WLAN process control solution for petrochemical plant

24 January 2011

A new Ethylene Cracker Complex has recently been completed by Shell Eastern Petroleum in Singapore. Wireless technology has been deployed at the site to gain mobile access to the process control system.

When planning the project, Shell wanted mobile access to all process data via WLAN at defined places in the refinery to drive efficiencies. Peter Beerepoot, who was responsible for instrumentation process control of the entire project for Shell Eastern Petroleum, said: “We were given the opportunity to develop a complete infrastructure. Our initial thoughts during the Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) phase, was that wireless would give us a number of key benefits. So we considered substitution of local panels, which we believed would bring us advantages in terms of cost reduction and increased efficiency.”

Tsjoi Tsim, Consultant Wireless Technologies, who acted on behalf of Shell Global Solutions International (SGSI) adds: “Following the vision of SGSI to create a wireless plant, it was essential to identify the right partners.
Throughout our selection process, a few potential partners were willing to listen, but only one, Belden, was capable of delivering the right solution.”

Peter Roodenburg, Project Manager at Yokogawa, which was appointed as the main automation contractor, said: “We contracted Belden to design and deliver the wireless infrastructure, which acts as an interface to our process control systems. The Yokogawa and Belden teams worked closely together and were able to deliver the systems to meeting the customer’s requirements.”

Belden took on the project management, the design and building of a complete WLAN solution, consisting of a wireless distribution system incorporating 90 Hirschmann access points (BAT54-F X2) for ECC and multiple antennas, linked across a redundant, fiber ring backbone. An important feature in this project was that all relevant parts of the solution had to be suitable for the challenging environmental conditions and that they had to be properly certified accordingly to comply to ATEX/IEC60079. To have such certification is mandatory for safety and governance reasons.

HaJo Finkbeiner, Belden Senior Consultant, said: “We were able to provide Shell, and our partner, Yokogawa, with a one-stop-shop solution for WLAN and firewall technology with a redundant backbone structure. This comprised hardware and software, as well as a full range of services including consulting, planning, maintenance, site survey, training and configuration of all devices, to the commissioning and testing of the entire system at various stages, prior to handing over the entire system to Shell.”

The application required a full range of Hirschmann WLAN products including outdoor access points and modular MICE switches, together with accessories, antennas, switches, media converters and surge arrestors. For enhanced security, the EAGLE firewall was used at the demarcation point to the customer’s process-LAN. To build the backbone, Belden’s PROFInet copper and fibre optic cables were used, as well as Lumberg Automation Ethernet M12 connectors for all Ethernet devices. At locations where wired LAN access was difficult, wireless point to point links were installed.

This project is now fully functional. Benefits include improved overall efficiency, resulting from the faster commissioning time for the petrochemical process control system and improved maintenance efficiency, as well as an overall system cost reduction – due to fewer indicator units being needed.

Peter Beerepoot: “The wireless coverage is better than we originally expected, and we are also now looking at options to maximise our usage of the system.”

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