Wireless Mesh Helps U.K. Petroleum Refinery Increase Operational Visibility

In the United Kingdom, Murco Petroleum Limited's Milford Haven refinery recently announced a new wireless network to assist in monitoring offsite operations that deal with large amounts of flammable gas and liquid. The network features explosion-proof and intrinsically safe technologies from the U.K.'s Extronics and integrated wireless mesh networking nodes from Los Gatos, Calif.-based Firetide Inc. As a whole, the system is designed to improve operational efficiencies throughout the facility while protecting the site and employees from accidents.

Plano, Tex.-based Invensys Process Systems (IPS) – a technology, software and consulting firm with a major presence in industrial process manufacturing, plant optimization, and business operations – won the original turnkey system contract from U.K.-based Murco. IPS turned to Extronics to supply networking solutions that can be deployed in hazardous areas where even the smallest electrical spark can literally have explosive consequences.

Murco's Milford Haven offsite operations facility is a critical component of the refinery's overall production process. The site manages the handling, storage and transfer of highly combustible materials at tank farms and terminals. More than 1,500 manual valves around the facility perform a wide variety of functions, many of which require exact positioning to ensure liquids are directed accurately and safely through a network of pipes.

Using a wireless solution, operators at Milford Haven employ mobile equipment such as rugged wireless Windows Mobile PDAs and RFID tags to immediately relay valve status information back to a central control room and view the status on a process mimic on the site's DCS (Distributed Control Process). The system also enables real-time work scheduling so operators can pick up a new route to work on and provide their status at the same time.

Wireless is a network infrastructure solution in hazardous environments because it reduces or eliminates long trails of electrical cabling. Extronics chose Firetide, which develops advanced wireless mesh technologies for almost any environment, as the network delivery system for several reasons.

In total, Extronics deployed 15 Firetide wireless mesh nodes. Each node is housed in an Extronics 316L stainless steel explosion-proof enclosure along with protection electronics to allow the use of standard antennas. Thermostatically controlled anti-condensation heaters offered further protection against the hazardous area extreme environment.
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