Powerful wireless solutions expand plant flexibility

Paul Boughton

Sean Ottewell reports on how new wireless solutions are helping process operating companies to increase gateway functionality, improve long-distance monitoring, and link in to ever more plant devices.

Wireless mesh solutions and their associated technologies provide reliable, secure and scalable communications links around the plant. The latest developments include increased gateway functionality, industrial frequency hopping Ethernet radios, wireless links to fringe IP devices such as video surveillance cameras, and solutions for monitoring long-distance pipelines.

For example, ProSoft Technology has announced its new Smart Switch feature, supported in the RadioLinx industrial frequency hopping ethernet radios for the 2.4GHz and 900MHz spectrums.

With Smart Switch technology, the Ethernet radios are able to intelligently route packets over the network, managing the wireless network like a standard Ethernet switch, and creating true peer-to-peer wireless Ethernet communication.

The powerful, rugged industrial Ethernet radios provide long-range wireless connectivity (up to 30+ miles) with 1.1 Mbps data rates (Fig. 1). When coupled with the efficient Smart Switch feature, this solution provides industrial, process and Scada users with reliable 'any-node-to-any- node' communication with best-in-class performance, including faster scan times, faster upload/download, and faster PING times. "Industries that rely on robust, long-range performance of frequency hopping wireless technologies now get the added benefit of true network connectivity," stated Jim Ralston, strategic product analyst. "Smart Switch enables the Scada network to behave like a true Ethernet network, boosting system performance."

An additional feature of the industrial frequency hopping Ethernet radios is a serial port that can be used to pull data from a serial device and send to a client via wireless Ethernet.[Page Break]

Prosoft has also just launched ProSoft i-View, a mobile phone application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch platforms. ProSoft i-View transforms these devices into mobile human machine interfaces to enables real-time remote process control for engineers, plant floor operators and maintenance technicians.

With ProSoft i-View, control engineers can remotely monitor and modify live data from programmable automation controllers (PAC) on an EtherNet/IP or Modbus TCP/IP network, including flow measurements, valve control, process data and status data. The app creates a secure cellular or 802.11 interface between the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch devices and the control system. For 802.11 plant-floor network access, the WiFi function of the phone can be utilised in conjunction with ProSoft Technology 802.11 Industrial HotspotTM solutions.

For applications with wide geographic disparity such as pipeline and well-head monitoring, or where engineers require access from long distances, the ProSoft Technology Intelligent Cellular series can be utilised to broaden the range of access to virtually anywhere in the world.

ProSoft i-View displays live process control values in stylised lists and includes user-established variance allowances with real-time alarms, including local notifications. Controls and data displays are colour coded based on the value. Engineers are able to monitor these variables in real time and make adjustments on the fly from an iPhone device.

Upon configuration, ProSoft i-View provides a feature which requires the user to assign a matching security code as both a password for network access and as a security tag in the central processing unit (CPU) of the PAC. When ProSoft i-View launches, the security code must match that on the CPU in order to create a connection. ProSoft i-View also supports the retina display feature of the iPhone 4 and iPod touch fourth generation.

ProSoft i-View works in conjunction with the industrial hotspot series of radios or industrial cellular series. Cumulative security features are offered by these industrial grade wireless solutions, as well as the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch devices themselves, to prevent unauthorised access to the network. ProSoft Technology's industrial hotspot radios feature WPA2-PSK and 802.11i RADIUS security, which prevent unauthorised access and modification to the network.

For plant engineers, this solution enables: live monitoring of process data to engineers and plant floor operators; secure remote monitoring and modification of live process data; and real-time alarm management.[Page Break]

Pipeline monitoring

Sinopec's Zhenhai refinery is one of the biggest ethylene projects in China with 23,000,000 t/y oil refining capability and 1,000,000 t/y ethylene producing capability.

The refinery has implemented Honeywell's OneWireless solutions to measure temperature along its 7.6km pipeline and gained several benefits including: real-time temperature measurement; efficient wireless network management; time and cost savings; and an ability to easily add new wireless measurement points in the future.

The pipeline was put into operation in February 2010. Its operation temperature environment is around -100°C. The low temperature tank farm is one of the associated facilities, supporting material feeding for the ethylene downstream facilities, and supply/demand buffer among the equipment, such as ethylene low temperature tank farm, propylene low temperature tank farm, refrigeration system and product transport system.

The measurement points are located at every kilometre along the pipeline. With a wired approach, the customer would need to lay a large amount of cable, cable tray and conduit, and power supply installation would be very difficult. So the customer selected Honeywell's OneWireless solution, which does not need any cable, wire, junction box or cabinet, and offers quick and efficient installation.

Honeywell's OneWireless solution was applied to measure the temperature of the 7.6km pipeline between the deck and low temperature ethylene tank farm. The pipeline is made of 304 carbon steel and will be operating under the temperature environment of -150 to -100°C with 325mm diameter and 4.5mm wall thickness. By measuring the real-time temperature data, the operator can ensure smooth operation of the pipeline and avoid incidents. The temperature data is integrated into the low temperature tank farm control system, supporting real-time monitoring.

Honeywell provided three multi-nodes, five wireless temperature transmitters and one wireless platform for this project. The five wireless transmitters were mounted along the pipeline (five metres above ground). The three multi-nodes were mounted on the roof of the tank farm control room, one kilometre from the control room and 700 metres from the deck, communicating with each other to form the self-organising and self-heating mesh wireless backbone network. The multinode located on the roof of control room acted as a gateway and wired into the tank farm control system through standard Modbus RS485 communication protocol to support data integration.[Page Break]

The OneWireless platform was installed in the tank farm control room, supporting online wireless network status monitoring and diagnostics, wireless transmitter configuration and calibration, and wireless network security.

Finally, the latest offering from ELPRO is its 915U-2 wireless mesh, whose gateway functionality provides reliability of secure, scalable, mesh distance communications.

Featuring ELPRO WIBMesh technology, the 915U-2 IP based addressing provides mesh/self-healing of network communications, multi-hop repeating and remote over the air re-configuration and diagnostics.

The 915U-2 is further complemented by its ease of commissioning and integration into existing plant infrastructure.

Its features include: 902-928MHz, FHSS, IP based, wireless mesh technology to 115 kbps; self-healing, repeatable, secure communications to 128bit AES; user-friendly operation with self discovery of radio path and expansion I/O; remote over the air re-configuration, firmware upgrade and fault analysis; scalable, simple to complex, point to multipoint network design; gather-scatter/block mapping technology for ease of system integration; cost-effective gateway functionality via feature key upgrade; and system-wide view, localised I/O referencing, and printing/exporting of configurations. Country specific sub-bands options are also available.

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