Wireless Control and Automation This Spanish Refinery is Both on Air and In Control with Wireless Automation

Author / Editor: Jens Offensand* / Dominik Stephan

A Spanish refinery makes the best of its challenging location with state of the art wireless monitoring — A refinery never stands still: Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil, fuel and petrochemicals are pumped back and forth each day. With stakes that high, valve monitoring becomes a crucial challenge. But what if the situation calls for a wireless solution? Discover, how process monitoring takes to the airwaves …

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The total area covered by the refinery as demonstrated by Project Manager José María Elexpe Rovira.
The total area covered by the refinery as demonstrated by Project Manager José María Elexpe Rovira.
(Source: Phoenix Contact)

Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil are processed at a refinery every day. The various liquids and gases produced at individual steps in the process are constantly being pumped back and forth between processing plants and storage tanks. If the valve is not positioned correctly during this process, intermediate products could inadvertently intermix. To prevent this from happening, the Petronor refinery in Muskiz, Spain, employs the Radioline wireless system to remotely monitor valve positions.

Petronor was founded in 1968 in Muskiz, located near the Basque city of Bilbao. The company currently operates the largest refinery in all of Spain, processing in the order of 11 million metric tons of hydrocarbons annually. Petronor and its employees generated sales of € 5.9 billion in 2013.

Gallery with 8 images

When crude oil is being refined, it is heated several times. In the process, the various continuant parts are separated in distillation columns based on their density. Key components include butane, propane, naphtha, kerosene, gas, diesel, heating oil, coke, and asphalt.

These products are then refined also in Muskiz, to standardized values in order to ensure the consistent quality of fuels at every filling station. As part of this process, sulfur is removed and additives added. As the site is surrounded by mountains and the city of Muskiz, no space is available for the refinery to expand beyond its current size. As a result, there are fewer tanks at the site than one would normally find at similar refineries of its size.

This necessitates transporting the raw materials multiple times in order to achieve a comparable production capacity given the limited number of tanks available. In total, there are some 100 transfers between tanks with a holding capacity of up to 110,000 m3 each day.

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