Wireless Monitoring from Wellhead Maker

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 @ 03:01 PM gHale

Equipment built for use in oil wells is not only expensive, but often includes potentially hazardous materials.

Because of that, it must undergo closer monitoring, on a manufacturer’s site and as it leaves the plant, bound for an end user.

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That is why FMC Technologies, a Scotland-based manufacturer of equipment for the energy industry, is employing an AeroScout real-time location system (RTLS) installed by Boston Networks, a U.K.-based Wi-Fi network provider.

FMC Technologies is using the system to identify the location of each piece of equipment as it undergoes assembly, as well as when that item ships to an end user, and when it later returns for refurbishing. That information provides an automated record for regulators, while also helping the company ensure its operations run efficiently.

The installation occurred at FMC Technologies’ 213,000-square-foot Dunfermline Subsea facility, including its entire building and warehousing areas, said Mark Gallant, AeroScout’s VP of industrial marketing.

FMC Technologies builds petrochemical wellhead devices used to cap oil pipes for undersea oil wells. The devices are large—in some cases, the size of a small car. The Dunfermline facility assembles the equipment and then ships the items to energy companies.

Throughout that process, the firm tracks each piece’s location and status—not just to ensure that every item is easy to locate within the large warehouse and assembly space, but also to help the company comply with safety-based regulatory and statutory requirements regarding where objects move or end up stored, and for how long. Once the oil-drilling project is complete, the equipment returns to the Dunfermline site, where they refurbish it prior to shipping out for reuse.

Until the RTLS technology’s installation in mid-2011, FMC Technologies tracked the location of equipment manually. Now, the company is able to automatically track the department where each asset is, via a combination of its existing Wi-Fi nodes and AeroScout exciters, in order to pinpoint when a tagged item moves through a chokepoint from one department to another.

While a product undergoes assembly, an AeroScout T2 tag permanently attaches to that item, containing a unique ID number transmits to the Wi-Fi nodes. That data goes to AeroScout’s MobileView software, residing on FMC Technologies’ back-end system, which determines each asset’s location based on the nodes receiving that transmission. As the tag passes an exciter, the exciter’s own ID is received by the tag, which forwards the locator’s ID, along with its own, to the back-end system, thereby indicating a tag entered a more specific location.

Once an asset returns from an oil-well operator for servicing, the system automatically reads its tag ID number once more. That number links to the item’s assembly history, as well as the time at which it shipped out and the location it went to. As that piece of equipment proceeds through any restorative servicing, its movements end up monitored by the MobileView software, and that information archives for viewing by FMC Technologies’ management.

If an item’s tag signal is no longer live, or if that asset falls out of the expected series of procedures, MobileView can issue an alert to the plant’s managers, enabling them to rectify the problem.

By deploying the RTLS solution, FMC Technologies is able not only to provide inspectors with regulatory compliance reporting, but also to increase the productivity of its assembly and servicing operations.

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