A Data Acquisition System is purpose-built to collect, quality assure and manage data from continuous monitoring systems. Every system is unique, but not so unique that you must start from scratch.
This is the last in a series of five articles describing key ways a full-featured CEMS Data Acquisition System (DAS) can improve monitoring, reporting and the ability to withstand an audit or compliance evaluation.
We have looked at several advantages of data acquisition systems in this series so far; data availability, traceability, automation, and predictability. Underlying each of these is the assumption that the people responsible for reporting the data have the control over configuring the DAS to their own specifications. It should not be a “black box” that simply collects and spits out the acquired data. Even if the initial configuration is well done, none of the benefits we have discussed so far is as valuable as it could be if you are not able to configure them to your own needs or cannot see exactly how the system has been configured.
Permits can have a broad range of possible compliance solutions, there are different methods for reducing emissions, different monitoring methods and different manufacturers of similar equipment. Communications protocols, role responsibilities, processes, reporting requirements, choice by choice, each system diverges further.
A full-featured DAS must be highly configurable to accommodate this variety. But underlying that flexibility is a framework based on the regulations that supports your efforts and makes it easier to stay in compliance.
What do we mean by configurable? Is that the same as customizable? No. Be wary of vendors who sell “custom” or “customizable” systems. The difference is that when a vendor says that they can customize the system to meet your precise needs, this may mean that they will make changes to the underlying code of the software itself and/ or make custom changes to the database structure. Basically, they are programming you a one-off system of your own, akin to having custom spreadsheets created by a consultant or a process engineer adding calculations to the DCS.
Tailoring the system to your needs requires a programmer and any changes you make to your monitoring system are likely to require more programming. If too many changes are made it may prevent you from being able to upgrade, forcing you to stay on an increasingly patched or outdated system.
A configurable DAS, on the other hand, should be prepared initially by the vendor with all of your compliance requirements, calculations, test methods, reports and so on. But then it should enable you to add new sources, parameters, calculations and reports, or to change limits, test methods, constant values, and etc. by yourself, preferably through a user-friendly graphical interface. Software updates can be installed without losing the configuration. Also, a good DAS vendor will keep up with regulation changes and work with EPA, state and customers to devise the best methods for the software to provide industry-accepted compliance options.
Can you walk the person certifying compliance at your facility through how all of your compliance averages are calculated? How about an auditor? Can you add a parameter, edit the range of an analyzer or even change the value in a constant variable like fuel GCV for a boiler on your own? Now multiply that by 30, 40 or a hundred sources. Some facilities, especially refineries are reaching these numbers due to new and revised regulations. Add to that the new scrutiny your data will undergo following electronic reporting and it becomes clear that new systems, ones that help you stay in compliance, are required.
With a full-featured data acquisition system you can decide how you need to comply and want to configure your system, but you are starting within the framework of a robust compliance engine that provides transparency into how your system is configured and puts you in control.
Configuring a data acquisition system isn’t simple, because the rules aren’t simple. All the more reason to start from a proven base of purpose-built software, backed by a track record and knowledgeable staff.
Whether you just want to learn more about what a DAS can do for you, or would like to arrange for a complimentary data system review, we'd enjoy hearing from you. Contact us at 512-250-7902, email@example.com or use our online form.
... Published: 3/14/2017 11:56:00 AM
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