27 Mar

Changes to Clean Air Act Coal-Fired Plant Regulations a Possibility

The Clean Air Act continues to be debated as the EPA comes closer to the April 13th deadline to finalize new source performances standard (NSPS) regulations. According to a Power Engineering Article from March 15, the Obama administration is considering more changes to the rule regulating greenhouse gasses.

The rule established in March of last year would require all new coal-fired power plants to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per MW/h of electricity produced. Existing coal-fired power plants had no such restrictions.

Concerns about the probability that new plants would be able to meet that rule were raised by four Democratic senators, who sent a letter to Obama urging him to amend the standard.

According to the letter, the senators worry that having the same emission standard for both gas-fired and coal-fired will actually hinder goals to reduce emissions in the United States. Not only are they concerned that new plants won’t be built, they also state that current coal-fired plants may choose not to upgrade their plant with cleaner systems because they will not be able to meet the regulations.

The letter then states that it is possible to continue to build new coal-fired plants – with state of the art technologies – and reduce admissions. Continued advancement of technology will help the industry grow cleaner throughout the years.

The concerns of the senators are clear in their letter. If those who are currently planning to build coal-firing plants are prevented due to inability to comply with the law, the jobs that may have been created will be lost and the cost of electricity has the potential to grow. In addition, these four senators are worried that such restrictions will prevent the further creation of technologies that will reduce emissions even farther.

Synergy Systems celebrates the creation of new technologies that further reduce emissions as they also tend to save businesses money and create a more efficient plant. The aim of our Energy Patriot program is to recognize the achievements of those plants and businesses that make great strides in working towards American energy independence.

Goals such as energy independence and dramatic reductions in emissions cannot be met overnight. Fine tuning of current technologies and the freedom to invent new state-of-the-art systems is an absolute necessity to achieving those goals. Synergy is proud to be a part of a movement toward a cleaner society, with systems that are optimized to create the greatest amount of product or energy while at the same time reducing the amount of fuel and emissions used.

If you are curious about what our engineers can do to save you money through optimized systems, drop us a comment here or visit our Contact Us page and speak to our experts today.

20 Mar

Industry Recognition of CSIA Grows

An ever increasing number of industry clients are requesting CSIA certification from the businesses they hire for industrial automation projects, according to Manufacturing Business Technology.

CSIA stands for Control Systems Integrators Association. They audit their members based on 79 criteria. When they meet or exceed these criteria, they receive a certification acknowledging their accomplishment. To further maintain the certification status, CSIA members must face additional audits every three years. CSIA certainly keeps their members on their toes – which is fantastic for businesses who aspire to be at the forefront of industrial technology and efficiency.

The 79 criteria are spread throughout nine chapters that describe everything from client projects to business organization. Chapters like Financial Management and System Development Lifecycle challenge businesses to make sure they not only provide for their clients, but provide for their business a healthy and successful structure. In this way, CSIA chapters act as redundant controls, ensuring that their members achieve only the highest quality of service.

This month, Synergy has been paying special attention to business continuity, going over our plans for various hazards that may arise and how we can deal with them in a way that has little to no effect on our projects and clients. This includes plans for our own business practices as well as plans for common and uncommon natural hazards.

You may have heard radio commercials talking about ready.illinois.gov. FEMA has their own national version at ready.gov, which provides a specific section for businesses. The forms and worksheets they provide have provided us greater insight into our own continuity plans.

Whether you are looking into CSIA or want to improve your own business continuity, we highly recommend using FEMA’s resources. Many hazards happen without warning, but having procedures in place to address them will protect clients and businesses from facing the full force of negative effects.

13 Mar

New Elements of Life Cycle Cost

New Elements of Life Cycle Cost

BusinessDictionary.com defines Life Cycle Cost as the “sum of all recurring and one-time costs over the full life span… of a good, service, structure or system.” This is a term often used in our industry, where process equipment and boilers are purchased with the intention of running them decades into the future. The rapid pace of technology, along with growing environmental concerns, has added additional elements to the calculation of life cycle cost. For example, a product with a long life may become obsolete before its end. Another concern is environmental laws. While a systems may be compliant with emission laws right now, changes in the future could hold even stricter emission restrictions.

Upgrading typically requires the replacement of a few parts while maintaining a whole system or product. That is changing with technology’s ever increasing advancement. Upgrading can mean different things depending on the product you purchase. If advanced technology is already being sold in the marketplace, other products may become obsolete as the newer technology takes hold. In a few decades, an upgrade may require complete replacement of some equipment. The latest technology tends to have a higher cost, which much be weighed in terms of the product life cycle. More than likely, a plant is better off choosing the latest technology because it will take a significant amount of time before it becomes obsolete. In the end, less money will be spent throughout the life cycle with a product that remains at the forefront of technology for years to come.

