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Bitumen pipeline stays hot during ship unloading

18 December 2008

Emerson Process Management’s Smart Wireless solution was chosen by Terminals Pty to monitor temperatures in a 900-metre long 8-inch (200mm) heat-traced pipeline used for unloading bitumen from ships at its Geelong terminal in Australia. It is necessary to make certain the electric heaters are operating all along the pipeline to keep the bitumen hot (160o C) and fluid.

Bitumen pipeline stays hot during ship unloading
Bitumen pipeline stays hot during ship unloading

If a heater fails, a cold spot could form causing the bitumen to solidify, plugging the line with expensive consequences.

“We needed to monitor the bitumen line,” said 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 $43,500 AUS per day.”

The wireless technology was selected, Siklic said, 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 are also forwarded to a Scada system in the terminal control centre 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 re-routed 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 gateway. This self-organising technology optimises data reliability while minimising power consumption.

“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. The amount of structure on the wharf is minimal, and that is another benefit.”

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