Industrial Ethernet switches support huge China water transfer project

What are key considerations to optimize your next industrial Ethernet implementation? Looking at how Ethernet is used in this China water transfer project could help with your next Ethernet project.


Key considerations to optimizing an industrial Ethernet implementation are often application dependent. A very large project in China provides a good example of a project where industrial-strength products were absolutely mandatory and where Ethernet was chosen because of its ability to provide a long-term, easily deployed, and cost-effective solution.

Shanghai Bluebird M&E Co. Ltd. South to North Water Transfer Project completion is scheduled for 2050; network products must be future-proof. Courtesy: GarrettCom

The South to North Water Transfer Project is an ambitious century-long project that will bring water from southern China to northern China via three canal routes. Started in the late 1950s, and with final project completion scheduled for 2050, the project’s network products must be future-proof. Ethernet, the ubiquitous and standards-based networking protocol, was the obvious choice. Already more than 30 years old, Ethernet is a worldwide networking standard that has evolved to meet the changing requirements of networking while maintaining backwards compatibility. As the eastern route to Tianjin approaches completion, the network supporting this segment is being installed at a central control room in Henan Province as well as throughout all of the small control rooms located along the canal through Hubei, Henan, Hebei, and Beijing provinces. The design calls for a star topology with the hub in the central control room and redundant links connecting the series of industrial PLCs.

Fiber and copper cabling were used: copper for connectivity to the PLCs in the pump stations, and fiber from canal station to canal station, where its ability to transmit for distances up to 2 km at 100 Mbps and 70 km at 1 Gb made it the most viable choice.

The shortest (eastern) route stretches to Tianjin and is closest to completion. Full operation is expected within the next few years. To control and manage hundreds of pump stations, Shanghai Bluebird M&E Co. Ltd. needed to design a network to withstand extreme environments—with high temperatures and very dirty and dusty conditions. 

Bluebird chose a gigabit-managed backbone switch, configurable with up to 8 gigabit ports, for the central control center, and deployed smaller managed-edge switches and mixed-media managed Ethernet switches in the canal pumping stations. Bluebird wanted the flexibility of managed switches and noted that managed switch software supports cyber security features as well as industry-standard RSTP-2004 protocol for redundant meshes.

Because the field installations were often in areas that were dirty, dusty, and subject to exposure to water, all the switches chosen for the pumping stations required industrial-rated designs with convection cooling that supports an IP52 rating against dust and dripping water.

While no specific return on investment (ROI) calculation was reported, it makes sense to argue that to ensure a secure and continuous water supply from the water transfer project, factors such as standards-based for future proofing; the flexibility afforded from managed systems that could be monitored and modified from afar; and a high MTBF, along with redundancy and the ability to withstand harsh atmospheric conditions over long periods, thus reducing truck rolls for maintenance and service, helped in the final decision to use industrial-rated Ethernet switches.

Ethernet technology note: China Water Transfer Project, Shanghai Bluebird M+E

Shanghai Bluebird M+E Co. Ltd. chose GarrettCom Magnum 6K25e gigabit-managed backbone switch, configurable with up to 8 gigabit ports, for the China Water Transfer Project central control center. Smaller GarrettCom Magnum 6KQ managed-edge switches and 6K16 mixed-media managed Ethernet switches were used in canal pumping stations.

- Jim Krachenfels is GarrettCom marketing manager. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering, 

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