Cyber Security for Instruments, Electro-mechanical switches, Manufacturing, Plant Safety

Eroded pipeline, Deadly toxic gas and time running out. An application story.

Industry: Midstream
Products: Vanguard Hydrogen Sulfide Detector
Application: Temporary worksite monitoring of pipeline maintenance
Company: The upstream business of a major oil & gas producer

The customer is a major oil & gas producer with upstream business all over the world. They engage in intense exploration campaigns with a 38% success rate. This exploration and production activity is their main growth driver and they have become a world leader in exploration, with 40 finds since 2008, leading to a net increase of production. They use pipelines to move product from the wellhead to processing facilities.

A rare event happened which caused the soil around a transport pipeline to erode, exposing a section of the pipeline. This created several challenges not only to the transport of product, but extending to environmental and societal factors. This is because the pipeline was transporting product containing Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), a deadly toxic gas. The customer immediately took action to fix the issue, but in the meantime, needed to monitor around the exposed section of pipe for leaks of H2S. This was not only to protect the workers, but the nearby residents who were alarmed by the exposed pipe carrying potentially hazardous materials. As a temporary worksite in a remote location, running conduit to fixed monitors at the site would have extended the timeline to getting the situation fixed and burying the pipeline to a safe depth. By the time the detectors were installed, the problem could have been fixed.


After learning about the Vanguard WirelessHART gas detector with true wireless operation through white papers, the area’s Maintenance Measurement/Automation Coordinator immediately saw the potential to solve their problem. Given the ability to immensely shorten the time from receipt to operation of the detectors, the project to fix the exposed pipeline and ease the concerns of the nearby residents was able to move forward, and get the producer back to safe operation quickly.

The Vanguard units in action were working “quite well” performing all necessary operation and living up to the solution potential. Success rarely stays a secret and soon the potential of this unique, new solution quickly spread within the company. This led to another order for additional Vanguard detectors through the Senior Tradesman in their Maintenance Department for a separate installation.

Written by: Andrew Liptak- Gas Detection Product Manger at United Electric Controls


andrew liptak

twitter logo  @NewOilGasSafety 






Are you getting the most from wireless?

Historically plant instrumentation has communicated using an analog 4-20 mA signal. As instruments gain more sophistication, additional information has been made available by taking advantage of protocols like HART (a protocol with digital signal imposed over the analog 4-20mA). This allowed the addition of other variables and  diagnostic information to be sent from a HART enabled device to a HART enabled system.




This technology was pushed further with the introduction of WirelessHART, which is an all-digital wireless communication. All WirelessHART instruments automatically send diagnostic information with every transmission in addition to the four variables sent with the instrument. This information is received by a WirelessHART gateway which integrates the instrument data to the plant control system. It is up to the vendor to ensure the information that is being sent with their instrument is meaningful and actionable.




Often we find that users are not fully aware of the capabilities of these wireless systems with their legacy systems communicating with protocols like Modbus. It is important for users to understand this because it helps alleviate very important questions regarding wireless digital communication. Questions such as: how do I know the instrument is communicating? With instruments like gas detectors, the normal operating state is to be at 0 and should be at 0 unless gas is detected, only introducing a value when gas is detected. Or a common question with all instrumentation, if the device is in a fault state, how do I know what the fault is? The additional diagnostics offered with WirelessHART can often answer these questions.


As the industry continues to move towards wireless communication, take advantage of the upgrade and utilize the information already available to know more about what is going on in your plant with your instruments and tools that are already available to use.


Written by: Andrew Liptak- Gas Detection Product Manger at United Electric Controls


andrew liptak

twitter logo  @NewOilGasSafety 


Manufacturing, Plant Safety, Safety Relays on Transmitters, Tradeshows, Transmitters

Safety: An ounce of prevention is worth……a life!

