Reliability of Wireless Instrumentation in Oil & Gas Industry

Wireless Instrumentation in Oil & GasAbstract

Wireless technologies are integrated into almost every part of our daily lives. Wireless technologies for Instrumentation offers significant cost savings such as faster commissioning, efficient maintenance when compared to traditional wired networks. The value of this cost savings are particularly significant in the highly competitive Oil and Gas industry, where aging facilities are common and upgrades are expensive. There are still some uncertainties on Wireless technologies in the industry due to its unknown performance characteristics such as stability and reliability of wireless communications at offshore and onshore facilities. Due to this, the acceptance of wireless instrumentation in the oil and gas industry has been slow even though the first wireless sensors are available since 2007. Reliability of wireless Instrumentation is critical as automation systems rely on accurate information for operators to make informed decisions for control and safe operations.

1. Introduction

As the world’s oil giants are looking for new ways to improve costs in engineering, commissioning, installation and operations, wireless instrumentation represents major cost savings through elimination of local field cable, associated field-run cable trays and ease of maintenance. The production facilities are more often subject to changes which are expensive and wireless instrumentation provides flexibility to a larger degree compared to the traditional wired instruments during such upgrades. For offshore facilities, weight savings is also a preferred advantage introduced by wireless instrumentation. The main contributions to weight savings for wireless instrumentation also comes from the elimination of cabling, cable trays, junction boxes, I/O cabinets and so on. In Brownfield projects, the significance of cost savings and weight reduction by using wireless instrumentation is even higher.

There are challenges to use wireless technologies for control and safety applications. For control applications, the requirement is to have a common timing domain for all components in the system. This means that the clocks of wireless sensors and actuators and the wireless gateway should be synchronized with the clocks of the controllers and control system. For most safety applications, continuous monitoring is necessary and a short response time needs to be guaranteed if a safety critical situation arises. Thus the primary difficulty in designing a wireless safety system is having a guaranteed short latency while not depleting the batteries. In addition, full control of all network message traffic is required, and loss of contact with a device must be identified immediately.

2. ISA 100.11a and WirelessHART

WirelessHART enables wireless transmission of HART messages, and was the first standard to be released which specifically targets industrial applications. Wireless HART was approved as IEC standard 62591 in 2010. The standard WirelessHART Architecture is shown in Figure 1. The Wireless HART devices are devices with WirelessHART built in or an existing installed HART- enabled device with a WirelessHART adapter attached to it and Wireless Access points enable communication between these devices and host applications connected to a high-speed existing plant communications network. ISA100.11a standard compliant wireless devices demonstrated interoperability in the same network and communication performance of the multiple vendor devices are nearly the same. Both WirelessHART and ISA100.11a are based on the IEEE Std. 802.15.4 PHY and MAC, although the MAC has been modified to allow for frequency hopping.

Furthermore, WirelessHART and ISA100.11a operates in the popular 2.4 GHz band, which allows for global availability. TDMA with frequency hopping is used as channel access method, and with a full mesh network topology, Wireless HART offers self-configuring and self- healing multi-hop communication.

ISA100.11a wireless technology offers sufficient performance to provide a secure, stable and reliable network for non-critical monitoring and control applications deploying into actual field sites. ISA100.11a supports both routing and non-routing devices, so network topologies can be either star, star-mesh or full mesh depending on the configuration and capabilities of the devices in the network. An ISA100.11a network is able to carry multiple field bus protocols, such as Foundation Fieldbus, PROFIBUS and HART. There is also integrated support for IPv6 traffic and routing in the network layer.

Both standards are designed to support scalability, low energy consumption, ability to work in legacy environments, security, and ability to function fully in environments where devices must coexist with our wireless devices and networks. The strict and limited approach of WirelessHART ensures that practically all WirelessHART devices will have identical behavior, regardless of design and implementation choices made by the equipment providers. The wide range of available optional and configurable parameters in ISA100.11a allows for great flexibility for adapting network behavior to various application requirements. WirelessHART is a wireless extension of the wired HART Field Communication Protocol Specification. The ISA100.11a application layer is object oriented, and implements tunneling features that allow devices to encapsulate foreign protocols and transport them through the network.

