Proliferating Applications for Wireless Instrumentation

Emerson’s Jonas Berge, whom I’ve highlighted many times on this blog, is at it again with another great article in Industrial Automation Asia magazine. The article, Wireless Sensor Networks: All In One describes the IEC 62591 WirelessHART communications standard and how plants are applying this technology. In fact, I counted seven application examples he cited in the piece.

Jonas highlights some technical aspects of the WirelessHART standard including single gateway for all devices, which enables native connection to control systems and PLCs. It eliminates the need for multiple gateways and drivers. As devices are added to a wireless network, they are automatically included into the existing wireless mesh. I describe some of the technical aspects of this standard in an earlier post, Designing Communications Reliability into the WirelessHART Standard.

Jonas notes the growing number and types of wireless devices available:

Many manufacturers provide a selection of the standard’s transmitters for flow, level, valve position, pH, conductivity, discrete, vibration, temperature, multiple temperature points, and pressure. Level switch and valve position monitoring as well as wireless adapters for hardwired devices are also available.

This diversity of wireless instrumentation leads to the growing number of ways these devices are being applied. I’ll highlight a few of the applications from the article.

In a process safety monitoring application:

An unmanned offshore platform in India required remote position indication for the Emergency Shut-Down (ESD) blow down valves. Laying new cable and installing additional field junction boxes for hardwired devices on this operating platform would have been costly and risked damaging existing equipment and cabling.

For turbine performance:

A company in India performs turbine performance analysis, going from plant to plant on a periodic basis. In the past, time was lost due to the need to wire the temperature and pressure sensors to the data acquisition system. Using the standard completely eliminated this time consuming and error-prone step, resulting in reduced testing time and improved productivity.

Finding pipeline cold spots:

A jetty at a bitumen loading terminal in Australia had problems with cold spots along a 900 metre long heated pipeline, which caused the bitumen to solidify and stop flowing. Transmitters were installed along the pier to measure and relay data back to the operators. This resulted in catching potential problems before blockage occurred. Hardwired devices and cable trays along the jetty would have been more expensive due to the difficulty of laying the cable.

Other applications from the article include level measurement in a remote utilities area, rotating equipment process variable (PV) measurement, oil & gas well flow and pressure measurement, and conveyor belt monitoring.

Given the proliferating types of devices and the number of automation suppliers providing them, more applications will continue to be found to help solve the issues plant engineers face. Give the article a read for ideas for your plant or mill.

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