As Junes comes to a close we are reminded that it is National Safety Month . As we get bombarded with daily reminders to wear sunscreen by the pool and cheesy posters with cheesier sayings, keep in mind the meaning behind them is vitally important. As an active participant on our company’s safety committee, it can be easy to turn a safety project into a long term, high investment project that will be as safe as possible. But it can often come at the expense of a simpler solution that can start making your front line worker safer NOW rather than tomorrow.

national safety month

As safety professionals, advisors, or just leaders of people, we are responsible for those that are exposed to hazards on the front lines doing the work. It is our responsibility to make sure that we find sensing solutions that not only protect, but can be implemented quickly and easily to ensure protection now.

But here lies the dichotomy; whatever the sensing solution is, it can’t be cheap and create the chance to supply false security.

These issues create contradictions. We need inexpensive but not cheap, sophisticated but not complicated, fast and easy to install but not to cause any adverse effect in the production environment. We attempt to optimize current solutions by multiple factors and the result is typically a well-balanced, mediocre, piece of junk. When real safety problems occur, we need step changes in technology that take away the balancing act of specs and open up new ways to keep people safe.

Enter wireless communication. We have been proving in use with our dependence on cellular phones for over a decade with increasing reliability. We are replacing wired home phone lines with cellphones, airplane boarding passes with e-tickets on our cellphones, and even doing our banking over our cellphones. Industrial wireless communications are more robust and reliable than they have ever been and are ready for the mainstream of industrial market sensing applications.

download (1)

The cost savings of wireless are readily apparent: less wiring, less money. What is sometimes lost is the ease and speed of installation. This is where wireless can offer a step change in safety. Need additional points to monitor, no problem. Need to move a point to a more ideal location, no problem. It is now easier and faster than ever to get monitoring installed that will start to protect your people now.

As a vendor, allowing the limitations of old technology and “it’s always been done this way” to become excuses against creating better ways to bring value to the customers will be detrimental as new technology and services emerge. It’s on us to not only adapt new technology but to embrace it as the path forward. Further we must be instrumental in creating the data to prove performance and reliability.

So as we wrap up  June and make jokes about the cliché posters, remember to look to find innovative solutions that will help to you protect your people now. Accidents won’t wait for you, so why wait on implementing safety? Start searching for solutions that will help you keep your people safer NOW.

If it happens to involve industrial wireless, feel free to explore to learn more.

Written by: Andrew Liptak- Gas Detection Product Manger at United Electric Controls


andrew liptak


Wireless Gas Monitoring : Advantages and Ever present need


Because the HART protocol is so prevalent,WirelessHART has many advantages, but other proprietary communications protocols may have their advantages as well. They would require the end user to own the vendor specific gateway or controller and to utilize their software, but if they are already invested in that it may be the more desirable option. A more open protocol, however, has the advantage of being able to communicate with a wider variety of devices, and support for industry collaboration initiatives such as the Field Device Integration (FDI) initiative. With many users deploying WirelessHART networks for monitoring pressure, temperature, and level, WirelessHART gas detectors can simply drop into these networks without additional software, or investment.

In many cases, the IT team will be responsible for managing the entire plant wireless network, so they will need to know about the standards and security properties of the sensor as well as details about range, speed, interference, and other networking factors, all of which should be available from the device vendor or the FieldComm Group that manages the WirelessHART standard.

The IT team will also be concerned about cyber security. Cyber security vulnerability is primarily a function of the communications protocol. WirelessHART, for example, is well-encrypted. End users of course, should also work with their IT teams to be sure their network is covered by existing firewalls, intrusion prevention, intrusion detection, and other cyber security technologies and policies that may be in place.

gd no mount left small

Ever-present need

The technology for wireless gas monitoring has developed significantly. As more end-users adopt wireless devices at the field and plant level, they will likely become an increasingly important fixture in the industrial landscape. If prices pressures continue to mount in the hydrocarbons industry, for example, the need for safety will not go away and the need for cost-effective solutions will grow. As market conditions improve, the increased volume of hydrocarbon processing activities will introduce more potential leakage vulnerability and greater need to assure stakeholders that producers and transporters are doing everything they can to ensure safety. Regardless of which direction the economy takes, the Industrial Internet of Things is coming and there is little doubt that some of those sensors transmitting data into the cloud will be wireless and configured to protect against potentially harmful gas leaks.


