Instrumentation Engineering Problems Solved – Root Cause Analysis

These problems developed during commissioning and during the author’s 17 years’ service in a South Indian Ammonia, Urea, and NPK complex fertilizers plant. The author and his team resolved these problems forever mostly online or involving shortest shutdowns.

That plant’s success ushered many still higher capacities plants in India wary of high-speed centrifugal compressors-based fertilizers technology.

He, a mechanical engineering graduate joined that plant after serving the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) for 13 years as Instrument Engineer.

During his first five yearlong South Indian Fertilizer Plant services, he successfully solved many instruments commissioning problems.

In addition, he offered solutions to many mechanical and electrical problems repeatedly discussed in the problems solving meetings.

During the next 4 years’ tenure as Instrument Electrical and Workshop Engineer, he continued solving more problems.

How he got into handling all given up crippling electrical problems appears in the Electrical Problems Introduction.

During the 8 years tenure as Maintenance Manager, he solved this booklet discussed mechanical problems. Just two months as General Manager, he joined a Saudi Arabian Fertilizer Plant.

During his 5 years Saudi tenure he solved few problems that enabled the debuting co to establish its image as a reputable NH3 supplier initially and as high-quality urea and complex fertilizer supplier after the plant added those facilities.  

After the return from Saudi, he took 3½ years of training assignment with Reliance Petroleum Ltd Jamnagar, and several lecture assignments, a one-year assignment with Reliance Navi Mumbai, and a six-month assignment with Chambal Fertilizers Ltd.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

The author attributes his problems solving success to the following:

  1. Every one’s cooperation
  2. Root Cause Analysis supported by input from the problems-sufferers, instruction manual studies, comparing design and actual operating data, gathering knowhow from relevant literature, tech journals articles and advertisements especially on new products
  3. In short ‘avoiding the popular industry joke, “When all else fail read the instruction books”
  4. Consider input from anyone. – no matter his/her qualification and hierarchical rank – thankfully and credit his / her contribution
  5. The author learnt mere experience does not suffice, as mostly many have one-year experience repeated so many years by not solving problems by root cause analysis and living with it; it makes most persons complacent, leads to take the problems as a way of life and live with them, and prevents finding root cause analysis solutions. Experience combined with adequate job knowledge-based root cause analysis only can solve problems; not years and years of experience alone.

Good Luck to all plant problems solving troubleshooters. The free plant personnel from the drudgery of annoying repeat low-tech tasks, midnight, off days, and during vacation calls and the associated ill effects e.g. the inconvenience and family wrath from missed family times and functions.

Instrumentation Engineering Problems

This root cause analysis (RCA) is from real-time scenarios that happened in industries during the tenure of two or three decades ago. These articles will help you to improve your troubleshooting skills and knowledge.

Instrumentation Engineering Root Cause Analysis

The below is the list of instrumentation solved problems.

S.No.Instrumentation Problems and SolutionsLink
1.  Unstable & drifting calibration Differential Pressure Transmitters threaten commissioning delaysArticle
2.  Leaky Boiler Drum Level Switch Stops NH3 plant commissioningArticle
3.  Steam Pressure Taps Primary Block Valves (PBV) Glands and Bonnets too soon leaksArticle
4.  Erratic Stroking Control Valves threatens delaying the 4-months shutdown plants restartArticle
5.  Pipeline shakes torn apart Valve Positioners threaten NH3 and other plants commissioningArticle
6.  Failed letdown valve shuts down a urea plant several hoursArticle
7.  Letdown valve failures repeatArticle
8.  under and over capacity Control Valves pose poor controllabilityArticle
9.  Passing Control Valves Cause yearly Rs 10 million LossesArticle
10.  CVs leak tightness restorations pose difficultiesArticle
11.  Butterfly Valve Failure caused serious vicinity Heavy FireArticle
12.  Control Valves; Repeat Actuator Diaphragm BurstsArticle
13.  repeatedly scored CV Plug Stem & gland leaksArticle
14.  Control Valves Downstream elbow burst:Article
15.  Missed ordering transmitters threaten delaying NH3 & other plants commissioningArticle
16.  Cooling water flow meter non-availability misleads buying a Rs. 20- million cooling water pumpArticle
17.  Wrecked control panel instruments threatens indefinite total plant SDArticle
18.  Fire burnt Ammonia Converter Thermocouples threaten total entire plant SDArticle
19.  Fire burnt Extension lead also threatens indefinite all plants SDArticle
20.  Stress Relieving tasks Waste TC wires and ELArticle
21.  Mechanical Temperature Indicators too poor lives threaten all plants SDArticle
22.  Seal Pressure Instruments posed pain in the neck DUDPsArticle
23.  Seal Level Differential Pressure transmitters posed even more DDUDPArticle
24.  High-pressure service LTs misunderstood zero driftsArticle
25.  Turbine flow meter (TFM) FIELD calibration uncommon requestArticle
26.  serious constraints prevent using an available Turbine Meter for a much needed critical applicationArticle
27.  Unreliable ammonia flow readings posed many problemsArticle
28.  Target Flow Transmitters failed the very midnightArticle
29.  Erratic H2 flow rotameter prevents after TA catalyst reductionArticle
30.  Heavy 4” 300# flanged rotameter not only read correctly but caused pipe weld cracks also!Article
31.  Ammonia Flash Vessel All level instruments stopped readingArticle
32.  Multistage Flash drums erratic Level ReadingsArticle
33.  Weigh Feeders Poor availabilitiesArticle
34.  Frozen screwed cover extended 1½ shifts plant SDArticle
35.  Repeated thermowell shank to flange weld leaksArticle
36.  Doubtful temperature readings threatens Soaking Pit WrecksArticle
37.  Re-Heating furnace doubted Temperature ReadingsArticle
38.  None could repair slightly damaged Magnetic Flow Meter flow tubeArticle
39.  None could repair winding burnt & Extensively Damaged flow tube liner Magnetic Flow MeterArticle
40.  Interrupted Liquid Ammonia Ship Loading posed DDUDPArticle
41.  Safety Liquid Ammonia disconnect threatens Large Quantities NH3 vapor spillArticle
42.  Bagging scales Low availabilities threatened production cutsArticle
43.  Stuck Segment Orifice dimensions calculations might need Rs 20 million pump importArticle
44.  Erratic Radar Level Gauges delays a huge refinery commissioning  Article

Also Read:

Author: S. Raghava Chari

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12 thoughts on “Instrumentation Engineering Problems Solved – Root Cause Analysis”

  1. Dear Chaitu,

    Except for turbine flow meters, Corioliss flow meters, and vortex flowmeters whether pneumatic or electric transmitters for flow, pressure, level and differential pressure the transmitters’ process sensing section is the same.

    Even in these cases the measured mediums properties make some unsuitable for the selected applications; e.g., substituted Target Flow Transmitters and in place of the never working DPTS – reasons given in the article – and even the selected Target Flow Transmitter not working in the nights and the practical and inexpensive solution to overcome the ‘failing at night problem’.

    Hence, all the case studies I discussed particularly on seal type of instruments apply equally well to pneumatic or electronic field transmitters and are highly relevant even today and also forever, until someone invents process non-invasive instruments.

    Raghava Chari


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