BASF leads the way

May 22, 2024
Since building its test lab in 2019-20 in Germany, BASF is still the furthest along in testing, applying and improving Ethernet-APL

While many suppliers and other supporters are developing Ethernet-APL solutions, BASF is still its greatest champion and furthest along in testing, applying, and improving it—though and other members of the NAMUR APL Task Force are quickly closing the gap. 

BASF built its Ethernet-APL test lab in 2019-20 in Ludwigshafen, Germany, where it accesses redundant controllers via field switches with eight, 16 or 24 ports. Its two controllers are connected to 238 field devices in a Profinet ring/loop topology via the 24-port field switches that can each handle 24 devices. More recently, BASF and its partners found the lab’s operations were stable when they used its standard devices and full-ring network to conduct a 40-criteria/scenario scalability test in March 2023. In fact, 15 BASF plants are implementing Foundation Fieldbus because the Type A cabling used by the protocol also prequalifies it for Ethernet-APL. 

BASF also reported Feb. 22 that it contracted with ABB to supply the DCS for its first greenfield Ethernet-APL project in Europe after ABB Ability System 800xA underwent performance tests in realistic production settings. BASF further tested Ethernet-APL’s technology, integration capabilities and maintainability in its overall automation system.

“We’ve been working with industry partners for about five years to jointly drive this technology forward, and now we’ve proven Ethernet-APL’s operational readiness,” says Gerd Niedermayer, senior E+I engineering manager at BASF. “As a result of these tests, we’re now planning to equip new BASF plants in Europe with this technology.”

Emanuel Trunzer, automation engineer at BASF’s Center of Technical Expertise for Automation Technology and member of the NAMUR APL Task Force, adds, “These tests show the functioning and robustness of Profinet protocol via Ethernet-APL on a realistic plant scale. This was a great value-add to previous lab-scale testing, and was essential for gaining user acceptance and confidence in this technology. Those of us in engineering at BASF were invited to incorporate our user requirements into these tests, and that meant almost 240 devices, plus 10 field switches and multiple control systems, were jointly set up to reflect a realistic large-scale system. It was impressive to see a system with 240 devices operate with such robustness and reliability.”

NAMUR and ZVEI weigh in

Beyond operating and learning from its test lab, BASF co-leads the NAMUR APL Task Force, which was started in late 2022 to coordinate NAMUR’s activities around Ethernet-APL to the field, collaborates with the ZVEI APL Task Force, and develops strategies for promulgating Ethernet-APL. NAMUR is the User Association of Automation Technology in Process Industries, while ZVEI is the German Electro and Digital Industry Association. Their joint efforts include exchanging information, synching work groups, developing use cases, settling questions, and keeping track of the 21 Ethernet-APL projects that task force members are working on in lab, pilot and production settings. The task force will deliver updates about its projects at ACHEMA 2024 on June 10-14 in Frankfurt, Germany, which are located at three chemical plants, one utility and one tank farm.

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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