Wireless application: Tank farm level sensing allows device portability

Real-life application stories of wireless instrumentation are becoming more common as technology is adopted.


Technochem Environmental Complex Pte. Ltd. (TEC) in Singapore is now using wireless sensors to measure and manage inventory across 14 tanks in its chemical treatment facility.

TEC provides treatment, incineration, and distillation services for chemical wastes generated by pharmaceutical and petrochemical companies. The company is now using Rosemount ( Emerson Process Management ) Smart Wireless pressure sensors to take continuous level measurements from storage and process tanks. Operators can move some of the transmitters from place to place to aid in troubleshooting and development of new processes. Because the wireless instruments are not fixed in position by wiring, Jan Huijben, incineration manager, can take advantage of their mobility and the fact that they can be reinstalled in a matter of minutes.

“If I see a problem in some part of our process, it is fairly simple for me to take a pressure transmitter and move it elsewhere,” says Huijben. “I can often determine what’s going on in just five minutes, address the issue and quickly return the transmitter to its original application. The flexibility of Emerson’s self-organizing wireless technology makes it much easier to troubleshoot problems as well as evaluate new applications.”

When Huijben arrived at TCE slightly more than one year ago, he saw that an accurate tank level measurement system was needed along with an automated method of moving that data into a computer database. In addition to tracking and managing inventories, documentation was necessary to schedule incoming customer delivery and give status of their orders, including assurance that their chemical wastes had been treated and destroyed.

Wired devices were considered initially, but the high cost of wiring, even in this relatively small complex, was a drawback. When the new wireless technology was introduced to TCE’s managers, they were impressed by the ease of installation, the speed with which transmitters could be up and communicating from essentially any spot in the complex, the reliability of the self-organizing network, and the inherent flexibility and mobility of the wireless sensors.

The company says that, since the April, 2008 installation of the wireless transmitters, “clipboard rounds” by operators have been eliminated in favor of more accurate real-time data. This helps provide documentation to verify that specific chemical wastes have been destroyed. Management personnel can access the data via the company network and order changes if necessary. Electronic connection of select data for customers is being developed.

Smart Wireless has turned out to be effective at TEC, and further use is being planned. “At first, we thought this technology was too expensive for us, but we now believe we are saving money with it,” Huijben adds.

—Edited by Peter Welander, process industries editor, PWelander@cfemedia.com ,
Control Engineering Process Instrumentation & Sensors Monthly
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