Industrial gas is used in many applications in a process plant. Nitrogen is used for tank blanketing or to eliminate oxygen in a combustible environment. Oxygen can be used in a process reaction or in waste water treatment to eliminate organic compounds. Industrial gases are generally part of utilities, which are often viewed as a commodity. So long as it is available, the is little attention given to it. As a result, there is seldom any process control or instrumentation on these systems. However, the loss of industrial gas supply can have a significant impact on a process. Loss of oxygen can shut a waste treatment plant down. Loss of nitrogen can shut the overall process down. Adding a flow measurement to the industrial gas supply can prevent this from happening.
The remote location of utilities within a process plant often exacerbates the problem with adding controls. Other than power and piping there is not any process equipment nearby. Adding instrumentation wire and conduit can be rather expensive. Again, utilities are a cost center, not a profit center, which makes adding any type of controls a low priority. This makes for a great wireless installation to measure the flow of the industrial gas. The investment required is minimal. Because there has not been any instrumentation here, the risk is low. Other control points can be considered, making the investment rather attractive.
Implementing a wireless system is as simple as adding a gateway and the instruments. The gateway will be located near a control room, which will provide the power. Integration of the gateway into the host will take some wiring and programming work, but this work is minimal, compared to a wired solution. Specific to industrial gas, it is common to find an analog process gauge, which means you already have a process connection. Easy.
There has always been concern with wireless technology and loss of communication. This is certainly true with wireless control systems. However, industrial gas measurement is a great place to test the system. Because there has not been any kind of process control equipment installed, loss of signal will not impact the overall process. The low risk environment will allow people to learn the system without any detrimental impact to the plant.
Once a wireless system is installed in a process area, including utilities, there are many other measurements that are added. As with much process control in utilities, the measurement is desirable, but has been cost prohibitive. Now you have the infrastructure to monitoring pressure, temperature, level, flow, analytical, vibration and valve position of your process. There are even wireless solutions for existing HART instruments in the area to capture stranded HART data. Taking advantage of these opportunities can add significant value to your investment.
Adding a wireless flow measurement to your industrial gas is easy, low risk and provides added benefits. Most importantly, you will know if you have lost your industrial gas supply keeping your process online.
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