by: Wil Chin VP of Marketing and Business Development




Wireless Gas Monitoring : Application in Temporary situations & Operating Issues

Application in Temporary Situation

In some cases it may be necessary to monitor gas in situations in which the cost of setting up a wired solution is completely unfeasible. A planned maintenance turnaround, for example, might involve activities which could potentially introduce gas leaks into the area. A wireless system could be deployed during such operations and relocated once the shutdown is complete. Other temporary situations might include the aftermath of a natural disaster, a security breach or a plant expansion project.

Asset management
The ability to deploy multiple sensors wirelessly can also provide predictive and preventive maintenance capabilities that wired systems cannot provide cost-effectively. Measuring the amount of background hydrogen sulfide and methane in the air and comparing it over time trends can detect an early indication of a problem. The sensor would pick up on this and send it to an asset management application, which might track increases in methane and/or H2S and compare it to other areas, and historical norms. Analysis of changes could reveal potential dangerous trends early enough so that they can be corrected. Maintenance can be dispatched to affected areas for detailed investigation and needed repair in lieu of checking everywhere during routine maintenance rounds. For systems carrying risk of gas leakage, wireless technology can be the heart of a cost-effective reliability-centered maintenance program.

Operating issues
In addition to the basic sensing technology, battery life and inter-connectivity represent two of the most critical operating issues that wireless gas monitoring will raise.

Battery life.

Battery life is a key variable in both the economics and performance of a wireless monitor. The more remote the location being monitored, the greater the role of the battery in maximizing safety at a low cost. Newer systems use lithium metal technology which, combined with low-power components and advanced power modules, can extend life well beyond 5 years, significantly greater than current offerings operating under the same conditions. Affecting battery life in addition to its metallic composition, is how well low-power components like display and sensory assemblies feed the circuit board, how often they are pinged for a message, and the speed at which the message is transmitted. A typical gas monitor could be configured to send readings at any interval, from seconds to hours or more, depending on the need for information and the desired battery life and the speed at which the sensor can actually collect data. Furthermore, prudent wireless network design (how the wireless sensors are laid out) should be considered, and can help to maximize battery life.


Your plant IT personnel will need to be involved in the deployment of a wireless gas monitoring system in order to connect the wireless network to plant monitoring and control systems. They will need to know exactly how the device will join their network and how it is communicating data, which is a function of the communications protocols.

How the system ties into the control system depends on the wireless protocol selected. A device supporting WirelessHART, for example, would automatically join an existing HART network, which is the most commonly deployed protocol. WirelessHART is a globally approved standard (IEC 62591) that promotes an interoperable, self-organizing and healing, mesh technology, which is secure, reliable, and easy to use (Figure 2). A communication protocol like this can improve reliability by enabling the signals to find the best signal paths to deliver rich diagnostic information about the gas detector. In addition to communicating gas concentration values in PPMs and %LELs, a WirelessHART enabled gas detectors can also transmit information on battery life, temperature and date of last calibration.

Figure 2

In our next and concluding post in the Wireless Gas Monitoring series, we will explore the WirelessHART protocol. Stay tuned!


By: Wil Chin, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at United Electric Controls

Joe Mancini, Senior Product Manager at United Electric Controls

Greg LaFramboise, Retired Wireless Technology Lead, Chevron


Wireless Gas Monitoring : Applications

Unlike wired gas detection systems, which have expensive infrastructure requirements, wireless systems can be deployed just about anywhere there is a potential for a gas leak. The most likely applications include remote and local detection, temporary situations and monitoring to improve asset management.

