How to Interpret DCS and PLC Symbols on a P&IDLearn about how to correctly interpret PLC and DCS symbols on a P&ID.
Alright then…let’s get started.
A P&ID is a road map
Anybody such as Instrumentation & Control engineers, technicians, and maintenance personnel working on industrial plant control systems depend heavily on P&ID’s.
A P&ID is like a road map telling us what the instruments and devices are, where they are located, and how they interact with the rest of the plant.
Original P&ID symbols
Original symbols and terminology for P&ID’s were created long before the introduction of PLC’s and DCS’s in plant control.
Old industrial processes and control rooms
Before computers came along, process control loops were stand-alone. In other words, each process had its own individual controller.
Control rooms were massive and had sprawling control panels with lots of controllers and other devices such as strip chart recorders and switches.
New industrial processes and control rooms
Today’s industrial processes are controlled by computerized systems using virtual controllers found in PLC’s and DCS’s.
New control rooms are filled with HMI’s and keyboards connected to a DCS or a PLC system. All of this computerization required that new P&ID symbols had to be developed.
P&ID symbols for PLC and DCS
P&ID symbols for DCS
So, let’s look at the P&ID symbols for PLC and DCS. If you recall, stand-alone instruments are indicated on a P&ID by a circle with a tag number.
The horizontal bar across the middle of the circle indicates the physical instrument resides in a primary location accessible to an operator on the main control panel.
If we take that same symbol and draw a box around it, it now means that it is no longer a physical instrument. It is now part of a shared display and shared control in a DCS.
P&ID symbols for DCS on HMI
Ok…Let’s look at a P&ID with DCS symbols and see how it links field instruments with the DCS and how it’s displayed on the Operator HMI.
LT501 and FT501 are 2 field instruments both sending electrical signals to DCS controllers.
P&ID symbols for DCS on Flow Control Loop
Let’s take a closer look at the Flow Control Loop. Flow Transmitter FT501 sends an electrical signal to the DCS Flow Indicating Controller FIC 501, which in turn sends an electrical signal to operated Flow Control Valve FCV501.
Here’s what the Operator sees on the HMI screen…We’ve put a big red circle around FIC501 and FCV501.
As we discovered on the P&ID, the controller FIC501 is part of the DCS. FIC501 controller functions can be adjusted at the HMI by the Operator.
All FIC501 inputs and outputs can be observed in real-time on the HMI as well.
Ok…Let’s drill down a bit deeper and look at how the P&ID relates to the Flow Loop Diagram. We’ve placed green circles around FT501 and FIC501.
Referring back to the P&ID, you will see that FT501 is a Flow Transmitter in the field, and FIC501 is a shared control in the DCS.
This is a good time to point out the blue circle around the Software Signal lines as they show how the DCS connects with the HMI.
P&ID symbols for PLC
PLC symbols don’t show up on P&ID’s nearly as often as DCS symbols. But, when they do show up, they are drawn as a diamond inside a box.
All you have to know is that the symbol represents a software instruction to perform some function in the plant.
For example, let’s revisit our P&ID. The PLC symbol indicates that the SDV503 valve is operated by the Emergency Shutdown software instruction written in the PLC program.
Let’s review what we’ve discussed today:
– DCS and PLC symbols became a necessity with the computerization of process automation.
– If you see a square box drawn around the circle on a P&ID, that means a DCS is part of the control process.
– If you see a square with a diamond in it on a P&ID, that means a PLC is part of the control process.
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