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Pneumatic Control Systems on Ships

What are the advantages and disadvantages of both electrical and pneumatic control systems
on ships ?

Electrical Control System

1. No air compressor and associated machinery required.
2. High efficiency since there is no leakages.
3. Instantaneous response.
4. Very little affected by normal temperature variations.
5. Very accurate.
6. Electric cables are cheap and easy to lay.
1. The system require uninterrupted power supply with no voltage fluctuations.
2. Standby batteries required in case of power failure.
3. There is risk of fire due to overheating. Expensive intrinsically safe / explosion proof
equipment may be required.
4. Moisture may cause damage to the system.
5. Damage readily occurs in the event of a fire.
Pneumatic Control System

1. Not affected by ships power supply variations for short term.
2. No heat generated and hence no risk of fire.
3. Actuators are cheaper and accurate than electric systems.
4. Simple control air piping system.
1. Require air compressor and associated systems.
2. A clean, dry and oil free supply of good quality air is essential for satisfactory operation of the
3. Good quality air require driers, filters with drains, etc. which increases maintenance.
4. May have transmission lags in large systems.
What is meant by fail safe and fail set in a pneumatic control systems ?

On failure of control air supply, the pneumatic actuator may be arranged to move to a position that
allows the plant to continue to operate safely, in other words, fully opened or fully closed. This is
known as fail safe. For example, in the case of a jacket cooling water system, on failure of control
air, the actuator opens fully to allow jacket water to the cooler without bypass. On the other hand a
fuel oil control valve for boiler closes completely on such a failure. This ensures safety of the plant.

In some other systems, control air supply failure locks the position of valve at that time of failure.
This is called fail set. The advantage of this system is that the plant gets stable and have time for
normal shutdown or can wait for reestablishment of control air supply for some time. Example for
such a system is boiler water level control.

Explain two step control action, ratio control and proportional plus integral control with
applications on ships ?

Two step control action is the simplest form of control, in that it assumes one or two preset positions,
a switch is ON or OFF or in the case of a valve it is OPEN or CLOSE. For example, a pressure
switch controlling the starting air compressor is an acceptable form of control since there can be
fairly large deviation between measured value and desired value. Another example is hydrophore
pumps which cut in and cut off with the hydrophore pressure.

Ratio control is one in which one variable is kept at a fixed ratio to another variable. Ratio control is
found in boiler combustion control system where the ratio between the air-fuel must be controlled to
ensure good combustion. The air flow is controlled by dampers to match the fuel flow.

In a proportional plus integral controller, the proportional element acts if there is any deviation
between the output (measured value) and the desired value, but the action results in a permanent
difference between the measured and desired value (called offset). The integral element removes
this difference or offset. For more details on the basics of proportional, integral and derivative
control, please click on the links below.

Proportional, Integral and Derivative actions basic principles

More about PID Controllers
Application of the proportional-integral control is the water level control system for boiler on ships,
which maintains desired water level always without offset.

What is the effect of a leaking proportional bellows or measurement bellows in pneumatic

control systems ?

When proportional bellows start leaking, its ability to introduce the negative feedback is reduced.
This results in increased gain of the controller and control valve starts moving to the extreme
positions causing instability.

When measurement bellows leak, it prevent the flapper from moving towards the nozzle, and the
desired or set value is changed, again causing hunting of the system.
Troubleshooting Alarm Monitoring and Control
System on ships

Faults in Alarm Monitoring and Control System

The alarm monitoring and control system on the ship may give false alarms and incorrect data
printouts. These faults could be:

1. Localized to a particular area of engine operation or

2. General to the engine room
When the alarms are specific to a certain area of the engine room it would be suspected that the
following faults could be present

Cable fault: If the cable connecting the sensors with the control room were damaged, the
resulting short/open circuits could generate false alarms
Control card/panel fault: The alarms could be grouped within a certain alarm or monitoring
panel, and there could be a defect within this panel.
External interference: Machinery could be operating in the suspect area, which is poorly
screened, and the resulting interference could be transmitted via the instrument cables to the
monitoring panels.
When the alarms are general to the whole engine room, then the main supply to the alarm and
monitoring panel would be checked for:

Earth faults: A combination of earth faults could affect the earth potential and hence the
reading of the instrumentation.
Supply voltage level: The monitoring circuit would use low 24V supply, and this would need
to be at the correct level without any voltage ripple present.
The following action should be taken to ensure continued safe operation of the vessel if the defects
with alarm monitoring and control system were general to the engine room.

