AutoQuiz: Standard Wiring Color for Type K Thermocouple

AutoQuiz: Standard Wiring Color for Type K Thermocouple

AutoQuiz is edited by Joel Don, ISA’s community manager. 


Today’s automation industry quiz question comes from the ISA Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST) program. Certified Control System Technicians calibrate, document, troubleshoot, and repair/replace instrumentation for systems that measure and control level, temperature, pressure, flow, and other process variables. Click this link for more information about the CCST program.

In the diagram in the post image, which (A, B, C or D) is the standard wiring color for a Type K thermocouple in the U.S. and Canada?


Click Here to Reveal the Answer

A illustrates the very common Type J, Iron/Constantan thermocouple.

B illustrates the less common Type E, Chromel/Constantan thermocouple.

D illustrates the less common Type T, Copper/Constantan thermocouple.

The correct answer is C, which illustrates the very common Type K, Chromel/Alumel thermocouple.


Control Systems Engineering Exam Reference Manual: A Practical Study Guide, by Bryon Lewis, ISA Press.

Measurement and Control Basics, 5th Edition, by Thomas A. Hughes, ISA Press.








Download Your In-Depth Guide to Calibration for the Process Industries

Download Your In-Depth Guide to Calibration for the Process Industries

This post was written by Mike Cable, author of the ISA book Calibration: A Technician’s Guide and manager of operations technology at Argos Therapeutics, and Ned Espy of Beamex. Click this link to download Calibration Essentials, an in-depth eBook for the process industries.


Proper calibration of instruments for the process industries is essential. Yet calibration tends to be one of the most overlooked processes in today’s plants and factories. With industrial technology and tools demanding greater levels of precision, there is an ever-increasing need to calibrate and ensure consistent, reliable measurement with the goal of minimizing downtime, achieving greater production efficiencies, and reducing overall operating costs.

But how do you know that you’re taking the most efficient path towards calibrated, automated production? To help you find that certainty, calibration experts at ISA have teamed with Beamex to publish an in-depth guide to calibration automation, delivering the information you need to ensure a fully calibrated and reliable facility.

The informative new eBook, Calibration Essentials, covers everything you need to know about today’s calibration processes including:

  • A comprehensive big picture guide on how to manage a facility-wide calibration program for industrial automation and control systems.
  • Informative overviews of calibration considerations, such as tolerance errors, and calibration uncertainty, as well as practice scenarios and solutions to manage them.
  • An in-depth look at some of the new smart instrumentation and WirelessHART instruments and how to effectively calibrate them.
  • A technical discussion on the pros and cons of an individual instrument calibration strategy versus a loop calibration strategy.
  • Detailed guidelines to ensure facility and employee safety and security, as well as compliance with standards, when conducting calibration tasks.

The 60-page eBook can serve as a key resource to help you ensure your facility operates safely and efficiently, and that you are getting the most out of your instrumentation. This roadmap to calibration has tools for workers at every level of your facility to standardize your effort and facilitate an advanced, automated production environment.

Click this link to download Calibration Essentials, an in-depth eBook for the process industries


About the Authors

Mike Cable is author of the ISA book Calibration: A Technician’s Guide and validation manager at Argos Therapeutics. He is a Level 3 Certified Control System Technician, and his responsibilities include managing the calibration program. Mike started his career as an electronics technician in the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Program, serving as a reactor operator and engineering watch supervisor aboard the USS Los Angeles submarine, and then at the AIW prototype in Idaho Falls. After leaving the Navy, he started his civilian career at Performance Solutions performing technical services for the pharmaceutical industry. His 11 years there was highlighted by an assignment to Eli Lilly Corporate Process Automation managing Instrument qualification projects, and then starting a calibration services division within Performance Solutions. His practical expertise in instrumentation and controls led him to his career path in validation.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANed Espy has been promoting calibration management with Beamex for more than 20 years. He has directed field experience in instrumentation measurement application for over 27 years. Today, Ned provides technical & application support to Beamex clients and partners throughout North America.


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How Next-Generation Gas Chromatography Improves Quality and Reduces Costs

How Next-Generation Gas Chromatography Improves Quality and Reduces Costs

This guest blog post was written by Bonnie Crossland, Rosemount product marketing manager for gas chromatographs at Emerson Process Management.

