controller General Electric Company

Powering Dual Redundancy to Improve Efficiency in Mission Critical Environments

Severe storms and lightning strikes can knock out electricity for millions, forcing reliance on backup generators and risking the unplanned shutdown of critical facility operations.  With the rise in extreme weather and aging grid and automation infrastructure, this is an increasingly likely scenario and requires a new approach to how we manage electricity and other critical infrastructure components.

Across the industrial spectrum – from manufacturing to power and water utilities to oil & gas and transportation - billions of dollars are lost annually due to unscheduled downtime. The time, effort and resources associated with recovery are significant – and further exacerbated by lost productivity and profitability.

For high value assets, companies often use control redundancy to ensure continuous operation of their automation systems.  What has been missing in the industry is a scalable solution that seamlessly works across high, medium, and low value assets to prevent unplanned downtime, reduce risk, and increase safety. Most industrial processes involve some combination of extreme temperature, high pressure, vibration and corrosive gases or liquids. While businesses operating controls in these harsh environments are the ones who stand to benefit the most from redundant control systems, they have also historically been less inclined to utilize control redundancy technologies for smaller installations due to cost and space constraints.   With recent technological advancements, GE is removing these barriers by providing scalable high availability solutions across the full spectrum of automation equipment. This helps companies improve their competitive advantage on full plant systems all the way to individual units needing uninterrupted operation.

Maximizing Uptime in Real Life

As the world’s largest original equipment manufacturer, GE has seen the need firsthand for a more dynamic, rugged and compact redundant control system that seamlessly activates a hot-backup controller if the primary controller fails. This is why we recently rolled out the industry’s first dual redundant, outcome optimizing controller with the introduction of the new RX3i CPE400.  Powered by PACSystems High Availability technology, the RX3i CPE400 is a stand-alone outcome optimizing controller that can operate in -40 to +70 temperature range, embedded with Ethernet technology with up to a 60 percent smaller footprint. Breaking the barriers of traditional control systems, the RX3i CPE400, part of GE’s Industrial Internet Control System, also provides the capability to combine real-time deterministic control with embedded Predix technology to deliver advanced analytical capabilities for increased performance, reliability, and insights on the same physical controller platform.

General Electric Company

We have already begun to deploy this solution in the real-world, particularly in industries that benefit the most from compact and rugged redundancy solutions. For example, increasing concerns about climate impact coupled with the rise in availability of natural gas are changing traditional consumption patterns of fossil fuels. As a result, coal and oil are being supplanted by liquefied natural gas as a source for reliable heat and electricity. Unfortunately, the sources for natural gas are not always in close proximity to demand centers, resulting in the need to transport the volatile fuel in a safe and economical method. This requires transport ships and loading and unloading terminals to deliver reliable and efficient processes for managing gas transfers and storage operations, while minimizing the loss of gas.  Unexpected failures can quickly add days of delays to these processes driving the need for compact, cost efficient high availability solutions in this type of application. 

In assessing these risk factors, the challenge was met with our high-performance RX3i CPE400 dual redundancy controller system. Providing ample processing power and connectivity to keep the LNG cargo properly managed throughout the transport process, the PROFINET-based high availability system delivered speedy implementation, lowered installation costs and ensured maintenance savings due to its ease of configuration and built-in Ethernet switches. Conformal-coated components, coupled with -40 to +70 temperature range, ensured high performance of the system in this harsh environment, ultimately reducing cost and improving desired operational productivity and efficiency.

Through both our pilot testing within GE’s own machines and external customers, we’ve identified several features and areas that are most critical when considering and deploying dual redundancy controllers:

  • Reliable, high-speed performance: True Hot-Standby Redundancy capabilities built into the RX3i CPE400 with a dedicated redundant synchronization link over gigabit Ethernet provide fast program execution and controller switchover times as fast as 300 milliseconds should the need arise.
  • Advanced security: A secure-by-design hardware platform with trusted and measured boot enable a hardware root of trust for the overall application.  A centralized configuration allows patches and updates to be executed from a central location.
  • Application-specific control: The option to access an analytics platform for augmented real-time control with external intelligence delivered through machine learning, fleet and enterprise data analytics and asset/process knowledge.

When People, Data, and Machines Come Together

No matter where your business is in terms of readiness for digital transformation, it is important to start investing in hardware embedded with the ability to connect to the Industrial Internet of Things. Doing so means when your business is ready, you can take advantage of real-time response and advanced analytics to help inform strategic and operational decisions more quickly and with minimal equipment updates. The role of the controller is no longer static. Controllers with access to real-time data and analytics will play an ever more advanced role in industrial operations to increase efficiency and improve performance for every machine in the fleet.

It is clear that any failure of mission critical systems can wreck irreparable havoc on a company’s bottom line. And in the midst of so much disruption happening in the industrial sector right now from decentralized energy sources to climate change to digitization, businesses have to adapt more quickly to find new ways to approach both emerging and legacy challenges.  Dual redundancy connected controller systems, like the RX3i CPE400, are one of the key ways GE can help create more secure, reliable, and profitable control solutions to optimize your business operation.

For more information about the industry’s first dual redundancy, connected controller, please visit GE Power’s Automation & Control business’ RX3i CPE400 page here.

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