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First offshore wireless installation in Europe

26 August 2008

The Grane platform, operated by StatoilHydro, is located in the Norwegian Sea off the coast of Bergen in Norway. It has successfully installed Emerson Process Management’s wireless self-organising mesh field network to monitor wellhead annual pressure and heat exchanger pressures.

Emerson says that its self-organising wireless mesh technology is ideally suited to the application of wireless technology, enabling remote monitoring and control of the process in difficult to reach areas. The company believes that the network on the Grane platform is the first offshore wireless installation in Europe.

"We had some concerns that this new technology would work reliably in the harsh environment of our offshore platform," said Geir Leon Vadheim, instrument lead, Grane operations, StatoilHydro. "We also needed to address the issue of how we would integrate the data gathered by the wireless gateway into a third party system. As it turns out, the integration was easy and the performance of the Smart Wireless transmitters has exceeded our expectations."

The wellhead area is crowded with metal pipe work, metal walkways above and below, together with other metal obstructions. Despite the challenging environment, as each transmitter was powered up, the devices found the gateway, and the mesh was established. As new devices were added, they quickly and easily joined the mesh. Signal strength and consistency during the operational period has been described as excellent.

The wireless network enables continuous monitoring of pressures and eliminates the need for daily visits to the wellhead to manually record gauge readings. Continuous monitoring enables unusual readings to be identified earlier and action taken to investigate and rectify faults before they develop into serious problems.

The Smart Wireless network on the platform includes 22 wireless Rosemount pressure transmitters which replace traditional gauges. Ten pressure transmitters are mounted on a wellhead and used to measure annular pressure. A further twelve pressure transmitters monitor inlet pressure and pressure drop over the heat exchanger.

Each transmitter relays data back to the operator consoles in the control room. Installation was quick and easy with a gauge adapter fitting used to allow a direct ‘screw in’ replacement. A wireless gateway was mounted outside the process area on one side of the platform, at a height where it oversees the wellhead area.

"We are delighted with the performance of the Emerson Smart Wireless network in these challenging conditions," added Vadheim. "Following a short training programme, our instrument engineers are very confident about adding more wireless devices to our installation as required. These typically take around two hours to install compared with up to two days for a conventional wired unit."

Following the success of this installation, StatoilHydro is planning to install Emerson Smart Wireless transmitters on other offshore platforms that it operates in the area.

At the heart of Emerson’s Smart Wireless approach is the mesh network. The company says it is secure, infinitely configurable, with data reliability of greater than 99%.

Unlike many approaches to in-plant wireless that require direct line-of-sight between the instrument and the communications gateway, this approach ensures the greatest network integrity by allowing devices to communicate with each other. This means there is no single point of failure, every device serving as a network connector.

In the event a temporary obstruction blocks a direct connection, the network automatically reroutes the signal to an adjacent device, ensuring network reliability and data integrity.

One of the greatest barriers to adopting new technologies or adding new points of measurement is the sheer cost. For every dollar you spend in instrumentation, you spend US$8-9 in labour, materials, engineering and more. One of Emerson’s main selling points is that its approach can save more than 90% over traditional installations – effectively giving ten points of measurement for the price of one wired.

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