The problem with intermittent alarms and incorrect printouts would be that the engineer on
duty would be unable to rely on the information given to him by the remote instrumentation and
alarm panel. Hence a greater use would need to be taken of the local readings from pressure
gauges and thermometers.
This would mean that the UMS operation would be stopped and watch-keeping practices
with a manned engine room would be commenced. The watch keepers would be instructed to
complete a full manual log of the various operational parameters of pressure, temperature and
the various tank levels. This manual log would be taken every watch period of four hours.
The engineering staff would be divided between the various watch duties, ensuring that all
watch keepers were certified and had the appropriate duty and rest periods assigned to them.
Any machinery units requiring manual control would have their operation explained to all
engineers, and a procedural checklist compiled for the operation of all such machinery.
Troubleshooting Alarm Monitoring and Control System

The possible faults stated earlier would be the earth fault or supply irregularity. The earth fault could
be identified by observing the 24V distribution panel that would have an earth detection unit fitted. If
an earth fault was indicated on this panel then

A positive earth would be traced by disconnecting the supply fuses in turn to parts of the
engine room to identify the problem area
A negative earth would require that each instrument have its earth wire disconnected and left
disconnected until the fault is traced. This would mean the loss of many of the instruments
within the engine room and could only be carried out when watch keeping duties were active.
Each wire would be marked to ensure correct replacement.
The supply irregularity could be identified by using an oscilloscope, which would show both
the level of voltage present and if any supply ripple was present. A simple AVO meter would
also indicate correct voltage levels. The earth fault would be rectified by locating the
cable/insulation defect and then replacing the cable, or repairing the defect by re-insulating the
damaged area. The supply irregularity would be rectified by replacing the charging unit of the
24V DC supply, and/or replacing any defective batteries.
Basic Principles of PID Controllers

Automatic controllers are used onboard ships for the adjustment of one or more parameters in a
system. Function of the controller is to maintain the parameter as per desired value (value set by the
operator). The parameter could be jacket water temperature (for engine jacket water cooling
system), lubricating oil temperature (for engine lube oil system), fuel oil pressure (for boiler fuel oil
system), etc. PID controls are commonly used for these applications. Advantage of automatic
indicating controller is that it controls as well as indicates the parameter reading. Refer to the
diagram and explanation below to understand the basic principle of PID controllers. These
controllers are normally located near the variable measuring point so that use of a transmitter (to
transmit parameter signals to the controller) is not required.

On-Off or Two Step Action

This is the simplest form of control. Here only two control positions are allowed; on or off. In the case
of a valve, it opens or closes by the signal from the controller. Examples for such control system are;
water level control for boiler cascade tank, air compressor cut in cut off control, temperature control
for fuel oil storage tanks, etc. Let us consider the case of a fuel oil tank heating steam two step
controller. It consists of a controller that continuously senses the system parameter (fuel oil
temperature). This is called measured value. The desired value or set point (temperature of fuel oil to
be maintained) is fixed by the operator. When the temperature of the fuel oil drops below set point,
controller sent signal to the steam valve thereby passing steam through coils provided inside the fuel
oil tank. Now temperature of fuel oil starts increasing. When the temperature rises to the set point,
controller shuts the steam valve. The system response is illustrated down below.
Now as we know there is a thermal inertia in this system. Or in other words the position of
temperature sensor and that of steam coil is different. That is why we cannot observe an increase in
temperature as soon as the steam valve opens. The same phenomenon explains why temperature
is increasing even after the steam valve is shut. Anyway disadvantage of this control is the large
deviation from the desired value or set point. Hence the application of such control is limited.

Proportional Action

This is a continuous control action in which the controller output is proportional to the deviation
between measured value and desired value. Let us take an example of a simple water lever control
as shown in the figure below.
Consider a water tank with an outlet valve, a water supply valve, control lever on a pivot, control
strings, and float as shown in the figure. One end of the control lever is connected to the float while
other end to the water supply valve. The system is designed in such a way that, when float goes
down supply valve is opened more thereby increasing water supply to the tank. Similarly an
elevation of the float results in closure of the supply valve. At this point quantity of water supplied
and flown out of the tank is same or the system is in equilibrium. Suddenly demand of water
increases or the discharge valve is opened more. This result in reduction in water level inside the
tank and causes float to lower. As float lowers it raises the control string connected to the water
supply valve, thereby increasing the supply of water.

