Benefits of wireless reach a wider audience

Paul Boughton

The importance of wireless communication continues to grow as its health, safety and cost benefits gain wider appreciation, Sean Ottewell reports.

Apprion has completed an expanded wireless system of tank gauge monitoring capabilities for Huntsman Corporation's manufacturing facility in Port Neches, Texas, USA.

The enhanced infrastructure at the facility includes the ION tank gauging application, additional Apprion IONizers and more wireless monitoring and safety devices throughout.

Apprion first deployed the industrial wireless infrastructure in 2009 as a part of Huntsman's project zero safety plan to eliminate injuries, defects, and environmental releases at the facility.

The Port Neches facility extended its wireless application infrastructure with additional applications that provide highly reliable tank gauging capabilities to gather data remotely in real-time from tanks in the facility.[Page Break]

The extended system combines the ION tank gauging technology with the existing wireless ION system infrastructure and ION mobility application for a fully integrated solution and further extends the infrastructure to easily add more applications in the future. The ION tank gauging application is one of many in Apprion's fast-growing family of industrial applications, which encompass applications for asset location, communications, system monitoring, video and mobility.

Prior to this implementation, the tank gauge data collection process at Huntsman Port Neches required proactive manual access, often in locations that were technically difficult for operators to reach. Huntsman implemented the ION tank gauging application to unify disparate tank gauging hardware technologies into a single dashboard for a complete view of tank conditions and status. By combining the existing ION System infrastructure with additional WiHART IONizers for tank gauging, and integrating these with the ION System dashboard, personnel have easy access to tank gauging data from all tanks in the facility that previously required manual access.

Data collection and remote monitoring is much more efficient, cost effective and safe than it was previously. Huntsman personnel have a dashboard view into critical tank data, leading to accurate measurement and monitoring of inventory levels and a dramatic decline in loss from environmental incidents. With the ION tank gauging application, operators can now easily monitor remote control stations and are no longer required to execute time-consuming, inefficient, error-prone manual data collection processes.[Page Break]

Cost benefits

Emerson Process Management says that tank farm automation is now easier, faster and less costly with the integration of its Rosemount Raptor tank gauging systems and smart wireless technology.

System installation costs can be reduced up to 50 per cent by wirelessly connecting the tank farm to the control room, with the added benefit of reducing implementation time as much as 60 per cent. The savings free up budget for expanded automation of tank farms, says the company (Fig.1).

The Raptor system with smart wireless technology features a complete line of Emerson's new state-of-the-art Rosemount tank gauging components, including high precision radar gauges that use self-configuring, two-wire, high speed Foundation Fieldbus technology. The combined communications technologies enable use of a wide range of standardised equipment. The resulting Raptor system forms a network of digital intelligence that improves inventory management, loss control, overfill avoidance, and maintenance efficiency throughout the plant.

Many tank storage facilities that could benefit from modern, non-contact gauging currently use obsolete signal wiring, or are not connected from the tank storage area.[Page Break]

Retrofitting an obsolete gauging system is expensive and time consuming because the distance between storage tanks and the control room can be more than one kilometre, requiring extensive trenching and cabling.

As a result of budget restrictions, some plants continue to experience maintenance problems caused by communications limitations and low performing mechanical tank gauges and instruments. Now, with Smart Wireless technology, a new radar-based Raptor system can be installed without new long distance signal wiring. This will radically reduce material and labour costs, as well as engineering and project execution time.

"The wireless-empowered tank gauging systems are effective in new installations or for upgrading existing sites," commented Mikael Inglund, technical product manager, Emerson Process Management. "Our customers struggle with costs of replacing aged wiring, obsolete measurement instruments, and proprietary gauging systems. Our wireless Raptor systems give them the flexibility and freedom to implement an effective modernisation strategy. They can be changed out and wirelessly integrate new gauging systems one tank at a time. Most upgrades are done without taking the tank farm out of service."[Page Break]


Emerson has also released Mobile Worker: Voice and Video, a communications technology designed to help process manufacturers save time and money on plant maintenance and trouble-shooting by bringing the problem to the experts rather than bringing the experts to the problem.

In the face of reduced plant work forces, more experienced personnel nearing retirement age, and increasing travel costs, Emerson partnered with AudiSoft to deliver a hands-free, high-definition voice and video solution that plant personnel can wear into remote field locations anywhere in the world.

From the problem area, the field engineer can securely visually and verbally communicate live via a wi-fi access point, cellular, or satellite wireless connection with remote experts who, from their laptop or PC, can see and diagnose the problem, then instruct the field engineer through the problem's resolution.[Page Break]

Instand data and voice communications

In today's competitive and highly volatile energy markets, it is imperative that oil and gas companies optimise their exploration and production activities. Fast decisions, facilitated by instant data and voice communications, are keys to sustained revenue generation and cost reduction.

Much of today's oil and natural gas production occurs in largely remote areas of the world beyond the economic range of traditional wired communications. Oil and gas companies must regularly collect critical data from remote well sites, offshore drilling platforms, and outlying production locations, and from SCADA systems set up to monitor facilities, such as storage tanks, pumping stations, or pipelines. Company personnel require training in high-speed voice and fax services, email and web browsing. Establishing the required broadband network links between multiple locations can be extremely difficult and cost-prohibitive, given that these activities generally occur where wireline links are not practical.

The answer to these business problems is EION's wireless broadband access infrastructure. Providing flexible and reliable wireless connectivity not only ensures reliable data, voice, and video, but delivers a return on investment in short order - measurable by reduced costs and increased revenue, as well as peace of mind.

According to EION, overall benefits include: eliminating the massive costs and deployment delays of traditional wireless solutions; quick deployment and reconfiguration; rugged enclosures for demanding applications; portability; high-throughput wireless network enables multiple applications including SCADA, internet access, email, voice-over IP, video conferencing and video surveillance; no wire clutter; and a proven track record.

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