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Sustainability in Instrumentation and Process Control: A Working Definition

Posted on February 11th, 2016 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

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My previous post presented a definition of sustainability that addresses the capacity of a solution to endure in the long term.  Development of sustainable solutions can be affected by multiple domains.

Interestingly, effective sustainable solutions to the same problem in different plants can be different.  Further, effective solutions to the same problem might be completely different in different countries.   This begs the question — Why are the solutions to the same problem different?

One set of answers is suggested in the last sentence of the definition that lists four interconnected domains that affect sustainability — ecology, economics, politics and culture.

Ecology is the study of interrelationships among organisms and their environment.  Ecology does not directly apply to sustainability in process plants because it does not include industrial processes.  However replacing “ecology” with “processes” in the definition would be helpful to better define sustainability and perhaps understand its role in an industrial process environment.

Consider the following working definition:

Sustainability is the capacity to endure; it is how systems remain productive indefinitely; it is the endurance of systems and processes. Sustainability includes four interconnected domains: processes, economics, politics and culture. 

This definition addresses maintaining system productivity well into the future so as to be aligned with plant objectives.  Further, the definition contains multiple interrelated domains that can be applied differently in different plants and in different countries.  The interrelated nature of the multiple domains suggests that sustainable solutions are holistic solutions to a holistic problem.  Therefore, what makes sense in one location or country may not make sense in another location or country.

My previous post suggested that installing a sophisticated instrument that the plant cannot maintain is not sustainable.  Opting for a less sophisticated (but not as good) instrument that the plant can maintain is more sustainable.  In other words, the less sophisticated instrument may not perform as well as the sophisticated instrument but it is more sustainable and will allow the process to perform better because it can be kept in service.

See previous post:

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