Glass manufacturing is one of the most energy-intensive industries, with energy costs representing roughly 14 percent of the total production costs. The bulk of energy consumed comes from natural gas combustion for heating furnaces to melt raw materials, which are then transformed into glass. Additionally, glass manufacturing is sensitive to the combustion processes, which can affect the quality of the glass and shorten the lifespan of the melting tanks if not managed properly. Historically, the composition of natural gas has been relatively stable. However, dramatic changes in the supply of natural gas (including shale gas and liquefied natural gas imports) are causing end users to experience rapid and pronounced fluctuations in gas quality.

The efficiency of the furnace can be optimized for the air/fuel ratio when the composition of the incoming gas changes. This can significantly reduce energy consumption and provide substantial savings to the business in product quality and equipment life. Optimizing the furnace efficiency has traditionally been complex and costly. Next-generation gas chromatography, however, is changing that paradigm, providing a cost-effective, task-focused methodology that can be carried out by less technically proficient personnel than were traditionally required.

gas chromatography

Two unique fuel gas compositions can have the same energy content, but behave very differently in the burner. This is because the different amounts of diluents, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, and the different ratios of hydrocarbons will cause different densities, and thus, different velocities through the burner restrictors. The Wobbe Index, the ratio of the energy value to the specific gravity (Wobbe Index = energy/√specific density), provides an indicator of how the fuel will act through a burner and provides a better variable to control the air/fuel ratio.

Gas chromatographs are used throughout the natural gas chain of custody (from wellhead to burner tip) to determine the gas composition for quality monitoring and energy content. For pipeline quality natural gas, the industry standard is the C6+ measurement method. This method determines the individual composition for each of the hydrocarbons from methane to normal-pentane, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, and combines heavier hydrocarbons (e.g., hexane, heptane, octane) as a C6+ component. From the composition, energy content, specific gravity, Wobbe Index, and other physical properties are determined using calculations from international standards such as ISO 6976, GPA 2172, and AGA 8. Using the Wobbe Index and a gas chromatograph to determine the gas composition gives insight into the fuel quality variations from the gas supplier. Additionally, the C6+ measurement is the standard by which custody transfer billing is based, and therefore is a direct method of ensuring that the energy used matches the bill from the gas supplier.

Optimizing the air/fuel ratio

The value of optimizing the air/fuel ratio cannot be overstated. The energy value (British thermal unit [Btu] or calorific value) or Wobbe Index is output from the gas chromatograph via either Modbus or an analog 4–20 mA signal. This signal can be used to integrate with the plant process control system to trim the air/fuel ratio and ensure maximum production efficiency (figure 1). When the air/fuel mixing proportion is correct (stoichiometric), all the fuel will be consumed during the combustion process and will burn cleanly. This enables the furnace to operate at its most efficient, cost-effective point. Changes in the composition of the fuel gas will cause changes in:

  • the physical properties of the gas
  • the minimum air requirements needed to achieve stoichiometric combustion
  • the flue gas composition
  • flame speed and flame position

Because glass quality is sensitive to the combustion processes, failing to respond to variations in the composition of the natural gas can result in losing an entire production run due to poor gas quality.

A major glass company in the southeastern U.S. is a heavy user of natural gas. However, the gas comes from multiple locations, causing a constant fluctuation of the Btu value. Because gas flow is adjusted based on the Btu value, knowing the precise measurement is essential. In addition, because the density of the gas varies, knowing the Wobbe Index is critical to quality. When the company began employing a gas chromatograph to optimize its fuel quality, it found the traditional intricacies of gas chromatographs inappropriate for its application. Despite repeated training, its staff was unable to calibrate the instrument. New gas chromatograph technologies designed specifically for natural gas optimization significantly reduced the complexity of operation. In new designs, all of the complex analytical functions of the gas chromatograph may be contained in a replaceable module, greatly simplifying maintenance. Features like auto-calibration make operation easier and more accurate, even for novice users.

Reduced need for specially trained gas chromatograph technicians

At a glass manufacturer in the U.K., poor fuel gas energy measurement led to inadequate air/fuel control, higher energy costs, and a reduction in quality of the finished product. In addition, the company needed compositional data for the calculation of carbon emissions factors, and it lacked a workforce skilled in chromatography. By using new natural gas chromatography technology, it optimized the stoichiometric ratio for stable flame heat, maximized the lifetime of the melting tank, reduced energy costs, and participated in the EU Emission Trading System program. All of this was accomplished without the need for specially trained gas chromatograph technicians.