Wireless Network Architecture
Figure 1. Wireless Network Architecture

3. Security

Security is always a concern in any network, wireless networks are considered to present distinctive challenges. Because the wireless transmissions can travel for a considerable distance, it is important that the network be adequately secured against monitoring and intrusion. The WirelessHART standard mandates that networks employ a multilayered approach to network security. Both transmitter and receiver must authenticate with the network control system. Transmissions are encrypted using a 128-bit NIST-certified algorithm and verified for completeness and accuracy upon reception. Keys are managed by the gateway and rotated automatically. This combination of authentication, encryption, verification, and key management makes a wireless network as secure as a wired system.

4. Cost Savings

A wireless network requires none of the infrastructure improvements like cost of a measurement loop in the cable, conduit, and multiplexing hardware required to connect the sensor to the facility’s DCS (Distributed Control System), and the resultant savings are substantial. Perhaps the most attractive attribute of a wireless network is that installation cost is significantly reduced when compared with that of an equivalent wired system. A wireless network requires none of these infrastructure improvements, and the resultant savings is significant.
In addition to delivering significant labor and material cost reductions, deploying wireless networks can be done much faster and with lower project management overhead. Once installed, wireless networks can be easily and inexpensively expanded to include additional measurements points for simply the cost of the transmitter. With an installed wireless network this investment can be further leveraged by providing wireless coverage in different parts of the facility. The wireless networks now a days only requires minimal maintenance as the advanced transmitters utilize Time Synchronized Mesh Protocol (TSMP) to carefully control the timing of each transmission. This enables each transmitter to keep its radio and processor powered down until it is time to send or receive a transmission due to which battery life typically lasts for several years. Wireless Instrumentation are self-organizing and eliminates site surveys.

5. Reliability

The primary concern of reliability with wireless networks is based on the assurance of data transmission from the field device to the WirelessHART gateway. The WirelessHART auto routing meshing capabilities are spontaneously managed and result in quick resumption of service in data transmission links in the event of a hindrance. This auto routing capability minimizes or eliminates data transmission interruption. Since data transmission is digital, the data measured or transmitted to the field device reflects values at the automation system. To ensure reliability, digital wireless protocols such as WirelessHART have inherent error checking functions to ensure signals don’t suffer from drift or spikes, any corrupt data is flagged and retransmission is requested, retransmission mechanisms to resend data if it becomes corrupt, reconstruction of partially scrambled data packets.
Electronic Wave Interference is the greatest barrier for adoption of industrial wireless technology for automation in oil and gas industries. Process automation production facilities are constructed using a large amount of metal equipment such as tanks, boilers, pipes, and mounting apparatus. As a result, the facility itself is the main obstacle for wireless communication technology because metal materials readily reflect radio waves. Technologies such as Frequency-Hopping Spread-Spectrum (FHSS), Direct-Sequence Spread-Spectrum (DSSS) Technology or Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing should be considered so that data signals travel through a radio frequency.

Modern wireless networks offer a reliable upgrade path that even provides some surprising benefits when compared to traditional copper networks. With wireless technology, inherent mechanisms make use of redundant paths to route data. Wireless repeaters can be added to increase the reliability of a specific wireless network, and reliability can be further enhanced by the use of redundant gateways. Including WirelessHART as part of the core design of the field device network infrastructure creates inherent design flexibility, which can be used to increase reliability and reduce required maintenance. This allows network design to include the use of wired fieldbus and wireless networks depending on the specific application. Using wireless field devices and networks as an additional technology will enhance the overall robustness of the field device network architecture. It will also save time in terms of inspections, while eliminating potential for design error and reducing complexity. Fewer wires mean reduced design intervention in terms of routing and terminations, and faster repairs in the event of any incidents.

Design for wireless instrumentation should start from the planning phase and before commissioning of the wireless network by performing the site engineering to ensure a good network design, considering communication distances, extent of obstructions, multipath environments. Conduct the network engineering such as layout planning, data publishing period, number of retries. Validate the network planning by measuring RSSIs and PERs at the pre-commissioning stage after deploying the devices.

