Gray Solutions’ Goodall suggests that end-to-end integration is typically best served by SIs as they provide a vendor-agnostic solution and should have expertise across many different platforms. However, systems at the unit-operation level may be better served by an OEM provider.
The integration process can be performed by system integrators or suppliers, but they must have the expertise to know what to do with the information, allowing for sequences of operation to incorporate the data, says Stellar’s Smith. This comes down to an individual or team experience involved in a project and project budget.
Integration is best performed by an integrated team—designers working with both suppliers and system integrators, says CRB’s Hager. “Suppliers would be smart to have system integrators on staff and as a service for the controls they sell. Many times, I have used system integrators in design development that also sell the controls, and yes, I have paid them for this service just as I would pay for a sub-contractor service. The integrators do not always win the bid for the controls.”
Many people will say to be “very careful” with system integrators that also sell controls because there is an assumed distrust for something to be missing that only the integrator knew about, says Hager. Set the expectations early and keep attention to the deliverables. It doesn’t hurt anyone to have a third-party review and comment regarding approach, capacity and discipline design.
Start small—work up to larger projects
There’s no need to go hog wild and take on a project that’s so big that it could fail. “Consider opportunities to test integrations and gauge return in a smaller-scale environment,” says Hager. A processor in the Midwest is using the latest advancements on a small scale, tapping equipment manufacturers’ newest equipment and technology. Once proven, the company scales up the operation either in new facilities or by upgrading an existing facility depending upon return on investment.
“We have a lot of experience with integrating waste heat recovered from the refrigeration process into HVAC systems or city water preheat for CIP systems,” says Stellar’s Smith. In this producer-consumer model, the refrigeration system becomes the “producer” of waste heat and the HVAC or CIP systems become the “consumer” of waste heat. Essentially the HVAC system becomes a fluid cooler and saves energy, chemicals and water. By having the HVAC consume waste heat, under certain circumstances it can increase indoor air quality by bringing in more fresh air than would normally be allowed. It also reduces equipment runtime and energy consumption by not operating the condensing system and reduces chemical consumption by reducing water usage.
It requires integration on the mechanical side between the refrigeration and HVAC teams and, in the best situation, a single automation vendor handling the complete control system. “We have worked with both greenfield and retrofit applications for this type of application,” says Smith.
As the benefits of integration are better understood by consultants and end users, it will become increasingly common to see such integration requirements spelled out, says Smith. Rising energy costs and a move to more green solutions will eventually demand better integrated solutions.
Jendryk sees major improvements in HVAC technology such that it will focus on sustainability, automation and actionable data.
“Looking ahead, we believe enhanced monitoring of building management systems and utility systems will become part of this process,” says Goodall. Wireless sensors allow for even more data harvesting at branch, point, or remote system locations to allow for real-time monitoring of process and utility data. When coupled with machine learning, control systems can predict energy loss and allow it to be addressed before there is an issue.
The additional data provided from new monitoring systems allows for a system or site gap analysis to be completed more easily and effectively, adds Goodall. This analysis allows engineers to find sub-optimal operating systems or pair waste energy sources with the most sensible user to be harvested or recouped before being lost.
Integration of existing systems will always be part of equation, because at first, upgrades are less expensive than building new plants, says Hager. However, there are limitations to how many upgrades can take place. The future of integration of electro-mechanicals, process controls and plant HVAC systems will be to design the accommodation for upgrades into the design development so manufacturers can extend their ability to upgrade over time. In all things, plan for flexibility and expansion. FE