As shown in the figure above, a new equilibrium is attained by the system. Once again supply and
demand of water is same. But we can see a drop in water level from the desired value. This
deviation from the measured value and desired value is known as offset. It is an inherent property of
the proportional control. Offset can be reduced but cannot be eliminated in such systems. The
amount by which the input signal value must change to move the correcting unit between its extreme
positions is known as proportional band. This concept can be made clear from the figures shown
above. Move the position of the pivot towards right (closer towards the float). Now we can see that a
small change in water level causes an amplified effect in opening or closing the supply valve. In
other words the system becomes more sensitive. Also here the offset is reduced comparing to the
scenario before. Similarly, moving the pivot towards the left cause minor changes for the supply
valve even though float lowers or rises drastically. Here sensitivity of the system is less. It is clear
that offset can be reduced to minimum when sensitivity is higher. But this results in hunting of the
system. Hunting means excessive fluctuation of the measured value around desired value. System
response to proportional action is shown below.
So far we have discussed proportional action with reference to a simple float and valve system.
Same can be explained using a flapper-nozzle mechanism too. In fact such an example is much
closer to the actual control system.
Referring to the diagram above, as the measured value deviates from set point, flapper moves
closer to the nozzle. This results in an increase in output air pressure. This increase in output air
pressure changes the controlled condition (parameter to be controlled), say by closing or opening a
valve. At the same time the increased output air pressure act on the feedback bellows also. This
negative feedback pushes the flapper away from the nozzle, thereby reducing output air pressure.
Now the system is in equilibrium. Remember that an offset is inevitable here. Moving the nozzle
away from the feedback bellows increase sensitivity and hunting of the system. Also moving nozzle
towards feedback bellows reduces hunting and increases offset. So position of the nozzle
(or Proportional Band) can be adjusted carefully to obtain a stable system with minimal offset and
Integral or Reset Action

Integral action or reset action is used in conjunction with proportional action, to remove offset from
the system. Here controller output varies at a rate proportional to the deviation between measured
and desired value. Refer to the figure below.
Here in addition to the feedback bellows, we have integral action bellows also. Consider the integral
action valve is open. Now as the flapper moves closer to the nozzle because of a deviation, output
air pressure increases, the same air pressure acts on feedback bellows to move the flapper away
from nozzle to an equilibrium position. Now there is an offset. Again the same control air pressure
acting on the integral bellows moves the flapper towards the nozzle to increase control air pressure.
Hence a new equilibrium is attained with no offset. Note that all these actions take place
simultaneously. When the integral action valve is fully open, integral action will be too fast that result
in hunting. When the valve is crack open, there is no hunting but it takes long time to remove offset.
In other words time required to remove the offset (Reset Time) can be adjusted by opening or
closing integral action valve. Closure of the integral action valve means no integral action. Reset
time to be set in such a way that system operates fast to remove offset and minimal hunting. All
pressure control systems onboard ships are normally proportional-integral (PI) controls.
Derivative or Rate Action

Derivative action is utilized along with proportional and integral actions. This is applied in systems
where time delay between changes in measured value and their correction is long. Example is
temperature control for jacket water system. Here controller output is proportional to the rate of
change of deviation. Refer to the figure below.

Here a derivative action valve is introduced as shown in the figure. Closing this valve any amount
would introduce derivative action in the system. Consider the derivative action valve is closed 70%.
When flapper moves towards nozzle because of a deviation, controller output pressure increases,
the same pressure acts on the feedback bellows through the derivative action valve. As the valve is
only little open, it takes time to move the flapper away from the nozzle by negative feedback, thereby
allowing control air output pressure to be higher for long time, which again allow more time for
corrective action. Also derivative action can be varied by adjusting opening or closing derivative
action valve. When derivative action valve is fully open, there is no derivative action.
Response of a PID control action is also shown below.
Troubles, Investigation of causes and Counter-
measures PID Controllers