To ensure Wireless Instrumentation is stable and reliable, use a license-free and application-free radio spectrum throughout the world so that the wireless radios behave the same in different countries or regions; design field devices for low power consumption for small battery sizes and long battery life; Implement data encryption schemes, device authorization in networks and, certification of devices to address security concerns; include communication re-try functions and provide flexibility for network configurations for stability and reliability of communications, implement channel-hoping scheme and channel black/white listing capabilities for co- existence with or interference from other wireless radio applications sharing the 2.4GHz spectrum. To mitigate the effects of interference, wireless protocols may employ various coexistence mechanisms. In WirelessHART and ISA100.11a, clear channel assessment (CCA) and channel blacklisting are the weapons of choice to combat the degrading influence from other wireless networks.

6. Conclusion

Oil and Gas industry may still retain wired instrumentation for implementing critical control and safety instrumented loops, and for processes requiring high speed communications. There are still concerns that high speed applications may not be suitable for wireless due to potential lags in communications, or asynchronous communications between wireless devices. The recommendations by experts are to use wireless where it is most appropriate to supplement and enhance the overall integrity of the I/O infrastructure such as wireless instruments are changing the scope of what is possible in process analytical measurement. Implementing wireless instrumentation in instances like offshore drilling or well head monitoring application will certainly save costs and provides safety in the risky and extreme offshore conditions.

As experience with wireless technology grows, this attitude is shifting, with wireless becoming the default user selection for well-proven applications. Their low cost and ease of implementation make it practical to measure points that are prohibitively expensive to wire. The improvements in process awareness and redundant measurement allow oil and gas operators to tighten process control, increase performance and extend the time between maintenance shutdowns. In situations where speed-of-deployment and time-to-revenue are critical, wireless is by far the best alternative. New advanced wireless systems provide comprehensive solutions for implementing a modern self-organizing network.

New development projects should plan with a wireless strategy in mind. Even though development projects traditionally rely on well proven technology, time has definitely come to offer wireless technology the attention it deserves in the planning process considering the cost benefits it offers for both green field and brownfield projects. Although at the planning stage all application areas or possibilities of wireless technology may not be obvious, designing the oil and gas facility with a strategy for wireless instrumentation and also preparing for a wireless infrastructure should be a part of the design specification.


Citation: Smitha Gogineni, “Reliability of Wireless Instrumentation in Oil & Gas Industry.” Journal of Instrumentation Technology, vol. 3, no. 1 (2016): 1-3. doi: 10.12691/jit-3-1-1.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Analynk Exhibiting at Aruba Atmosphere '19


Atmosphere is the annual Aruba meeting and convention for innovators in the field of networking, security, IoT, mobility and the cloud. Atmosphere provides attendees an opportunity to meet and rub shoulders with over 3000 peers to learn, collaborate and influence the direction of Aruba products, all with the common goal to build the industry’s best enterprise-class technologies in wireless & wired infrastructure and software, security, location services, and analytics & assurance.

Industrial Wireless Networks

Industrial wireless networks (IWNs) are a key enabler of many aspects of advanced manufacturing. IWNs promise lower installation costs compared with wired alternatives, increased operational flexibility, improved factory visibility, and enhanced mobility. Wireless networks are not dissimilar to wired networks with the key exception being the transmission medium. Wired networks typically operate over copper wires, coaxial cable, or fiber optic cable depending on the network type. Wireless networks operate without wires or cables using the electromagnetic propagation. As such, wireless networks operate within a shared medium that is publicly accessible. A listing of wireless technologies is listed below:

Home and Office
This includes standards-based communications system typically found in the office environment but may be useful for the factory. Includes IEEE 802.11 variants and Wi-Fi compliant devices. Bluetooth also falls into this category.

Instrumentation
Includes systems specifically designed for factory operation. IEEE 802.15.4 standards such as International Society of Automation (ISA) 100.11a, WirelessHART (IEC 62591:2016), IEC 62601, and ZigBee fall into this category. High-performance standards built on IEEE 802.11 include the Wireless Networks for Industrial Automation - Factory Automation (WIA-FA) IEC 62948. Many exceptional proprietary options exist as well.

