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Contactless chemical level control with IIOT

05 February 2019

At its main production site in Liverpool, Halewood has employed a novel approach to an important chemical level monitoring application with an innovative IIoT solution, to ensure its effluent is correctly treated and meets environmental requirements. 

Halewood International have famous brands such as Whitley Neill Gin, Lambrini, Tequila Rose, Red Square and Crabbies in both the UK and Global markets. Established in 1978 by John Halewood, they are the largest independent producer and distributor of alcoholic products by volume in the UK.

The water and liquid based processes for producing the beverages at the site of course produce effluents which, before discharging to the sewer network, require some treatment. This is mainly in the form of PH neutralisation and depending on the process, the waste stream is monitored and dosed with either Sulphuric Acid or Caustic to correct it. This dosing ‘balances’ the effluent before it goes into the sewer main and reaches the local treatment works. If the PH balance isn’t right, it can cause problems for the treatment processes downstream, which if extreme, could potentially incur fines. As a responsible manufacturer and local employer, Halewood takes its environmental responsibility seriously.

The job of ensuring supplies of both chemicals for the effluent dosing process used to require visual checks on the outside storage tanks. They were fitted with a ‘cat and mouse’ float system, which is not always reliable: floats sticking, forgetting to make checks and misreads combined to cause regular errors in the ordering processes and deliveries. If the tanks ran out there could be incorrect PH of the effluent discharge. In the other scenario, if a chemical tanker arrived and wasn't able to fully discharge its load into the tanks, logistics return-load fines would be incurred. Expedited orders to replenish, or ‘demurrage’ fees for excess product returns, were costing time and money all-round. As level suppliers to the process, production and storage side on the site, VEGA were asked to look at supplying a solution that would monitor the tanks and provide data to both Halewood and the chemical suppliers about the tank levels.

It was solved using two VEGAPULS radars mounted above the vessels which can look THROUGH the vessel top and measure the liquid level INSIDE the tanks without requiring a nozzle. How is this possible? As they use microwaves to measure liquid level, this means any non-metallic/non-conductive surface can be invisible to it and measure the liquid inside (just like the bowl in a microwave oven) and it works on virtually all plastics like GRP and PP (e.g. mobile IBC’s) tanks. In this application, the radars are each connected to a local VEGAMET level controller with an Ethernet output, which connects directly into the Halewood LAN. This device is capable of providing live/daily readings of the tank levels, also has a simple web server page, integrated connection capability to VIS (VEGA Inventory System) a web or server hosted remote inventory system. It also has autonomous automated email/SMS text messages when alarm levels are reached, with hard-wired relay alarms too for local operator notifications. The additional capability to ‘dial in’ via the network IP address to provide service for controller or sensor is an additional advantage. This simple IIoT solution connects the supplier up to optimise their deliveries and keeps Halewood informed about the levels in the tank for peace of mind.

Since installing the system, timely deliveries and chemical stocks have been upheld, along with maintaining the right effluent quality as it goes for treatment. The sensors have been installed with zero contact to these hazardous chemical products. Time, fuel and money has been saved by shortening the supplier chain, as well as protecting the environment. The unique properties of non-contact radar, coupled with an IIoT level controller provided a simple, safe and effective solution.

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