Wireless technologies promote access to process data

Paul Boughton
Many different industries in the process sector are benefiting from the latest wireless technologies, particularly in terms of reduced system costs, fast commissioning and ease of maintenance. Eugene McCarthy reports.

When Shell Eastern Petroleum recently completed a new ethylene cracker complex in Singapore, it became the first time in the oil and gas industry that wireless technology has been deployed to get mobile access to the process control system.

When planning the project, Shell wanted to get mobile access to all process data via WLAN at defined places in the refinery to drive efficiencies (Fig.1).

Peter Beerepoot, who was responsible for instrumentation process control of the entire project for Shell Eastern Petroleum, says: "We were given the opportunity to develop a complete infrastructure. Our initial thoughts during the front end engineering and design (FEED) phase, was that wireless would give us a number of key benefits. So we considered substitution of local panels, which we believed would bring us advantages in terms of cost reduction and increased efficiency."

"Throughout our selection process, a few potential partners were willing to listen, but only one, Belden, was capable of delivering the right solution by successfully listening to what the customer has to say and to act accordingly," said Tsjoi Tsim, consultant wireless technologies, who acted on behalf of Shell Global Solutions International (SGSI).

Yokogawa was appointed as the main automation contractor for the project. Belden took on the project management, the design and building of a complete WLAN solution, consisting of a wireless distribution system incorporating 90 Hirschmann access points (BAT54-F X2) for ECC and multiple antennas, linked across a redundant, fibre ring backbone.

A very important feature in this project was that all relevant parts of the solution had to be suitable for the challenging environmental conditions and that they had to be properly certified accordingly to comply to ATEX/IEC60079. To have such certification is mandatory for safety and governance reasons. Therefore this location has to be regarded as being a hazardous area.

The application required a full range of Hirschmann WLAN products including outdoor access points and modular MICE switches, together with accessories, antennas, switches, media converters and surge arrestors. For enhanced security, the EAGLE firewall was used at the demarcation point to the customer's process-LAN. To build the backbone, Belden's PROFInet copper and fibreoptic cables were used, as well as Lumberg Automation Ethernet M12 connectors for all Ethernet devices. At locations where wired LAN access was difficult, wireless point to point links were installed.

Significant benefits associated with the project include improved overall efficiency resulting from both the faster commissioning time for the petrochemical process control system and improved maintenance efficiency, as well as an overall system cost reduction - due to fewer indicator units being needed.

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Harnessing smart solutions

Invensys Operations Management has launched SmartGlance, a new software as a service (SaaS) partner offering that delivers industrial and manufacturing intelligence data, archived in plant automation systems and data stores, to smartphones. The SmartGlance solution will be offered as part of an endorsed partner agreement the company has signed with Sarla Analytics, an innovative supplier of smartphone applications focused on business intelligence.

"Web-based reporting tools simply can't match the speed, functionality or readability of Sarla's SmartGlance reports," said Rob McGreevy, vice president, platform and applications, Invensys Operations Management. "The great thing about SmartGlance is that it is a native phone app, not a web client, so you can use advanced touchscreen features on your smartphone to quickly access and scroll through the reports. Everyone has a smartphone these days. They are rapidly becoming an important, everyday tool that can be used to achieve productivity excellence. With SmartGlance, managers, engineers and operators can use them to view the most current process and equipment performance data as well."

The new SaaS offering will be hosted at a secure SmartGlance data centre that minimises the need for customers to have local IT support and maintenance. Invensys Operations Management will supply data connectors that enable data stored in its Wonderware Historian and other products to be included in SmartGlance reports and analytics.

The native SmartGlance phone application takes full advantage of the many powerful display features of touchscreen-based smartphones (Fig.2). Interactive tabular reports, along with trends, bar charts and pie charts, can be manipulated easily, allowing extensive data drill down capabilities. Users can even issue or share reports with co-workers via e-mail, enhancing real-time collaboration and effectively adding enterprise control capability to smartphones.

Following the completion of a recent project, Emerson Process Management's Smart Wireless technology has saved Atlas Pipeline-Westex an estimated US$725,000 in installation costs and has improved production efficiency at Atlas' Benedum natural gas processing facility near Midkiff, Texas.

The self-organising IEC62591 (WirelessHART) network connects a new plant with an older unit in the same facility. Pulling data from the old plant into the new plant's control room using conventional wiring was not financially feasible because of the distance and obstacles between the two plants.

The wireless network includes 99 of Emerson's Rosemount wireless temperature, pressure, level, and discrete-input transmitters that communicate with three Smart Wireless Gateways to collect real-time data from gas processing and storage tanks, cooling towers, and compressors. The majority of the wireless devices replaced local indicators in the old plant, while others measure pressure along pipes between the two plants and tank level in the new plant.

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Digital automation systems

Data from the wireless network is integrated into the plant's DeltaV digital automation system, which monitors and controls critical plant processes. Atlas operators also use AMS Suite: Intelligent Device Manager predictive maintenance software to actively manage key field devices in both plants, including Fisher valves. Predictive diagnostics provided through AMS Suite have enabled Atlas to eliminate operator rounds to the old plant, saving multiple trips per day.

In another recent wireless project, Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, needed to optimise the water recovery process of the thickener pools at its Norte mine in Chile. The company chose Honeywell's OneWireless Network to connect new field devices there to the existing Honeywell TPS control system.

The OneWireless network is used to connect Siemens S7 300 PLCs to the Honeywell TPS system. The PLCs are then used to manage equipment and instruments installed at each tank and pool. Since installing the OneWireless solution, the use of water is much more efficient because Codelco can accurately gauge the level of water in the thickeners.

"We chose the OneWireless system from Honeywell because it offered the most dependable solution for both our complex operation and the advanced control application, since it provides a higher capacity to support real-time gauging and instrumentation," said Guillermo Cortés, concentrators' automation leader, Codelco. "Our desert zone has many challenges including topography, the long distance between the thickeners and control room, and the extreme environment conditions of radiation, wind and temperatures. We are very pleased with the reliability of the Honeywell solution."

There are seven OneWireless multinodes covering the site. One gateway is used to send the Modbus data collected from the PLC to the Honeywell TPS. With the installation of OneWireless, operators in the control room can call information from the PLCs under the Honeywell TPS control system. This information can be fed into the profit controller application to optimise process control of the facility.

After the successful implementation of the network to support PLCs, Codelco decided to install Honeywell XYR 6000 high level analogue input transmitters to monitor the level of the clear and dark water using ultrasonic transmitters.