impacts. These measures will be included in the Definitive Feasibility Study on the project, which Savannah is currently completing. This will also incorporate the actions from the current project decarbonization study which supports Savannah’s commitment to target a zero emission operation by 2030 or earlier. Savannah also places great emphasis on its social responsibilities and a comprehensive set of programmes have been designed to share benefits and opportunities with local communities.

charging, melting and electromagnetic stirring solution on a large electric arc furnace (EAF)

•    Record-breaking melting unit in operation at steelmaker Acciaieria Arvedi in Italy, with a furnace tapping size of 300 metric tons

•    Tenova’s Consteel EAF continuous scrap charging system is complemented by Consteerrer, an innovative ArcSave-based electromagnetic stirring technology jointly developed by ABB and Tenova for continuously charging EAF systems

•    Application of electromagnetic stirring results in 5 percent productivity increase and 3.6 percent reduction in electrical energy consumption

•    Additional improvements include increased flexibility in the operation of the furnace and in the use of the raw materials mix with significant improvement of the metallic charge yield

The record-breaking electric arc furnace has a 300-ton tapping size and utilizes a charge mix which include Hot Briquetted Iron (HBI). It was installed to meet the demand for increased output following the recent revamp of the continuous Endless Strip Production (Arvedi-ESP) casting and rolling mill line at the plant.

Swedish sawmill takes first steps to realize vision of digitally optimized operations

•      Sustainable timber products company Moelven will use the ABB Ability System 800xA distributed control system to find improved ways of running a sawmill

•      ABB will digitally connect a steam boiler for better energy usage and production processes at the new Valåsen mill in Karlskoga with start up planned in 2024

The ABB Ability System 800xA distributed control system (DCS) will be installed for the new mill to provide operators with wide visibility and precise control from a central command center to ensure that production is as resource efficient as possible, with reduced energy consumption and limited waste.

The first step is to ensure two steam boilers are integrated into the ABB Ability System 800xA for improved load sharing and optimized energy use. The entire saw line will be consolidated under a single control and information system, enabling better decisions by ensuring the right process information reaches operators at the right time.

The application area in a sawmill is new to both ABB and Moelven as the site is currently running with islands of automation, where each machine operates in its own space. The aim of the collaboration is to not only increase digitalization and result in higher levels of automation, but also realize a new standard in the industry’s operations for the long-term with interfaces between machines and modelling of the entire process flow.

Moelven already sources its materials from sustainable spruce and pine forests in Norway and Sweden, and has a vision of a connected, digital sawmill to create greater efficiencies in processing. It manufactures wood products for the home, lumbar for industry, glulam, building modules, flexible office solutions and wood chips for bioenergy.

Through the collaboration with Moelven there will be the potential for ABB to work with a number of Europe-based original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technology innovators, ensuring the vision for the sawmill of the future is achieved successfully. ABB is committed to helping its customers reduce their emissions and preserve resources as part of its Sustainability Strategy 2030.

Protecting Employees From Covid Infection

As things are beginning to open again, I’m hearing of some more solutions for protecting employees from Covid infection. Recently I interviewed the Early on during the pandemic, I interviewed several executives who had solutions for preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as people either continued to work in manufacturing or would be called back at any time. 

Founder/CEO of another such company–Soumi Eachempati, MD, FACS, FCCM, Co-Founder and CEO of Chelsea Health Solutions and Cleared4 and a former Professor of Surgery and Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical School.

Eachempati is sort of a “checklist guru” having formerly developed an app to be used in triage in emergency rooms when patients (or others) could answer a few quick questions on a tablet or phone to assist ER personnel expedite treatment. 

Similarly, he maintains the manufacturing industry can protect their workers by implementing the following safety checklist:

·       Identify, Test, Trace: The backbone of a solid identification strategy is a strong symptom monitor that identifies individuals who need to be tested and quarantined.  

·       Educate and Communicate: Educating workers about Covid-19 risks is as important as education on safety protocols and equipment use. 

·       Enforce Symptom Monitor Adoption: Less than absolute adoption is especially frightening when one considers that the individuals who do not participate may be the one most likely to harbor Covid-19 or its symptoms.

Back to the ER app, he had evolved the app into a flu checker. Then when Covid struck, and the app could be used to differentiate Covid from flu. Started Cleared4 to promote and sell the app. 

Cleared4, a scalable, customizable HIPAA-compliant platform, helps organizations seamlessly monitor employee Covid-19 symptoms by quarantining those at risk and enabling low risk employees to return to school and work in keeping with the constantly changing state mandates. Cleared4 is a patent-pending health management platform that uniquely uses text messaging, health centric technologies, and on-site kiosks to obtain valuable health clearance for employees.

It is an SaaS application where companies (and others) can buy instances and are given private URL. Enter employees or other concerned people who need to be screened into the app via csv file. It’s a self-screener for now. Employee answers the questions on the app (also can input vital data like vaccines) and gets OK (or not) from the app. Obtains a personal QR code or the information is logged to the employee data in customer’s system. This allows entry into the building. Employees are tagged into geophysical groups. If someone reports Covid infection, app can be used to track who may have come into contact and notify them to monitor and test.

