Australian terminal keeps bitumen flowing

Emerson Automation Solutions
Saturday, 06 December, 2008

At Terminals Pty Ltd’s facility in Geelong, bitumen is unloaded from ships through a pipeline 900 m long and 200 mm in diameter. Because bitumen solidifies at ambient temperature, electric heaters operate all along the pipeline to keep the bitumen hot (160 ºC) and fluid. If a heater fails, a cold spot could form, causing the bitumen to solidify and plug the line, an expensive problem.

“We needed to monitor the bitumen line,” according to Bitumen Terminal project manager Joe Siklic, “to make the operators aware of cooling anywhere in the line from the ship to the storage facility, which could result in an emergency shutdown. Any delay in unloading could keep a ship at the pier longer than planned with demurrage costing up to $30,000 per day.”

The terminal chose wireless technology, Siklic says, for its lower initial cost and minimal maintenance as compared with hard wiring. Eight Rosemount wireless temperature transmitters are evenly spaced along the pipeline, sending temperature readings on one-minute intervals to a Smart Wireless Gateway on shore that channels data to the AMS Suite predictive maintenance software used for instrument configuration and performance monitoring. The collected data also are forwarded to a SCADA system in the terminal control centrr via fibre-optic cable.

Due to the self-organising nature of this technology, each wireless device acts as a router for other nearby devices, passing the signals along until they reach their destination. If there is an obstruction, transmissions are simply rerouted along the mesh network until a clear path to the Smart Wireless Gateway is found. All of this happens automatically, without any involvement by the user, providing redundant communication paths and better reliability than direct, line-of-sight communications between individual devices and their gateways.

“This is an ideal application for wireless,” Siklic said. ”Since numerous paths exist to carry the transmissions, the network would easily compensate for a transmitter failure, and the operators would be warned. This wireless network has proved to be reliable, compatible with existing control equipment and cost effective.”

Emerson Process Management

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