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Industrial Wireless Cost Savings: A Tank Farm Example


For many industrial sites new instrumented automation and monitoring projects have become increasingly difficult to justify in a challenging economy. Much of the return on invement (ROI) for control and instrumentation initiatives has long since been harvested, often making it difficult for projects employing new generation technologies to move forward.
Today’s wireless networks hold the key to unlocking value in industrial facilities and for enabling a mobile and more efficient workforce. Companies can now utilize industrial wireless systems to optimize productivity and reliability, improve safety and security, and ensure regulatory compliance.

Increasingly, the adoption of industrial wireless technologies is changing the economics of operational investments. In some cases, deploying a wireless network versus a wired solution can cut instrumentation project costs in half. And in situations where speed-of-deployment and time-to-revenue are critical, wireless is by far the best alternative.


Valuable Applications to Apply Wireless Technology

A growing number of process industries recognize the value of wireless measurement and equipment monitoring, and the way it can serve more reliably in applications where wiring often brings not only added cost, but also high maintenance and unreliability. With a wireless approach, plant infrastructure investments reduce immediately, and the ROI can be significant. Projects that previously could not occur now become immediately worthwhile.

The appeal of wireless technologies for industrial monitoring and control is strong. You can reach equipment whose motion or remoteness makes hard wiring impractical. You can integrate systems in which physical layouts, overstuffed cable trays or expensive trenching mean that wired alternatives add up to more expense than communicating through the air. In general, you can add devices faster than is possible with wires.

Figure 1. Today’s wireless network applications and sensors deliver powerful new capabilities improving plant efficiency, reliability and safety.


Figure 1. Today’s wireless network applications and sensors deliver powerful new capabilities improving plant efficiency, reliability and safety.


 An ultra-secure and ultra-reliable wireless network infrastructure supports all types of plant safety, reliability and efficiency requirements. These include:

  • Equipment health monitoring – preventing premature failure of rotating equipment by monitoring vibration
  • Alerting – indication when a safety shower is used or when employees enter unsafe environments
  • Inventory management – monitoring valve position, tank level and other measurements during product movement
  • Closed-loop measurement – with wireless communications occuring in one second or less , non-critical measurement and control can occur
  • Wireless SCADA – improve the speed of communication of remote field measurements and span transmission distances of several miles to supervisory control systems
  • Mobile operator – allowing process control to take place in the field with portable, wireless tablet computers, real-time field observations can be acted upon
  • Security monitoring – easily improve security with wireless monitoring of gates, motion detection and video surveillance
  • Environmental compliance – remotely monitor air and water discarge points to prevent excursions and ensure regulatory compliance
  • Video surveillance – establish perimeter security with remote video cameras
  • Enterprise asset management


Example of Cost Savings

Industry studies have shown wireless technology delivers significant cost savings over the life of a project. Overall, the cost of a wireless solution can be 50% of the cost of a wired installation. In challenging economic times, these savings are an important bottom-line consideration.

In addition to delivering significant labor and material cost reductions, deploying wireless networks can be done much faster and with lower project management overhead. Once installed, wireless networks can be easily and inexpensively expanded to include additional measurements points for simply the cost of the transmitter. With an installed wireless network this investment can be further leveraged by providing wireless coverage in different parts of the plant, including WiFi coverage at no additional cost.

Wireless technology further reduces costs by shortening the time required for installation and project execution. Installation of wireless devices in the field can occur in a fraction of the time needed to install wired systems. Plus, wireless solutions minimize dependency on and coordination with subcontractors; change orders are easily and quickly accommodated at a low cost.


Additional User Benefits

Just as Marconi’s revolutionary telegraph technology eliminated the need to erect poles for wired communication, modern industrial wireless networks simplify instrument installation requirements when compared to conventional wired networking, while also improving reliability and productivity.

End users implementing industrial wireless technology can expect the following benefits:

  • User mobility—access when and where users need it
  • Return on investment superior to wired network
  • Reduced total cost of ownership, including original investment and technology migrations
  • High-speed, facility-wide connections where LAN links weren't traditionally feasible or cost prohibitive
  • Elimination or reduction of monthly recurring cost associated with traditional carriers
  • Extended range for existing networks
  • Flexible, low cost temporary LANs
  • Short haul, high-speed, low cost wireless bridging solutions

Today’s wireless network applications and sensors deliver powerful new capabilities enabling end users to improve plant performance. Wireless solutions not only provide advanced sensing, but also help users make decisions that positively impacting their overall business objectives.

The benefits of wireless technology go far beyond saving on installation and wiring costs. Wireless helps plant operators gather field data more easily, increase asset life through continuous monitoring, and improve the safety of their most important assets—their people.

The principal advantage around wireless is the ability to accumulate and analyze a much greater array of data than would otherwise be economically possible. Wireless enables users to get more data more easily, and more economically, than they ever have in the past.

