Emerson: Pervasive Sensing for Safety

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 @ 01:10 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Richard Clark and Dale Mostat know first-hand why pervasive sensing is a safety enhancer.

Their company, Spectra Energy, knew they needed a safer environment for workers after a colleague suffered burns in an accident at a gas facility, said Clark, the maintenance team lead for the PTC Pipeline at Spectra in Saskatchewan, Canada, during a presentation at the 2013 Emerson Global Users Exchange in Dallas, TX.

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The problem, he said, was a small gas facility had a gas leak and the gas would end up stored in the building until one day it exploded. What they wanted to do was to remove the building and expose the wellheads and piping to the elements. While that presented other problems, like having the equipment buried under two to three feet of snow, it also allowed for the gas to not collect in a building which could lead to another explosion.

They still needed to figure out a way to detect if there was a gas leak as that could end up being a safety issue along with continuously losing product. With the open air environment, Clark said their existing technology was not really able to detect a leak if the wind was carrying propane vapors away from the gas head. Plus, when snow fell and the well head would become buried, they not able to detect any data.

Through Emerson’s new ultrasonic wide area gas monitoring device, they were able to find gas leaks much faster to prevent any kind of accidents and save more money.

That real life case history is just one scenario where “pervasive sensing is changing the game in site safety,” said Tom Moser, president of Emerson’s Rosemount Measurement division.

Pervasive sensing is all about there being an increased emphasis on other business-critical issues like equipment reliability, environmental concerns, energy use, security and personnel safety. However, with the cost of monitoring those areas dropping because of the advanced use of wireless technology, there are more sensors that can gather data and therefore there is more capability to learn detailed information.

The problem, though, is data is not good unless it is “actionable information,” said Peter Zornio, chief strategy officer at Emerson. “Pervasive sensing is realtime information throughout the plant.”

Pervasive sensing relies on:
• Innovative sensors that are multivariable and nonintrusive wide area
• Easily commissioned wireless self powered and configuration free
• No maintenance that is accurate, calibration free with lifetime reliability

Nick Jude used pervasive sensing to solve a problem he had at the Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend Minnesota Refinery.

A risk study at the refinery identified 72 high risk pumps, said Jude, the rotating EQ reliability engineer. After further assessment, the number actually grew to 110 pumps. These pumps represent a risk of vapor clouds releasing which could lead to an explosion.

“Priority number one was safety and priority number 2 was reliability,” Jude said. “You can’t have safety without reliability and you can’t have reliability without safety.”

By installing a wireless vibration transmitter and detailing various alarms, they saw an increase in reliability at the refinery.

“This project was to prevent a bad day,” Jude said. “I am happy to say we have gone five years without a pump fire.”