The platform is currently being used by at least one NBA and one NHL team, with more in negotiations.

Companies are also buying. A chemical company in Illinois, for example. 

Could be available B2C for usual customers or even C2C say someone is giving a Bar Mitzva or arranging neighborhood playdates.

Knowing the number of times I’ve sat through safety videos at chemical plants, refineries, and the like and been logged in and given a card, I could imagine this app as part of the entire safety process. Great for contractors or vendors.


The main drawback I saw in the app was that it depended upon the person to enter their own information. I asked a friend who works at a chemical plant about this. He told me they had done a turnaround late last year with about 900 contractors on site. They used an active monitoring application called Triax with few instances of infection during the work.

I guess I believe that some of each may not be a bad strategy. (By the way, the Triax people never contacted me. I’m just reporting a customer experience.)

Aruba Expands Roster of Easy-to-Deploy Workplace Safety Solutions

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, announced an expanded set of integrated, easy-to-deploy Edge and IoT solutions designed to enable organizations to bring employees back to physical workplaces safely. I am beginning to compile a number of solutions to returning to work or working with Covid. A doctor from Cornell University Medical Center talked with me about a solution he developed that is in queue for posting. I also heard about a solution used by a chemical plant during a turnaround with 900 contractors on site with almost no Covid cases experienced. This one uses already  installed access points (or you can add a system).

Developed using Aruba Wi-Fi access points (AP’s), EnOcean 800/900MHz radios that insert into the AP’s, and compatible IoT devices from Aruba Technology Partners, these solutions monitor hoteling spaces, room occupancy, air quality, and cleaning/disinfection scheduling. By operating on customers’ existing Aruba infrastructure and leveraging cloud-based applications, the solutions can be rapidly deployed and eliminate the need for expensive IoT overlay networks.

As the world continues to adapt to new business realities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are considering a myriad of return-to-work scenarios, including re-opening offices and safely bringing employees back in-person. Since IT infrastructure spans across the entire enterprise, it’s the ideal platform on which to build cross-organizational systems and processes encompassing social distancing, contact tracing, infection control, and space management. Flexible, cloud-native applications targeting these use cases can be quickly spun up – at minimal cost – as return-to-work initiatives are rolled out.

Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) provides the unified, secure, cloud-native network infrastructure that underpins EnOcean’s integration with Aruba. Plugging an EnOcean 800/900MHz USB adapter into a compatible Aruba AP enables communication with wireless IoT air quality monitors, presence detectors, light level sensors, and other devices that use EnOcean-developed protocols, wireless radios, and energy harvesting power sources. IoT data is streamed from the AP to the target return-to-work application over secure tunnels. Aruba ESP applies consistent security policies and provides unified management from a single point of control. Customers have the freedom to implement return-to-work solutions at any time, in both new and existing deployments, without ripping and replacing IT infrastructure.

Return-to-work applications and technology partners include:

  • Hoteling space management: Wireless sensors are ideal for managing the availability, occupancy, air quality, and cleaning requirements of hoteling spaces. DEUTA Controls’ EnoPuck visually identifies if a space is reserved, occupied, available, or vacated, while simultaneously monitoring air quality and light levels. Departure of an occupant can automatically trigger a request for cleaning and disinfection.
  • Occupancy management: To ensure compliance with social distancing and sanitation protocols, IAconnects’ Mobius Flow application manages people-counter and occupancy sensors to monitor the status of communal areas, e.g., washrooms, kitchens, and meeting areas. A “cleaning threshold” feature alerts maintenance when an area requires attention.
  • Smart restroom: The smart restroom solution from Nanjing Winshine checks traffic flow and occupancy of restrooms in real-time. Employees are alerted when the restrooms are unavailable, and the application can automatically generate work orders for cleaning and disinfection services.
  • Demand-oriented ventilation: Typically used in classrooms, public buildings and offices, Thermokon’s CO2 sensor solution contributes to demand-oriented ventilation to reduce the risk of infection. The solution currently measures CO2 within a particular area and activates the ventilation system to meet defined air quality standards. Temperature, relative humidity, and volatile organic compound (VOC) sensing will be available later this year.
  • Building management: The building management application from Titanium Intelligent Solutions manages lighting, energy, and space efficiency during shelter-in-place mandates and when curfews are enforced. Building functions are securely and remotely controlled via a simple, web-based application.

“The simplest, most automated, and cost-effective way to implement return-to-work safety initiatives is by deploying data-driven smart solutions on top of existing IT infrastructure,” said Michael Tennefoss, vice president of IoT and Strategic Partnerships at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Because of their ubiquitous deployment throughout enterprises, in locations that are ideal for wireless sensor communications, Aruba AP’s are ideal on-ramps for return-to-work IoT devices. As monitoring and safety requirements change over time, additional IoT devices can be added by tapping into the EnOcean Alliance, a vast ecosystem of vendors that have developed interoperable, self-powered wireless sensor solutions. Armed with this technology, organizations can re-open with confidence today using a future-proof platform that is ready for what lies ahead.”

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