Wireless field devices allow operators to be more efficient, collecting data from one central point as opposed to walking around the tank farm and recording all the values. The other advantage of wireless instruments is that they supply data continuously for recording in the plant historian, allowing operators to see what is happening in the tank farm at any time of the day or night.

Wireless is also an important enabler for “plant of the future” technologies. It helps industrial facilities deploy the type of mobile operator, instrumentation, sensors, and analytical devices needed for field operations control, security monitoring, equipment condition monitoring to support predictive maintenance, tracking raw materials through the value chain, and a host of other applications.


Latest Wireless Network Solutions

The latest industrial wireless solutions allow end-users to install a single, high-performance, wireless network for monitoring applications with the flexibility to add more critical applications when and if they are ready. By extending the range and lowering the costs of plant and process network communications, wireless network technology offers a tremendous opportunity to realize significant improvements in overall efficiency.

Figure 2. The latest industrial wireless solutions allow end-users to install a single, high-performance, plantwide wireless network.

Figure 2. The latest industrial wireless solutions allow end-users to install a single, high-performance, plantwide wireless network.


An industrial wireless infrastructure based on a mesh network design is universal with one network supporting multiple applications, using multiple protocols simultaneously, to serve the needs of multiple departments in the plant Having one network makes network management simple - one system to learn, operate and maintain and efficient - one platform enabling many applications with optimum bandwidth utilization and scalability. With just one network required to support multiple applications, deployment, network maintenance, and security management are also simplified.

Wireless transmitters and sensors can deliver better, more timely data to the control system, predictive maintenance tool or asset management application. Wireless technology also enables mobility. Operators in the field are now able to see the control system and review standard operating conditions, procedures, and corrective actions in real-time as they make field adjustments. Security departments are using wireless as a means to safeguard their facility and achieve timely compliance with security regulations. Other technologies and applications such as Voice-over-IP (VOIP) communications and asset tracking use wireless to enable significant productivity gains.

Today’s wireless mesh networks can be self-organizing, self-healing and self-sustaining, using a network of nodes to achieve blanket coverage of an area. Each node can communicate with any other node, so if one fails, the network can re-route data and connectivity is not lost. Advancements in wireless technologies and standards—such as ISA100, MEMS, miniaturization, batteries, energy harvesting, and data analysis—also contribute to robust performance and reliability. Better measurements of key data points, analyzed and delivered more quickly, can lead to better decisions solving critical production problems.

Figure 3. Wireless mesh sensor networks can be self-organizing, self-healing and self-sustaining, using a network of nodes to achieve blanket coverage of an area.

Figure 3. Wireless mesh sensor networks can be self-organizing, self-healing and self-sustaining, using a network of nodes to achieve blanket coverage of an area.


The current breed of wireless network solutions optimize performance with efficient use of the dedicated industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio frequency band and priorite messages so critical information is received first. Thanks to a high-speed and self-organizing mesh network, users achieve flexible channel allocation and a robust architecture with latency control and redundancy for safe wireless control.

One leading automation supplier, Honeywell Process Solutions, has pioneered a new generation of battery-powered wireless field devices operating with 10-years of battery life in most applications. These devices perform in regulatory control loops or very high-speed monitoring applications. This high level of performance is achieved with very short latencies. This means that from the time a measurement is made, to the time the control system has the data, only one second has transpired. These wireless field devices communicate directly with a new line-powered wireless field infrastructure, which can be as small as a single node for entry-level applications, but will form a mesh network of nodes as installations grow.

Honeywell’s OneWireless mesh network deploys wireless access points that delivery flexibility in one wireless network. Each wireless accesspoint includes three radios – one for communications with traditional transmitters, a second radio for communications with WiFi devices and a third radio for high-speed backhaul communication of field data.


Selecting a Wireless Partner

The decision to implement wireless technology at a terminal or tank farm is a strategic choice, enabling an overall asset monitoring and control strategy that will provide significant performance and economic benefits beyond avoiding wiring costs. The right decision will help improve safety, optimize the facility and ensure compliance.
Most industrial sites implementing wireless are very satisfied with their first applications and adding more wireless applications throughout the operation. Ensuring performance, security and reliability for many wireless applications can be complex, however. Without expertise and a common and scalable wireless management infrastructure, end users will find it difficult to deploy, manage and maintain their wireless applications. Your supplier should have:

  • Experience implementing wireless systems in industrial environments
  • An integrated solution, including field devices, wireless network and integration with client system
  • Desired performance such as communication speed, device battery life, security and reliability

Among major control system and instrumentation suppliers, Honeywell has taken a leading role in supporting the advancement of industrial wireless. Honeywell is a charter member of the ISA SP100 committee, WINA and ZigBee. It was also the first distributed control system (DCS) supplier to provide a wireless solution to its customers, installing over 35 million wireless devices worldwide. These wireless installations have logged more than 500,000,000 operating hours

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