New gas chromatograph technologies also save costs with capabilities like calibration gas saving features. Self-diagnostics mean the users can rely on the instruments to signal the need for maintenance, while step-by-step on-screen instructions walk the techs through any required processes. The sample handling system includes both particulate and liquid filters and incorporates fixed flow restrictors, removing the need for operators to constantly monitor and adjust the sample system.

Many companies in a wide range of industries faced with the problems of inconsistent quality in natural gas may not have considered gas chromatography as a viable solution for balancing air/fuel ratio due to the traditional complexities of the measurement. It is time to look again. New developments in gas chromatography technology may make this approach the first choice for improving energy efficiency, and ultimately, process quality.

About the Author

Bonnie Crossland is Rosemount product marketing manager for gas chromatographs at Emerson Process Management.



Connect with Bonnie:


A version of this article originally was published at InTech magazine.
Image source: Wikipedia

AutoQuiz: What Is the Liquid Flow Condition Where Falling Static Pressure Causes Formation of Vapor Bubbles?

AutoQuiz: What Is the Liquid Flow Condition Where Falling Static Pressure Causes Formation of Vapor Bubbles?

AutoQuiz is edited by Joel Don, ISA’s social media community manager.


Today’s automation industry quiz question comes from the ISA Certified Automation Professional certification program. ISA CAP certification provides a non-biased, third-party, objective assessment and confirmation of an automation professional’s skills. The CAP exam is focused on direction, definition, design, development/application, deployment, documentation, and support of systems, software, and equipment used in control systems, manufacturing information systems, systems integration, and operational consulting. Click this link for more information about the CAP program.

What is the term used for phenomenon in liquid flow where falling static pressure causes the formation of vapor bubbles that subsequently collapse back into the all-liquid state as the fluid static pressure is recovered?

a) cavitation
b) pressure piling
c) saturation
d) vortex shedding
e) none of the above


Click Here to Reveal the Answer


Answer B is not correct. Pressure Piling is a condition that results from the ignition of pre-compressed gases in compartments or subdivisions other than those in which ignition was initiated.

Answer C is not correct. Saturation is a device characteristic exhibited when a further change in an input causes no further change in the output.

Answer D is not correct. Vortex Shedding is the phenomenon that occurs when fluid flows past an obstruction. The shear layer near the obstruction has a high velocity gradient, which makes it inherently unstable. At some point downstream of the immediate vicinity of the obstruction, the shear layer breaks down into well-defined vortices.

The correct answer is A, Cavitation. Cavitation is a two-stage phenomenon of liquid flow. The first stage is the formation of vapor bubbles within the liquid system because of the fluid’s static pressure falling below the fluid vapor pressure  The second stage is the collapse or implosion of these cavities back into an all-liquid state as the fluid decelerates and static pressure is recovered.

Reference: The Automation, Systems, and Instrumentation Dictionary, Fourth Edition, ISA.

Are You Getting the Most out of Your ISA Membership?

Are You Getting the Most out of Your ISA Membership?

This post is authored by Brian Curtis, president of ISA 2018.


During my years as an ISA member I have witnessed the dedication and sterling contributions of ISA members first hand. Whether I’m attending ISA division and section events, participating in Society leadership, or going to budget meetings, I have always been impressed and excited about ISA members’ passion and dedication.

Today, I am asking ISA members: Are you getting the full value of your ISA membership? To the reader who is not an ISA member, I am asking you to learn about some of the benefits and make an informed decision about joining our Society.

ISA membership costs just $120 per year and gives you access to dozens of benefits. But even more than these line items, it gives you a way to belong to the profession that you’ve chosen for your life’s work.

ISA provides its members access to technical information, professional development resources, and opportunities to engage with other automation professionals. Our mission is to enable our members—including world-wide subject matter experts, automation suppliers, and end-users working together—to develop and deliver quality, unbiased automation information, including standards, training, publications, and certification programs.

You can meet and network with some of the world’s finest automation professionals, and you can engage with people right in your backyard through our geographically oriented sections.