Troubles Causes Counter-measures

When it does not increase.
1. Supply air pressure is
2. Orifice of pilot relay is
3. Leakage at the air piping
at output side (due to
cracking), or leakage at
soldered joint or damage of 1. Adjust it into normal
diaphragm of control valve. conditions.
4. Inferior connection or 2. Press the cleaning
disconnection of link push button.
systems inside the 3. Adjust it into normal
controller. conditions.
5. Leakage of various 4. Adjust it into normal
piping or tubes inside the conditions.
controller. 5. Replace the tube
6. Damage of element at 6. Replace the element.
measuring part.
When it does not decrease.
1. Nozzle at the flapper is
2. Clogging of piping from
pilot relay to piping from
down of tube
3. Loosening of pilot relay
orifice 1. Clean it with a wire of
4. Inferior connection or less than 0.4mm
[PID CONTROLLERS] disconnection of link 2. Adjust it into normal
Output air pressure of pid mechanism inside the conditions.
controllers do not increase or controller. 3. Retighten it
5. Leakage of various 4. Adjust it into normal
decrease in spite of the change piping or tubes inside the conditions.
of detection input. controller. 5. Replace the tube

[CONTROL VALVE] Sticking of valve guide and Inspection by

valve stem. disassembly.When foreign
Control valve life does not 1. When positioner is matters are caught into the
change due to the increase or provided sticking of parts, remove them and repair
decrease of output pressure of positioner pilot. any possible damage.
2. Disconnection of 1. Repair the damage
diaphragm stem and caused by sticking using
positioner. fine mesh grinding paper
or file.
2. Adjust it into normal
When pressure does not 1. Replace the parts.
increase. 2. Replace the parts.
1. Damage of diaphragm. 3. Repair the damage
2. Damage of setting caused by sticking using
spring. fine mesh grinding paper
3. Sticking of pilot valve. or file.
[FILTER REGULATOR] 4. Leakage at air piping at 4. Adjust it into normal
secondary side. conditions.
Pressure does not increase
even when setting knob is When pressure does not come 1. Repair the damage
turned to increase pressure. Or down. caused by sticking using
1. Sticking of pilot valve. fine mesh grinding paper
pressure increase is abnormal 2. Clogging of exhaust hole or file.
or pressure does not go down. of the cover. 2. Clean it.

Maintenance of PID Controllers

When the controller is installed properly, perform the following maintenance periodically according to
a preset program. Proper maintenance of PID controllers extends their useful life.

1. Remove drain deposited in the air supply tube by loosening the drain plug at the bottom of
the filter regulator.
2. Be care to maintain the supply air pressure always at 140kPa. When the performance of filter
regulator is unstable, repair or replace it.
3. According to the conditions of supply air, inspect the orifice holes of nozzle or pilot relay.
4. Periodically press the orifice cleaning push button to clean the orifice.
When it is necessary to take out the orifice out of pilot relay, disassemble it according to the following

1. Stop air supply to the controller.

2. Carefully remove the entire orifice at the left end of the pilot relay by a spanner.
3. After taking off the orifice, clean the surface with thinner, etc. if oil or grease is sticking to it.
Dry the disassembled orifice and then reassemble it.
When it is necessary to disassemble the clogged nozzle, follow the procedures below.

1. Carefully disassemble nozzle cleaning plug of proportional dial by a driver.

2. Clean the nozzle with a wire having thickness of less than 0.4mm.
3. Clean dusts, etc. deposited on the flapper surface (to which the nozzle is contacting).

Adjustment for Operation PID Controller

PID Controller

Setting Knob

Set the setting pointer (red) to the desired graduation on the scale by setting knob.

Proportional Band Control Dial

As we have discussed before, shifting position of the nozzle with respect to flapper changes
proportional band. This is achieved by turning proportional band dial. The smaller the value on the
dial (i.e., Proportional band becomes narrower), it becomes sensitive. But if it becomes too sharp,
hunting occurs. When the value on the dial becomes too dull, deviation of measured value from set
value, in the case of load change, becomes excessive.

Reset Time Dial

Reset time dial actually controls opening and closing of integral action valve. Reducing reset time
means opening the valve while increasing means closing the valve. When reset time is shortened,
the time required for balance point is shortened. But when it becomes too short, stability is lost and it
apt to cause hunting. When reset time is made too long, it consumes too long time before balance is
established at the set value.
Rate Time Dial (This dial is not given in the case of proportional + integral action)

Rate time dial varies opening and closing of derivative action valve. It is used for the process which
involves much time lag (delay). When rate time is made too long it causes hunting. Whereas if it is
too short, satisfactory effect is not obtained.

Change-over of Direct-Reverse Action

Direction of operation of control valve is determined by the nature of the process. It is determined by
whether the control valve is a direct operation or a reverse. For example, in the case of the figure
shown above, it acts in reverse. To change the set up into direct action (i.e., the action where
increase of input causes increase in output), turn the proportional dial to the right for turns.