Today’s cutting-edge technology, such as intelligent HMI and variable frequency drives, many benefits, which much also be taken into consideration. Greater efficiency, less maintenance and a smaller environmental footprint are all elements of new technology that save money in a system. Such benefits may be necessary in the future. Our culture has only become increasingly concerned about industrial emissions. It can be assumed, then, that the future will see a gradual tightening of restrictions on emissions. A sure way to avoid negative impacts from future emission restrictions is to ensure your plant surpasses current standards. Installing an economizer can be a simple and cost effective way to begin. In addition to reducing emissions, it saves fuel and energy cost by harnessing the energy that would otherwise be lost up the stack. For these reasons, Synergy’s Economizer Solutions provides the fastest return on investment out of all of our products. At the end of the day, any steps in upgrading or optimizing that can reduce emissions can also reduce the cost of running a system. Such ‘green’ elements should weigh heavy in any life cycle cost analysis.

When it comes to calculating the life cycle cost of your next big business purchase, remember to consider more than purchase price, maintenance and life. Additional concerns, such as environmental impact and whether or not the product will be obsolete in the near future should carry a lot of weight in your decision.

~You aren’t alone in this decision. Synergy’s expert combustion engineers are always available to provide advice on whatever project you may be planning. Contact us at 630–724-1960, extension 12.

06 Mar

Prepare for Cyber Security in 2013

Prepare for Cyber Security in 2013

According to a recent newsletter from Invensys, responses to cyber-attacks on America’s critical infrastructure by the Industrial Control Systems – Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), a department of Homeland Security, rose by 52 percent in 2012. The biggest target was energy firms, accounting for 40 percent of attacks. Also on the list of industry sectors that fell victim to cyber-attacks in 2012 are the water sector, oil and natural gas sectors, nuclear sectors and chemical organizations. The frequency of these attacks is expected to increase, making the cyber security of America’s infrastructure firms paramount.

Using the internet can often be a necessary evil. One the one hand, it allows people to communicate instantly across countries any time of day. In our world, where entire businesses can be created and maintained online, these same businesses can be taken over by hackers with malicious intent.

Control systems devices that are directly connected or controlled through the internet are of particular concern to ICS-CERT, as malicious control over these systems could have catastrophic consequences. Consider a simple boiler, with control systems that enable a delicate combustion process to safely produce steam. If something happened to the formula, or if the burner or fan cannot be turned off when they need to, serious injury can result to the boiler and to plant employees.

This issue is so serious, the United States has an entire division, the National Cyber Security Division, to protect the U.S. from and fight against cyber-attacks. Cyber security is a national security issue, with recent news reports claiming The New York Times was hacked by Chinese hackers. In 2012, Iran is allegedly responsible for a large number of cyber-attacks against major U.S. banks. Cyber security is now more than simply guarding files or even guarding a business. Increasingly, cyber security is essential for protection against terrorist, be they local or abroad.

The looming question, then, is what to do at your business. The first step is to have solid policies and procedures in place that every employee is trained in. About 25 percent of malware attacks came from USB drives. In addition, no matter how much money you throw at cyber security, none of it matters if you don’t have employee compliance. Making sure procedures are in place and are followed can be greater security than any program you pay for.

Securing your control systems is also crucial. This can be done through remote support systems, such as our diagnostic support we provide, code named SORA. In this way, the internet connection used by the control systems is no longer your responsibility. It is the responsibility of the remote support provider. With such a system in place, even if malicious software makes it onto your business computers, it won’t be able to access your control systems and a certain amount of safety can be maintained.

Another great cyber security tip is what the Invensys newsletter calls “defense in-depth” security. This type of security involves have multiple security programs working on one system, where one programs vulnerability is made up for by having an additional program that does not have that vulnerability.

Lastly, secure passwords are a must. Someone with malicious intent has no need to use viruses or hacking software if they know the password they need to gain access to the system. Some sites, like Facebook and Google, are catching on. Facebook provides the option to have a text sent to the profile owner’s cellphone whenever an unauthorized computer accesses the account, allowing people to act quickly if they are not the ones accessing the profile. Google has an optional two step security measure on their email. After typing in the correct password, Google sends a secret code to the account holder’s cell phone. The number must be entered to access the account.

Even Apple can no longer claim its devices are spared from viruses and hackers. In the coming weeks, Synergy will be exploring the most popular free and paid security programs for computers and smartphones.

What type of security do you have at your home or business? Do you have any concerns going into 2013?