Wide Area Sensing
Some applications require the ability to transmit over long distances with minimal power to conserve battery life for sensing and control over wide geographical distances. Examples include LoRaWAN and Sigfox as well as modes of 4G and 5G cellular radio standards.

Other commercial
This category includes systems such as satellite, cellular, directional microwave data links, optical (visible light), and land-mobile radio. This category includes technologies supporting video and voice communication.


Why Wireless Instrumentation for Industrial Process Control?


Reasons why wireless instrumentation is the right choice for industrial process control.

Analynk Wireless
https://analynk.com
(614) 755-5091

Manufacturer of HazaLynk™ Wireless Products for Hazardous Areas and Sensalynk™ Single & Multi-point Wireless Transmitters, Receivers, Repeaters

Methods of Isolating Electrical Equipment in Hazardous Areas

Background

Combustion or fire is a chemical reaction in which a combustible material combines with an oxidant to release energy. Part of the energy release is used to sustain the explosion, by utilizing existing heat or creating a vacuum to consume more oxygen.  Within a hazardous environment there are three elements necessary for a fire or explosion:
  • A combustible material also known as a fuel 
  • Ignition source - electrical arcing or general heat
  • An oxidizer also known as oxygen
When a fuel, oxidizer and ignition source are present at the necessary levels, burning or explosion will occur. To reduce the possibility of fire or explosion, one of the key elements needs to be reduced or removed.

Another key factor in a fire or explosion are the explosive limits. These are the maximum and minimum concentration needed of a given combustible material to support a fire or explosion. To form an explosive mixture, the hazardous gas must have sufficient concentration levels. The minimum concentration of oxygen to combustible material is known as the lower explosive limit or LEL. If the concentration is below the LEL, it will not be flammable or have enough flammable material present. The same condition would apply if gas concentration is too rich, meaning it will not ignite because it will not have sufficient oxygen to sustain the fire or explosion. This is known as the upper explosive limit, or UEL. It should be noted that different gases will have different threshold limits.

In addition to the explosive limits, each hazardous material will have an autoignition temperature and a flashpoint. The flashpoint is the temperature at which the material will generate sufficient quantity of vapor to form an ignitable mixture. As the liquid is heated and reaches the flashpoint, autoignition could occur. An autoignition is the lowest temperature at which a combustible material will spontaneously ignite in a normal atmosphere. For example, if we have the heating of a combustible liquid, explosive vapors are created. As the material reaches the explosive limits creating the flashpoint. If the general atmosphere is increased, the autoignition temperature, fire, or explosion will occur.

To simplify, the specification of electrical devices into hazardous environments, IEC classification methods utilize autoignition, flashpoint, and explosive limits to place hazardous materials within groups.

The two predominant methods used for classification of hazardous environments are the NEC and IEC standards. IEC and NEC standards both classify the level of risk into three main categories:
  • Continuous
  • Occasional
  • Not normally present
All three categories provide the likelihood of an explosive atmospheric condition within the general environments. Within the IEC standard, the general risk categories are then classified as Zones. This reflects the physical material that could provide a potential fire or explosion. From liquids and gases, the area classifications are Zone 0, Zone 1, and Zone 2. By altering the physical material to dust or fibers, the area classification numerical value changes to Zone 20, Zone 21, and Zone 22.

Referring back to the necessary requirements for an explosive triangle, we know we need ignition source, oxygen, gas and or dust combustible material in the correct mixture within the atmosphere. In order to specify electrical devices and hazardous locations, we need to identify the general Zones within each area. When working with liquids or gas, we locate the most hazardous or flammable location directly above the material. Due to the possibility of the valve leaking, at the top of the containment structure we must classify the area as Zone 1. As we move further away from the possible explosive atmospheric condition the Zone classification would be reduced to Zone 2. By altering the combustible material properties to a solid form, the area classification above the material would be Zone 20. If the dust escapes the same failed valve, the external area around the same containment unit would be classified as Zone 21. As we continue to move away from the containment unit and with reduction of Category risk, the new classification for the general area would be Zone 22.

Now that we know combustible materials whether liquid, gas and or dust will have different upper and lower explosive limits, and we understand the general heat could be the ignition source, within the IEC standards the T rating specifies the maximum surface temperature an electrical device will create. As the temperature increases, the associate rating will decrease, meaningless heat will have a higher T rating, while an increase in surface temperature will reduce the T number.

