ATCO Optimizes Natural Gas Storage Facility with Plantweb Technologies

A Plantweb assisted valve systemCanadian corporation ATCO substantially increased the efficiency of its vintage natural gas storage facility in Carbon, Alberta, by leveraging several components of Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem. By installing wireless position transmitters on critical valves and a DeltaV DCS across a secure wireless gateway, the Carbon facility managed to digitally transform the manual processes of its valve management operations into safer, more efficient automated systems.

For years, field operators at ATCO’s Carbon facility had to manually adjust and track critical isolation valves, which change the facility’s flow path between four different modes of operation (injection, withdrawal, compression and dew point control). Facility operators would manually update the process flow diagram and current mode of operation on a large whiteboard in the control room. This process consumed an inordinate amount of time, spending more than an hour to change modes and typically 30-40 minutes to troubleshoot and confirm valve positions.

To address the issue, ATCO engaged Emerson Impact Partner Spartan Controls with three goals in mind:

  1. Transmit the position of their isolation valves in real time
  2. Display the position of those valves on a DeltaV dashboard screen
  3. Establish a secure, remote connection to the DeltaV

 For the first goal, Spartan supplied and helped install Fisher 4320 wireless position transmitters (with custom mounting brackets) on the facility’s vintage isolation valves.  Spartan then worked with ATCO to design a DeltaV dashboard display using Human Centered Design concepts to provide real-time valve status and plant flow visibility, replacing the need for the control room whiteboard.  Finally, a secure remote connection to the facility’s DeltaV system using a Rosemount 1420 wireless gateway with an Emerson Smart Firewall was established. This system was designed to ensure engineers could access historical data for analysis and allow marketers and other employees to check DeltaV and monitor performance from the corporate office.

The new system allowed ATCO to: automate reporting (and eliminate errors caused by manual reporting); promote safety and reduce man hours spent on manual valve operation and unnecessary trips to the facility; and increase operational visibility to engineering, marketing and corporate management. In addition, ATCO is projecting that they will recoup their investment in the new system within the span of 2.5 years, providing an added cost benefit through efficiency and optimization.

Recently, ATCO realized further value as increased volatility in the natural gas market over the past few years has caused the plant to switch modes much more frequently. By using remote valve indication to reduce troubleshooting and unplanned shutdowns while providing real-time visibility to remote management and engineering teams, ATCO has been able to ensure their Carbon facility remains safe, reliable and profitable for years to come.