Wireless remote and local gas detection: Tank farms, oil and gas production facilities, refineries, pipelines, abandoned wells and waste treatment plants are all good candidates for wireless gas detection.

Tank farms :Storage tanks are one of the most common sources of gas leaks. They are always located some distance from the central facility and sometimes near residential areas. If the wind is blowing away from any wired detectors onsite, for example, plant operators may not know of any leaks until residents call in complaining about the smell. Multiple sensors could cover more tanks, and they could all be networked through a common gateway.

Top view of tanks on factory

Oil and gas production facilities and refineries: Wireless monitors can provide additional protection for workers in refineries. If the wired detection system is not up to current standards and/or lacking coverage due to plant expansions, the workers and the community may be at risk. A typical inside the plant application might include setting a local field mounted PLC to operate a ventilation system or shutdown routine based on a signal from the wireless monitor.

Pipelines: The pipelines that transport hydrocarbon products to and from wells, tanks, and processing and storage facilities are another common source of leakage. Breaches at these  facilities are quite prevalent today. The pumps, valves, couplings, flanges, pipes and other trappings surrounding the piping are all vulnerable to age, installation errors and trauma. Some of these components are underground, so finding them is even more difficult. With hundreds of miles of pipes, it’s impractical to deploy thousands of local pipe leak detection devices necessary to cover the leaks within pipes.Gas industry, underground gas storage facilities

Plugged and abandoned wells: Capping an abandoned well in concrete does not guarantee that it won’t leak, but because it is not operating, no one is around to notice problems and there is little incentive to invest in wired detectors. But leakage could result in risk to the area, fines and other problems and an easily deployed wireless solution could be very valuable.

Wastewater treatment plants: Pollution control is another area rife for improved gas monitoring. Waste produces methane which is highly combustible but few municipalities have the resources to devote to wiring up waste locations. Yet the risk is significant and can be mitigated with the installation of inexpensive wireless monitors on anaerobic digester tanks, solids landfill or other vulnerable points.

In our next post, we will explore the applications of the wireless device in temporary situations. Stay tuned!

by: Wil Chin, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at United Electric Controls

Joe Mancini, Senior Product Manager at United Electric Controls

Greg LaFramboise, Retired Wireless Technology Lead, Chevron


Wireless Gas Monitoring : The wireless connection

Wireless technology removes the physical and economic barriers associated with wired gas detection devices. It can save up to 90 percent of installed cost and time and can be applied in both field and plant networks, detecting leaks that might not otherwise be detected by sparsely distributed wired units. Just about any type of wired sensing technology can be adapted for wireless and some incorporate multiple capabilities, combining both IR and electrochemical for example. At the sensor level, there is little difference in the basic technology deployed between a wired and a wireless gas detector.

However, using sensors designed for wired gas detectors in a true wireless (no power and signal wires) application, would be impractical as batteries would require replacement in months instead of years. Figure 1 shows the exterior of a wireless gas detector with all of the built in protections necessary for deployment in inside and outside hazardous area locations. It shows the antenna by which it communicates with its host. The housing should be rated Class 1 Div 1 explosion proof, and there should be a graphic display that shows gas concentration, network, calibration, temperature and battery status. Accessible field connection points should be rated intrinsically safe for Zone 1, allowing connection to a hand-held communicator for configuration and testing as well as for swapping out sensor types without a hot permit.

Figure 1

Once the sensor takes the measurement, the wireless devices send signals to a wireless
gateway which can be connected to a fire &gas control system, distributed control systems (DCS) or programmable logic controller (PLC) host for processing. The wireless signals may be designed using any network protocol, although, as will be discussed later, standard open protocols such as Wireless HART have specific advantages.

In our next post, we will explore the applications of the wireless device. Stay tuned!


by: Wil Chin, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at United Electric Controls

Joe Mancini, Senior Product Manager at United Electric Controls

Greg LaFramboise, Retired Wireless Technology Lead, Chevron