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IPS technology used to achieve compliance

09 January 2009

Invensys Process Systems (IPS) has implemented an innovative solution that will help William Grant & Sons, an award-wining, family-owned distiller founded in Scotland in 1886, to control and monitor ground water extraction using remote wireless technology.

IPS technology used to achieve compliance
IPS technology used to achieve compliance

United Kingdom and European Union regulations ensure that water resources are safeguarded and that extractions do not damage the environment. The William Grant & Sons distillery in Girvan in southwest Scotland is licensed to draw water from several underground sources. The company is keen to make best use of this water, both to ensure sustainability and to maintain maximum production and quality, so it engaged IPS to develop an environmentally friendly solution that would control remote borehole pumps from the floor of the distillery.

Unauthorised water extraction can shorten supply, increase pollution, damage wildlife habitats and, ultimately, lead to the loss of rivers. Because the boreholes are located in some of Scotland’s most beautiful countryside, the IPS solution had to be unobtrusive and keep with the natural surroundings.
To comply with the licensing requirements, water flow and level in the boreholes had to be monitored so that pumps could be turned on and off from the distillery control room. The demands of the application required special communications expertise. After a thorough appraisal, IPS implemented a wireless system on the 5GHz-licensed radio band that provides reliable communication with the borehole pumps, as well as keeps interference with existing wireless networks to a minimum.

“Utilising wireless communication for data transfer and remote control was the natural choice for this project, particularly considering our clients’ commitment to protecting the environment. However, using wireless over extended distances and maintaining reliability demands a thorough understanding of the technology,” said Gary Williams, IPS Principal Consultant.

Choosing a 5GHz private wireless network was the key because it provides the distance required to communicate reliably with the boreholes and because the operating frequency is different from conventional WiFi networks, keeping interference to a minimum. Small and unobtrusive antennae are being used at each location, ensuring minimal impact on the rural surroundings, and IPS have also employed mesh technology, enabling all locations to communicate over multiple paths, thereby ensuring resilience and redundancy.

“IPS fully understood our requirements, and I am pleased to report that the project has been completed. Our wireless communications were working as predicted at first power-up,” said Julian Pye, William Grant and Sons’ Brewing and Utilities Teams leader at the Girvan Distillery. “The wireless solution IPS provided is highly secure and offers ease of expandability so that additional boreholes or other remote plant installations can be added. Our investment also gives us the opportunity to integrate other systems onto the wireless infrastructure, such as video and voice networks for site security and safety.”

As a surprise to everyone, the project was made additionally complicated by the presence of Pipistrelle bats that have temporarily halted work at two of the borehole pump houses. Aware of the benefit these creatures provide to the local ecosystem, William Grant & Sons contacted a bat expert who reported that the bat roosts in the pump houses were at that time unoccupied, but would almost certainly be reoccupied in the future. He also confirmed that the wireless installation work would not disturb the bats to any significant extent, and therefore the project could be completed.

These animals can consume up to 3,000 insects in a night, but pose no threat to a borehole pump house or the equipment in it. The bats will be able to reoccupy the pump houses in subsequent years without interfering with the distillery’s operations.

“IPS have a real depth of experience in developing wireless systems solutions worldwide, especially when used in the control field,” Williams said. “No two projects and solutions are the same, and that’s what makes these implementations so interesting and challenging. Who would have thought that we would have to consider the impact our solutions will have on the local bat population before we go live?”

Although two sites are on hold because of the bats, the remainder of the network is communicating over the wireless mesh. IPS has calculated that once the remaining sites are brought online, the redundancy of the wireless network will be tripled, ensuring that multiple paths from the distillery to the borehole pump houses and back to the distillery remain open. One failed transmitter will not stop signals being sent and received.

The installed system is functioning exactly as intended and has already proven its value to William Grant & Sons by enabling water supply to be matched to the distillery’s needs daily or hourly.

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