You are here

Staying ahead with Digitalisation in Tank Storage

15th February 2018

Automated processes are essential for storage operators to achieve efficiency, reducing total cost of ownership and staying ahead of competition, especially in volatile markets.

Digitalization is one of the answers for staying ahead in tank storage management
Digitalization is one of the answers for staying ahead in tank storage management

Process control is an integrated part of an automation system from the field device level up to the management execution level. Looking at the value chain of tank farms and terminals there are also several underlying systems as communications, electrical or fire and gas detection. A modular tank management system such as SITAS TMS can be used standalone. What happens in reality, it is operated within an existing infrastructure, for instance with Siemens Sitrans instrumentation, the Siemens process control and safety system Simatic PCS 7, Siemens XHQ Enterprise Operations Intelligence, 3rd party MES/ERP solutions and much more. This openness up to the Cloud is beneficial for further integration as well as upcoming developments.

More often, digital technologies will play an important role for the tank terminal industry, not only for new investments in the future, even today to accelerate established processes and incorporate greater transparency and flexibility. Additionally it is essential to look at all lifecycle phases from plant design in the beginning via engineering, construction, installation and commissioning to ongoing operation and maintenance in the end. Prevailing is a quick response to market demands, i.e. to adapt capacities, to maximize output through minimal downtimes, to be flexible in supply chain management inclusive storage and all over all use safe and efficient processes. Digitalization is one of the answers for staying ahead combined with the modular approach and smart sensors for the tank management system.

Siemens brings automation and digitalization to the storage core processes by integrating engineering and operation. A so-called digital twin creates economic value to tank and terminal operators in that they can simulate assets and operations and see in a virtual world what is installed and happens in their real plant and vice versa. The digital twin provides a common, consistent data model optimizing operations and increasing productivity.

Effective, digital data management

With the engineering software Comos, Siemens offers the ideal platform for optimizing engineering transparency and process flow efficiency over the entire lifecycle. Simatic PCS 7 forms a solid basis for a variety of add-ons enabling enhanced process flexibility. Simit software allows simulation and testing, even virtual commissioning of automation designs prior to implementation. XHQ is an effective analysis solution for continuously monitoring and improving operations performance through better decision making using key performance indicators and dashboards.

Digitalization also spreads to the field level. Smart sensor technology is needed to handle the variety of stored products, the increasing number of tanks and field instruments per tank farm and the intense frequency of loading and unloading processes. Smart sensors allow remote parameterizing, monitoring and diagnosis and allow therefore safer operation and simplified maintenance.

Finely tuned instrumentation and smart sensors enabling sound returns

Inventory monitoring, overspill protection and loss control, emissions monitoring, leak detection and localization and, of course, product metering – these are tasks that all bulk storage facilities deal with every day. One thing they all have in common is the need for reliable and accurate information on stock inventories and movements. Newly developed tank level monitoring instrumentation from Siemens, for example, incorporates advanced software algorithms for highly accurate continuous tank level measurements. Using guided wave radar, the software detects interference signatures and dynamically updates signals in accordance with desired measurement levels, thereby enabling maximum fill capacity utilization. It’s the kind of finely tuned instrumentation technology and smart sensors that enable transparency, performance increase and finally sound returns.

Reducing the total cost of ownership and improving return on investment

Bulk storage facilities are integral to the oil & gas, petrochemical and chemical industries. Their numbers and capacities have grown in step with the increasing global demand for oil, refined petrochemicals, chemical products and biofuels. Supply and demand imbalances have created additional demand for tank storage. However, there are concerns that the industry is not embracing innovation fast enough to ensure the performance and safety levels required by customers and regulatory agencies.

Clearly, the tank storage industry needs additional capital investment to provide the capacities needed, which in turn calls for concerted actions aimed at becoming more attractive to investors. It means working on key performance indicators to, for example, reduce the total cost of ownership and improve return on investment. The increasing speed of transfer logistics calls for faster, more efficient operations and resource distribution as well as optimized asset management and utilization. The situation is further compounded by a growing need to further improve tank farm and terminal safety. Faced with increasingly tighter safety regulations, the industry urgently requires more highly integrated and automated processes as well as intelligent and reliable measurement and control solutions. Reducing the number of technology suppliers and outsourcing certain maintenance and other services such as process instrumentation and analytics tasks, would certainly also help to further lower overall lifecycle costs. In this case, tank storage instrumentation is no longer part of the operational comfort zone.

Tuning every instrument

Often seen as a trivial aspect of tank storage management, smart instruments have become indispensable for boosting productivity and safety. Intelligent measurement solutions for monitoring and control functions from Siemens help companies comply with government and industry regulations for tank storage installations as well as ensure reliable and safe operations. Our comprehensive process instrumentation, analytics and weighing portfolio comprises solutions that deliver outstanding precision, transparency and usability for all types of tank farm tasks – from our tank level measurement products Sitrans L and P and our Sitrans F flowmeters, Sitrans P pressure and Sitrans T temperature transmitters to emissions monitoring with our continuous gas analyzers, valve positioning with our intelligent Sipart sensor systems as well as truck and rail car weighing with compression load cells and the built-in intelligence of our Siwarex weighing systems.

Further developments for tank storage

Advanced technologies such as RFID, telecontrol, area surveillance or dock and yard management allow remote operation, not only for smaller operations but also for partially unmanned plants in order to save personal cost respectively to shorten turnaround times. Our RFID readers, our dock and yard management solutions can be used for driver and truck identification, process automation and better communication with drivers.

Telecontrol means supervision of several plants is carried out remotely from a central control station, whereas tank truck drivers perform the loading and unloading processes in self-service. With video signals from Siveillance Siemens helps to protect operations against unauthorized movement of people or assets - detecting, tracking and alerting emergency situations. 

Definitely, plant managers can benefit from energy savings when using variable speed drives (Sinamics), energy-efficient frequency converter technologies in pumping operations and motor management systems designed for improved asset utilization. Simatic PCS 7 PowerControl integrates the switchgear data in the automation environment. With Simatic Powerrate software all the energy-related consumption data of the plant are recorded, so hidden savings potential within the operation can be detected.

Maximizing process performance in complex logistics

So with the right equipment, you benefit from improved operations safety, maximum process transparency and back-up technologies. Innovative digital platform concepts and high-level process integration enable you to further enhance your operational efficiency. Finally, advanced diagnostics functions and the use of low-maintenance devices that provide continuous performance updates needed for efficient asset management help you lower your total cost of ownership.

Together, all of these solutions offer a solid foundation not only for providing the flexibility and performance needed to optimize tank storage installations, but also for ensuring terminal and process safety. Siemens safety lifecycle engineering tools help to streamline the specification process, thereby significantly reducing engineering and maintenance requirements. An integrated safety approach can certainly help to significantly raise safety levels at tank farms and terminals – and with SITAS TMS, also productivity and performance levels. Automation combined with digitalization provides tank storage operators with the ability to enhance plant availability and profitability without compromising on plant safety leading to competitive advantage.