Global sections

ISA’s 140 sections, located throughout the world, connect members with technology, expert advice, and world-class programming at the local level, while ISA’s technical divisions feature opportunities to network and learn from industry leaders in specific topical or industry areas.

Given their local/regional structure, ISA sections offer a convenient way for members to take part in ISA initiatives and events happening nearby. Some ways that members can get involved and contribute at the section level include:

  • Attending regular section meetings to explore mutual professional interests with like-minded people
  • Inviting technical experts to present at section meetings
  • Speaking at local schools and universities to generate student interest in automation careers
  • Funding scholarships for local college and university students who demonstrate potential and interest in the automation field
  • Receiving local newsletters with market trends, technical articles,
  • Accessing training courses, technical conferences, and social events

As an ISA member, you should also take full advantage of your two free technical division memberships… and why stop at just two? Additional memberships cost only $10 US each.

ISA’s annual technical division symposia allow ISA members and the automation community to meet face to face with renowned experts and presenters, and hear first-hand about the latest technologies and trends. You’ll be able to exchange best practices and success stories, attend executive keynote presentations, sit in on standards committee meetings, take training courses, and experience leadership gatherings at ISA events like these:

Extensive technical resources

Are you using the technical knowledge that’s available and could benefit you given the challenges in your day job? Why not step up and participate in these industry groups or attend their events?

In addition to ISA’s geographic sections and technical divisions, ISA membership also gives you access and discounts for ISA’s renowned products and services, including these favorites:

  • ISA standards: Get free online viewing of ISA’s collection of more than 160 automation standards that streamline processes, and improve industry safety, efficiency, and profitability. ISA standards serve as best-practice guidelines through design, construction and operation, and they are developed by thousands of industry experts. In addition to viewing the standards, you can also participate in a standards committee and help shape the industry’s future.
  • ISA training: Your ISA membership includes discounted rates for ISA’s training courses, known and respected worldwide for their practical approach to technology You can take courses online, in classroom settings, or in your plant.
  • ISA publications: Get access or discounted purchase rates on more than 180 print and online technical resources, including books, newsletters, articles, technical papers, and more
  • InTech magazine: Members receive a free subscription to InTech magazine, which informs automation and control professionals about technical innovations, ideas, product information, news, and Much of the magazine’s editorial content is provided by ISA’s members, who are encouraged to submit articles.

Perhaps most valuable of all, you’ll grow as a professional by joining this Society. We have programs and opportunities that help you develop and practice your leadership skills, and by getting more engaged, you’ll meet people who can change and shape your career in the years to come.

Networking, mentoring, career advancement

In my case, one of the main reasons that I joined ISA was to meet other people with an automation and instrumentation background that could offer advice about challenges I was having in my day job. I found ISA members were always willing to help me in my early years. And now the table has turned, and there is a younger networking group in my section who look to me to give advice on their challenges. Being an engaged member in ISA is like belonging to a real family, where everyone is always there when you need them with no strings attached.

If you’re an ISA member and you haven’t taken advantage of all we have to offer, start now—pick an area to explore and start doing new things with your membership. If you’re not a member yet, consider joining us—we’d love to welcome you to the ISA family.

About the Author

Brian Curtis, I. Eng., LCGI, is the Operations Manager for Veolia Energy Ireland, providing services to Novartis Ringaskiddy Ltd. in Cork, Ireland. He has more than 35 years of experience in petrochemical, biotech, and bulk pharmaceutical industries, specializing in design, construction management, and commissioning of electrical, instrumentation, and automation control systems. He has managed complex engineering projects in Ireland, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany. A long-time ISA member, Curtis has served on the ISA Executive Board since 2013, the Geographic Assembly Board (2012 – 2015), and the Finance Committee (2013 – 2017.) He was Ireland Section President and Vice President of District 12, which includes Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Curtis has also been active on several Society task forces, including Cybersecurity, Governance, and Globalization-related committees. He received the ISA Distinguished Society Service Award in 2010. He is the Former President of Cobh & Harbor Chamber of Commerce (2013-2015) and Former Chairman of the Ireland Southern Region Chambers (2015-2016) and is an active member of the Ireland National Standards Body, ETCI.

Connect with Brian:
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A version of this article also has been published at ISA Insights.

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