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Turbomachinery control system updates

Turbomachinery control system updates

After several years of reliable operation, turbomachinery control systems require an update or upgrade to stay modern and state-of-the-art like any other control system, as required by the IEC61511 process safety standard. This upgrade will not only increase the declined availability with years of use, will also increase the availability to levels higher than before if planned and executed properly including modern technologies and engineering methods.  These modernization actions or updates require a high degree of knowledge of the machinery, but also of the control system in use. This knowledge is not often found in one company, except for the manufacturer. OEMs who harbour the capability are usually very expensive and hard to cooperate because of their conservative nature over their know-how. Usually these companies are focused in turbomachinery only and miss the technological advancements in other sectors which are applicable in turbomachinery.

iAUTOMATION however does have the knowledge of turbomachinery, is not limited with the experience of one expertise and we are willing to share our knowledge with our partners to focus on the opportunities of partnership rather than the opportunities of revenue. In this article we will highlight the different control system upgrades iAUTOMATION can do for your site.

PLC control platform

The main component of the control system is the PLC, this controller can often be reused in the upgrade process. In cases where the PLC needs to be renewed, often the code can be read from the existing PLC and imported in the new PLC, or recoded in the new PLC. Although this will not lead to operational change in the existing control system software and control logic, porting the old software to a new system must be done with care as different systems, even from the same brand or model, have their own way of programming and standards. In some cases where the control system required is not supported by the supplier, third party software companies can be used but these companies must be at easy reach of the customer or even related to their company thus sharing of information becomes paramount.

With the renewal of the PLC, a new lifecycle assessment can be made, thus the control system maintenance will be executed easier in future. Due to the availability of spare parts at short notice, maintenance can be executed for a longer period of time, and more quickly.

It is imperative to be up to date on the PLC system, because often a system that runs for a long time, will be so deprecated that it is difficult to find engineers to read the existing code for migration to a new PLC. When the existing code can no longer be interpreted, new code needs to be written, or a retrofit control system will have to be bought. These options usually take a bit more time to realise, but will lead to the same result.

HMI control platform

Most of the time control systems are upgraded as a result of an upgrade or replacement IT hardware, to keep the computer systems maintainable. These updates can mostly be done by buying a new version of the HMI system, or to install a new update or other version of the HMI that will run on the hardware that can be bought at that time, and connecting that new HMI system to the existing PLC. Another way of exchanging hardware for current hardware, is virtualizing the HMI system, and replacing the hardware layer without replacing the software components. In the Oil and Gas market, iAUTOMATION has done a number of these upgrades and a lot of money has been saved by our customers.

If an HMI system needs to be replaced, it will usually lead to better integration of the customers operational experience and have better operational capabilities. This is due to the fact that the number of operating hours always leads to a better understanding of the particular unit, and therefore optimizations can be made to the operational interface, which mostly is the HMI.


When a system needs to be changed for a new, often a readly made retrofit package can be bought. This can often lead to a plug and play solution for turbomachinery. iAUTOMATION can often create a custom retrofit package for your turbomachinery application, due to our large amount of experience in multiple R&D projects and application projects in the oil and gas sector, we are dedicated to create a custom retrofit solution for your system.

Would you like to be involved in the engineering and application steps of the retrofitting? You are more than welcome to join us in our engineering efforts in most of the steps taken.

Would you like to execute the retrofitting yourself and need a partner, a consultant or help? We would be more than happy to join you.

Siemens Redundant PLC

Mitsubishi Redundant

Vibration monitoring

Vibration monitoring is one of the most important concepts of the control system package, this unit can usually be replaced relatively easily if needed, due to the independent communication with the PLC or HMI. The most common replacement prerequisite is that the probes can be reused, if this is the case, a replacement card, processor or even whole rack can be upgraded or updated.

An important topic to be kept in mind is the recent technological advancements made in vibration monitoring and its use in preventative maintenance. Upgrade of old systems combined with asset management engineering, even if the old system was working, brings remarkably higher availability for your plant.

Fire and gas detection

A fire and gas system, can usually be updated or upgraded completely, the sensors and controller unit can be replaced quite easily as there is mostly a hardwired connection to the main PLC or trip relay. Usually the fire and gas detection system including fire suppression are a standalone system that is not dependent on make or model for replacement.

Overspeed protection

The overspeed protection system is a vitally important part of turbo machinery. If it is a system with a software configuration, the controller can be replaced, but the probes must be compatible with any new system being updated. If overspeed protection has completed its lifetime either by overuse with age or because of being out-dated, replacing or modernizing this system must have the utmost priority.

Efficiency boost

During an upgrade some efficiency boosts can be made, these can include emission or power efficiency. Depending on the type of machinery, iAUTOMATION is able to implement OEM efficiency upgrades, or the iAUTOMATION engineering team can come up with a custom solution for your efficiency optimization.


iAUTOMATION is an automation specialist that focuses on industrial automation, IT and the links between these two fields. With many years of experience in the industrial automation and IT world, iAUTOMATION is a mature partner that will benefit you.

iAUTOMATION provides complete projects for the industrial automation world with a specialty in PCS 7 consultancy and engineering. But other systems are also known to us and can be implemented by iAUTOMATION.

With knowledge of virtualization, networks, domains and IT management, iAUTOMATION is also a very suitable partner for all your IT questions and projects. We will always assist you with great enthusiasm and knowledge in your projects, and try to relieve our customers by proactively and positively tackling your project.

    About the author

    Dennis is Technical Director at iAUTOMATION, where he is responsible for all the technical queries and technical solutions that iAUTOMATION provide. Dennis also helps customers and the iAUTOMATION consultants with the technical side of projects and designs. Dennis has a lot of experience with process control systems and IT infrastructure, this is why his experience is key in projects that include both these areas of expertise like MES, virtualization and process automation projects.

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