Adding Wireless Sensors for Health, Safety and Environment

Emerson's Jonas Berge


Wireless communications have changed everything from the way we listen to music to the way information is collected and disseminated. For process manufacturing and production plants, it means more the process can be sensed beyond traditional monitoring and control applications.

Plant Modernization for Health, Safety and EnvironmentIn a Control Engineering Asia article, Plant Modernization for Health, Safety and Environment, Emerson’s Jonas Berge shares examples where wireless technologies reduce operational and environmental risks.

Jonas opens describing potential areas of risk:

  • Manual valves in the wrong position
  • Coal pile fires
  • Storage tanks damage
  • Emergency safety shower or eyewash station activation
  • Field operators making frequent rounds
  • Hydrocarbon leaks and spills
  • Relief valve releases

Manual valves, when not checked and verified to be in the correct position, can lead to accidents or shutdowns.

For instance, if product transfer valves in tank farms are not lined up correctly, it may result in product being pumped into the wrong tank resulting in overfill, spill, and possibly fire or explosion. Part of the problem is that field operator actions are not logged in the control system, and instead rely on manual record keeping which may be omitted or lost and therefore not passed on to the next shift or crew.

Wireless valve position monitors on these manual valves can help the operations staff that the valves are in the correct position. Jonas highlights some of safety-related wireless application such as coal pile temperature monitoring with wireless temperature transmitters mounted on “spears”. Monitoring storage tank pressure/vacuum relief valve and tank blanking valves are other applications.

For monitoring the health of plant personnel, emergency shower and eyewash station valves can be monitored for when the valve opens. For testing and regulatory reporting, these events can be captured and timestamped back at the control system. Adding sensors to hazardous process areas can also reduce the time spent conducting manual rounds in these areas.

From an environmental perspective, wireless sensors can provide early detection of:

Faulty pump seals, worn valve stem packings, tank overfill or tank damage, such as a corroded tank bottom…

Jonas points to other health, safety and environment opportunities for additional wireless sensors:

  • Lube oil cooler leak
  • Fire protection system CO2 pressure
  • Fire hydrant line pressure monitoring
  • Secondary level overfill prevention
  • Corrosion

Jonas concludes the article:

Wireless transmitters make it possible to detect risks in the plant that could lead to incidents. Not designing a new plant or modernizing an existing for situational awareness may result in unnecessary incidents. Contact an HS&E expert with instrumentation know-how to audit your existing plant or new plant design to identify which HS&E solutions are recommended and to get an estimate of the cost for your plant.

You can connect and interact with other wireless experts in the Wireless group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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