Wireless Sensors for Remote Monitoring Applications

Wireless devices to measure process variables such as pressure, temperature, flow, and level have been around since the WirelessHART standard was adopted in 2007 and approved as an international standard, IEC 62591 in 2010.

Given the intervening years since this technology and standard came into our world of process instrumentation and automation, many applications have been installed and proven.

Emerson's Haitham Madian

Haitham Madian
Wireless Solutions Architect

Remote-SensingIn a Wireless Design & Development magazine article, Remote Sensing with WirelessHART Process Transmitters, Emerson’s Haitham Madian highlights applications where process manufacturers and producers have reduced implementation time, project costs, and maintenance costs.

He opens by describing an automated wellhead monitoring application:

…to safely monitor production to ensure product flows continue uninterrupted in a safe manner. They [wellhead wireless sensors] also help guard against over injection, which wastes energy and resources, and possible damage to the well. Remote monitoring also minimizes under injection, which can cause production loss.

Haitham contrasts a wired and wireless approach to sensors. In a wired approach, the transmitter sends data through a twister pair of wires to a distributed control system or other host. Where infrastructure such as cable trays, junction boxes, conduit and other components is not available, the difficulty and cost of installation can be significant.

With wireless devices:

…a radio and antenna convert electronic signals from the transmitter into radio waves, and another antenna and radio at the host convert the waves back into usable information.

Battery-powered wireless transmitters, on the other hand, can be quickly and inexpensively installed anywhere, such as on an offshore platform.

Some applications he highlights include offshore wellhead monitoring, tank farm monitoring, and onshore well monitoring. Oil & gas producer Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) had more than 200 production wells on 50 offshore platforms. Many platforms had limited or no instrumentation power and communications infrastructure to move data back to onshore operations personnel.

Monitoring was done by operating personnel:

…sent each day by boat to platforms up to 50 miles from shore to gather data. This approach was costly, subject to unfavorable weather conditions, delayed important decision-making, and created safety risks.

Wireless sensors and instrumentation was installed:

…to obtain pressure, temperature, and valve position data. The instrumentation on each platform sends wireless data to a local gateway, which transmits the data via satellite to the control system.

In the tank farm application example, a:

…Swedish refinery was using wireless instruments to monitor and control its remote tank farm… but there was no direct Wi-Fi access from the refinery’s main control room to the tank farm gateway. To monitor the wireless network status and configure devices, instrument technicians had to go into the field, and work permits and keys were required for entering the locked facility.

A wireless plant network was added to provide a Wi-Fi connection between the tank farm and central control room, which [hyperlinks added]:

…enables an operator to access the wireless network from any place in the control room or throughout the facility via a laptop equipped with Emerson’s AMS wireless configurator, AMS wireless Snap-On, or TankMaster software.

You can read the article to see Haitham’s third example monitoring widely dispersed onshore oil wells. You can also connect and interact with other wireless experts in the Wireless group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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