As a recap the IEC standards classify hazardous areas as environments that could contain explosive vapors, gases, and/or dust within the atmosphere. The primary categories provide the risk levels as constant, occasional, and not likely. Since elements have a variety of flammability and the physical properties could be different, IEC standards segment the types of combustible materials into Zone classifications. The most hazardous is Zone 0 or Zone 20. By reducing the risk level to have occasional explosive atmospheres the Zone classification is Zone 1 or Zone 21 and further reduction of Category risks would change the hazards classification to Zone 2 or Zone 22
Flameproof enclosure
Flameproof enclosure for
wireless access point (Analynk

Methods of Isolation/Protection

Let's take a look at each method of protection and the general application. To ensure safety in a given situation, equipment is placed in protective level categories. As mentioned before Category 1 is the highest safety level, making Category 3 the lowest risk and safety level. The general 8 protective methods are:
  1. Flameproof enclosures
  2. Sand encapsulation
  3. Pressurization 
  4. Oil encapsulation 
  5. General encapsulation
  6. Increased safety
  7. Intrinsic safety
  8. Non-sparking
A flameproof enclosure method is a type of protection where devices that are capable of igniting an explosive atmosphere are built inside an enclosure. This protective method prevents the transmission of the explosion to the external atmosphere surrounding the enclosure. This method of protection would be suitable for applications on:
  • Power operated equipment
  • Switchgear
  • Motors
  • Any equipment that produces ignition source during normal operation.
Sand encapsulation is a type of protection in which the enclosure of the electrical apparatus is filled with a finely granulated material. This ensures electrical arcs occurring within the electrical apparatus will not ignite the surrounding atmosphere.

Pressurization is a method of protection by which the entry of a surrounding combustible material is prevented by maintaining a protective gas within the enclosure. This is generally accomplished by creating a higher pressure within the enclosure than the surrounding atmosphere. This protective method would be used for any power operated equipment.

Oil encapsulation is a type of protection in which the electrical apparatus or part of the electrical apparatus are immersed within an oil-based fluid. The general application for this type of protection would be used for:
  • Switchgear units
  • Circuit breakers
  • Transformers
Encapsulation is a type of protection in which the device that could ignite anexplosive atmosphere are enclosed within a resin. The material used would be resistant to environmental influences, heat and/or sparking from electrical components. The general application for this protective method would be used for:
  • Electrical circuit boards
  • Miniature motors
  • Valves
Increased safety is a type of protection where measures are taken to prevent the possibility of high temperatures and the occurrence of ignition. This method includes the interior and external portions of the electrical apparatus. The general application for this protective method would include:

Connection and distribution boxes
Luminaires
Measuring instruments and devices that do not normally produce ignition within operation

Intrinsic safety is a protective method to ensure that the available electrical and thermal energy in the system is always low enough that the ignition of the hazardous atmosphere cannot occur. This is achieved by ensuring that only low voltages and currents enter the hazardous area as well as all electrical supply and signal wires are protected by safety barriers. The general application for intrinsic safety would be used for:
  • Measuring and control engineering 
  • Data engineering
  • Low electrical valves
Non-sparking equipment and wiring process is a protective method where apparatuses are designed with low power levels and low stored energy. This ensures that arc produced during normal functionality of the equipment,  or as the result of equipment failure,  has insufficient energy to ignite the hazardous atmosphere. The general application for non-sparking protective methods would be used for:
  • Motors
  • Lighting
  • Junction boxes
  • Electrical equipment
All equipment certified for use in hazardous areas must be labeled to show the type and level of protection applied.

In summary hazardous locations could exist in multiple industries. The geographical location will dictate the general method used for classification. The European Standard or IEC provides guidance of risk into three main categories. These risk levels are then divided into Zones and have numerical values that relate to the possibility of explosive gases or dusts present within the atmosphere. Because combustible material could have a variety of explosive limits, the method of protection will be important. Nevertheless all electrical devices placed within hazardous environments will follow the device markings to ensure fire or explosion does not occur.