How instrumentation technology is making a world of difference for a cleaner and greener world

Instruments and their connectivity are the nervous system of the industrial world, measuring all aspects of process performance.

They provide the foundation of industry’s digital transformation and also hold the key to helping industrial operators make their plants more environmentally sustainable.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” – it’s a well-worn phrase, but one that plant operators are taking to heart even more so today. As well as managing their process performance, industries are also increasingly putting their environmental performance under the spotlight as they seek to become greener and improve their sustainability.

When people think about measuring the impact of industrial activities on the environment, they may envisage masses of data on air and water quality captured by analytical instruments – many of them produced and supplied by ABB.

Of course, these devices are invaluable on the journey to building better environmental performance, but they are only a part of the story. Equally, if not more important, is the role played by the thousands of different field instruments used in industrial plants around the globe. Away from the obvious goals of breathable air and life sustaining water, there is also the need to measure and manage flow, pressure, temperature, and level within the production processes. Thousands of unheralded field instruments quietly measure these key parameters every day to ensure we can meet our everyday needs.

Giving accurate data about these criteria helps make processes more efficient, ensuring that precious materials and energy aren’t wasted.

The unsung heroes of process optimization

Most of us are familiar with measurement technologies and know that they can be used to cut waste and pollution – as such, we don’t give them much thought.

One important piece of the puzzle here is sensors. Working quietly and reliably at highest accuracy in the background, they help plant operators understand how to use our resources more sustainably and become more energy efficient and play a critical role in helping to bring societies closer to net zero.

Today’s sensors can also contribute much more beyond just measuring the parameter they were designed for. Exciting new digital capabilities mean we can get much more in-depth information about what is going on, both in the controlled process and in the instruments themselves.  Whether you need to change parameters or get diagnostics to check out the health of a device, it can all be done remotely.

This is invaluable in a range of processes. With hundreds, or even thousands, of different instrumentation devices measuring parameters at key points, it’s vital to be able to get data from wherever it’s produced, either from a production line near the office or a gas plant many thousands of kilometers away.

The scope of instrument applications is developing rapidly, as new industries ramp up to meet the need for low polluting energy sources. For example, hydrogen production requires an accurate assessment of factors such as temperature, gas composition and pressures. Battery production requires instruments that can assess temperature, constituents of the protective production atmosphere and the composition of filler materials.

The data gathered by these instruments can make a major difference across everything from running costs to product quality, making them the unsung heroes of process optimization.

Invaluable helpers to reach sustainability goals

But do we really understand the true value of field instruments? Imagine if they did not exist. Water leakages would go unnoticed, marine operators would consume more fuel than needed, pushing up operating costs and reducing the efficiency of their vessels.

Instruments are truly making a world of difference in every industrial application: Sustainability relies on measurement and they play an invaluable role in identifying the continuous improvements that can help companies to fine-tune their sustainability and operational performance – for a cleaner and greener planet.

For more information about our range of instruments and how they can help to minimize environmental impact, visit www.abb.com/measurement.

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About the author

Amina Hamidi

Amina Hamidi joined ABB in 1998 as a Research Scientist and Project Manager and has held a number of positions with increasing responsibility both in R&D and on the business side up until August 2017, when she was appointed Chief Technology Officer for the Electrification business of ABB. Now she leads a team of scientists and engineers focusing on both customer needs-driven and technology disruption-oriented R&D. She has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the French National Research Institute for Transportation Systems (INRETS).
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