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Wireless overfill protection secures petroleum tank farm

One of Australia’s largest independent fuel suppliers was able to increase its plant safety with overfill protection and minimise capital costs in the process, Sarah Falson writes.

Neumann Petroleum is one of Australia’s largest independent fuel suppliers and operates a tank farm in Eagle Farm, Queensland. As one of the only independent fuel suppliers in the state with the capacity to secure and store petroleum and diesel products, it is imperative that the family-owned company continually updates its operating and safety processes.

Every day, Neumann Petroleum supplies fuel to thousands of Australian motorists through its Matilda and Neumann retail outlets, as well as supplying bulk fuel and lubricants directly to hundreds of metropolitan and regional businesses. At its Eagle Farm headquarters, the business stores petroleum and diesel products which are sourced from a mixture of BP, Caltex and Asian refineries.

Expansion project

Neumann Petroleum inherited its tank farm from Caltex in 2001. Some of the tanks had been operating since 1926, so naturally the company spent considerable amounts of time and money upgrading and overhauling the farm’s equipment and systems to bring them up to speed with current regulations. Since taking-over the tank farm almost nine years ago, the company has almost tripled its business; formerly supplying 30 million litres per month, the company now outputs a huge 80 million litres every four weeks.

According to Neumann Petroleum operations manager, Scott Loveday, it is important for the company to build on this success in the future, and also to ward-off competition from larger local and overseas competition.

“It is imperative that Neumann Petroleum grows this position so that we can continue to compete with major multi-national fuel providers and deliver competitive pricing to our customers,” he said.

With this in mind, the company began an intensive maintenance and safety upgrade at its Eagle Farm site as part of a general Terminal Improvement Program designed to expand the company’s customer-base. This involved creating additional petroleum storage capacity by converting older tanks into functional depositories.

Regulation set-backs

While Neumann Petroleum’s plan seemed airtight, the company quickly found out the Brisbane City Council enforced regulations stating that the updated petroleum tanks had to be fitted with overfill protection devices before a license could be granted for flammable products storage. This wasn’t going to be an easy job, especially since the tank farm lacked the cabling and electrical infrastructure required to fit the overfill protection system.

“The Brisbane City Council was required by law to enforce the overfill protection because of housing infrastructure planned for the area which was encroaching on the plant,” said Loveday.

The project team was also under the stress of a tight deadline: a petroleum supply ship was scheduled to arrive in a few months and the new tanks were required to hold the large order. Therefore, an overfill protection system was critical to Neumann Petroleum’s growth as a business; if the device couldn’t be fitted, the company would not be able to import unleaded petrol to these tanks.

However, building the infrastructure to power conventional overfill alarm devices would have been an expensive and difficult task. It is possible that the company would have been required to close the tank farm site temporarily to allow for trenching and installing elevated gantries.

After rationalising the wiring costs and the associated site shut-down losses with the projected business gains, the team decided that they could install both a radar tank level system and a separate overfill alarm and safety network for around the same price as the wiring costs alone, using wireless technology for the alarm and safety components.

The company chose Emerson Process Management due to its reputation for sturdy wireless industrial devices.

“Our bulk fuel terminal runs 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, so it was imperative that we found a solution that didn’t disrupt our normal flow of business. Additionally, we needed a solution that was secure and reliable,” he said.

“It was the first time Emerson had been used in the plant. We chose Emerson because of its reputation for reliable wireless gear. If you have an unreliable system that gives false alarms, workers will ignore it and this can lead to all sorts of safety problems. It is very important that alarm systems are reliable.

“We did our homework and while there are cheaper solutions in the market, none had been fully proven and none could deliver the smart wireless option offered by Rosemount. We couldn’t gamble on a cheaper option as we weren’t prepared to compromise our safety vision. Rosemount’s system is simple and gives us reliable data with a high level of protection.

Reliability and flexibility

Neumann Petroleum installed a combination of Emerson Process Management wired radar level products along with wireless safety and alarming systems. Both Mobrey DS11 and DS20 displacer switches are now connected to a 702 discrete wireless HART transmitter. A Rosemount Tank Master server is also included, to display the information received via the Modbus link from the 1420 WirelessHART Gateway. It monitors the health of the network and the switch status for each of the six tanks.

According to Loveday, this solution allowed Neumann Petroleum to meet the Brisbane City Council’s license requirements and achieve reliable overfill protection for the new tanks. What’s more, the company was able to deploy this technology very quickly, allowing it to commence operations much sooner than otherwise anticipated.

Along with the Brisbane City Council, Neumann Petroleum also liaised with the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, Hazardous Industries and Chemicals Branch, and the Environmental Protection Agency during the upgrade. According to Loveday, both companies’ positive feedback about the proposed Emerson Process Management solution was a huge help in making this project a reality.

According to Loveday, Neumann Petroleum is pleased with the solution and has also noticed some unexpected benefits.

“Unlike other systems, we now have a router that diverts to the next unit until it gets through if a signal path is blocked. That provides us with a contingency to ensure the alarm is received. Also, with integration into the tank master system, we now have the tools to introduce further controls and radars,” he said.

“We are also immensely proud to be leading the industry by installing the first full deluge ring fire system in Brisbane, which offers not only fire fighting protection but cooling tanks as well.

“We have all been impressed with the Rosemount 702 discrete wireless HART transmitter, combined with the Tank Master system and the high level of service offered by Emerson. We look forward to building on our relationship and as we look to grow the framework that we now have.”

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