Think for a minute about how cold it gets in northern Canada. Now think about how slowly liquids flow at -40 degrees. At this temperature, pipeline liquids can get so thick that they stop flowing. Getting these pipeline systems operational again after a shutdown has a massive operational cost associated with it.
Remote Pipeline Heater Example
In the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to connect with Pygo in northern Canada. Their mission is to connect the unconnected legacy systems to operations dashboards and applications. They are working with the heating system that keeps pipeline liquids from reaching -40 degrees at one of their customers. Today each heating system operates independently and is disconnected from a central management console. As long as these systems work, there are no issues with the liquids, but if one of them fails, the operator can’t see the failure until the liquids start slowing down. To solve this, Pygo has connected each heating system to a Cisco Industrial Router. In this router, Pygo transforms the data and delivers it to the operator’s dashboard. This new connection makes sure that the operator is immediately notified when a heater fails so they can respond and avoid costly downtime.
This pipeline heater example is what we call an asset visibility solution. Let’s consider the key elements:
- The heating system in this example is not replaced or upgraded. The existing system already has a few communication options that can be leveraged. Some systems only support serial protocols like RS232 or RS485 while more modern systems support Modbus TCP/IP over an Ethernet connection. The Cisco Industrial Router converts this data communication to a format and protocol that the management system understands.
- The specific Cisco Industrial Router used here has a native temperature rating down to -40 degrees. This means it doesn’t need a special weather enclosure.
- The connection to the data sensor is Serial or Ethernet in this example. Other options on the sensor side include Wifi, WiHART, ISA100, LoRaWAN, Bluetooth and others.
- The router communicates with the operator dashboard by connecting through LTE wireless. Other uplink options include Wifi, Fiber, Ethernet or Cisco URWB.
Connecting Other Legacy Systems
People sometimes assume they will need to upgrade a legacy system before they can access the data it gathers. In this case we see that even legacy systems can produce valuable data points. They just need a bit of help from a router to communicate with dashboards and applications.
Earlier we explored a pipeline example but the same solution works for any legacy system operating in the field. A good system to start with is one that significantly impacts operations when it malfunctions. I can think of a few systems that could benefit, like those at legacy wellheads, pump stations and tank farms. Connecting legacy systems to your management dashboards can make a significant operational impact and it may not require a large investment.
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