Optimum Adjustment of the Controller

The optimum adjustment of the controller can be obtained by the following steps.

1. Set the reset time dial at max. (20 min.) and when there is a rate time dial, set it at minimum
value (0.05min).
2. Starting from 250%, gradually reduce the proportional dial from 250% to 10%, while checking
the result of adjustment. It causes hunting when it comes to a certain proportional zone. The
optimum value is at 2-4 times of such proportional zone.
3. Gradually reduce the reset time by turning reset time dial. When it comes less than the
marginal value, it causes hunting. So reverse it slightly from such point and then fix it.
4. Fix the rate time dial at about of the ultimate reset time or about of the time delay of the
process and control device. In this case, proportional zone can be made slightly smaller.

Proportional, Integral and Derivative Control

Proportional (P) Control Action

When measured value becomes higher than the set value (deviation), the upper end of proportional
lever shifts to the right. Thus the flapper approaches to the nozzle and the back pressure of the
nozzle, i.e., the pressure charged upon the pilot relay, increases. Consequently valve in pilot relay
open and supply pressure flows into control side to increase the pressure. At the same time, this
pressure is charged upon proportional bellows and lifts up proportional lever and thus flapper is
detached from the nozzle and control pressure is set in proportion to such deflection. All of the above
actions occur simultaneously in the actual operation. When both pointers overlaps (deviation is zero)
control pressure becomes 60 kPa (20-100kPa).

Proportional-Integral (PI) Action

Assuming that the controller is acting properly and measured value and set value are in equilibrium,
(or deviation is zero), and the same pressure as control pressure is sealed in the proportional
bellows and reset bellows. If measured value becomes too high as in the above case, P action
immediately takes place and control pressure increases. Thus control pressure flows into the reset
bellows through reset throttle valve.

As the pressure inside reset bellows increases, proportional lever comes down and flapper
approaches to the nozzle and back pressure increases. Consequently pilot relay valve opens to
increase the control pressure and the increasing pressure inside proportional bellows lifts up the
proportional lever and causes the nozzle to detach from the nozzle again. This resetting effect
continues until control pressure increases to such extend that the control valve opening enables the
reversion of the measured value to the set value (until deviation becomes zero). Pressure of
proportional bellows and reset bellows thus balances and the original balance condition is
Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) Action

Rate throttle valve and bellows chamber are connected in parallel between the pilot relay and
proportional bellows. In the aforesaid P and PI action, the inside pressure of proportional bellows is
in proportion to the amount of deviation. Therefore, when the measured value changes, control
pressure flows in or out with the speed corresponding to such changes, so that the pressure inside
the proportional bellows will synchronize with the change of measured value. Since the pressure
reduction taking place as it passes through the rate throttle valve is in proportion to the speed of
fluctuation of measured value, pilot relay output, i.e., control pressure also become larger or smaller
than the internal pressure of proportional bellows to the extent of the differential pressure at the
throttle valve.
Rate bellows chamber is provided to transmit control pressure to the proportional bellows utilizing
the volume change of rate bellows caused by its elasticity and to give stability to the system.

Therefore, when rate action is utilized, control valve opening can be adjusted more quickly and it
certainly gives convenience especially to the process where time lag is great.
Automatic Indicating Controller and Specifications

This controller can be applied to all possible fields of process control such as pressure, differential
pressure, temperature, liquid level, flow rate, viscosity, etc. when used in combination with
diaphragm control valves at the operating end. It is a pneumatic controller which can automatically
regulate various process conditions at the optimum level.

It is constructed compactly and weights light, incorporating least possible number of parts. Its
control, handling and maintenance is therefore simple and yet it has considerable durability. It is an
instrument most suitable not only for fixing on graphic panel but also for local control, having usage
in versatile fields.
Construction and Specification



1. Control air pressure (output): 20-100kPa

2. Supply air pressure: 140kPa
3. Proportional band: 10-250%
4. Reset time: 20-0.1 Min.(std.)
5. Rate time: 10-0.05 Min.
6. Both direct and reverse actions are available
7. Accuracy: Within 1% of full scale
8. Method of fixing: Panel mount or Wall mount type
9. Casing: Drip-proof and dust proof type
10. Mass: 5-6 kg
Air consumption, Normally 1 Nl/min, Maximum 30 Nl/min