For the purpose of this post, chemical tanks are tanks that hold chemicals for storage, transportation, mixing, processing, controlling, etc. They are made of a variety of materials and sizes, depending on what is required for the chemical they’re going to hold. As important as what the tank is made of are the other variables which can and will affect the quality, condition, stability, and safety of the contents and its surrounding environment. For example, biohazardous waste might be put into a chemical tank that prevents it from spilling, but what happens if the air around the tank gets too hot? Will it affect the stability of the tank itself and, subsequently, the contents? By utilizing the IoT to monitor chemical tanks, the risk of leakage and subsequent environmental damage can be greatly reduced.
Remote asset monitoring is, simply put, when you monitor assets remotely. This is accomplished by a system of sensors attached to the assets – in this case chemical tanks – that gather and communicate data to a storage cloud, which is connected to analytics programs that turn the data into usable information. The data is visualized on a customizable dashboard, which a user can check from their office, phone, or any other device chosen to connect to the cloud. What do the sensors monitor? That will vary based on the needs of the company/manufacturer benefiting from connecting to the IoT. For example, sensors are programmed to monitor the individual needs of the when waste needs to be collected, or noticing patterns in vibrations that could affect the tank’s usefulness (e.g., if every day at 2 p.m. the tank gets rattled due to delivery vehicles being parked nearby). It also tells the owner when to send out a vehicle, for example, to collect waste oil. That obviously drives down cost and increases safety and compliance.
Temperature sensors can detect if there is a reaction going on with the chemical inside that is causing instability, perhaps a hazardous situation, or leakage. An ultrasonic sensor detects if the hatch is left open. For the most part, sensors are easy to deploy on chemical tanks because they do not need to be inserted inside tanks where acid, oil, or other chemicals would destroy them or where it would be difficult to cut the tank open and potentially damage its structural integrity. Non-invasive capacitive sensors can be attached to the outside of tanks and can measure the level inside.
High pressure spherical, horizontal cylinder, and bullet tanks need to be checked for leaks. This is the case especially when there is the risk of an explosion or spillage that would cause problems with regulators, neighbors, and the environment. Such monitoring too keeps the tanks within national weights and measure standards and ATEX directives.
There is also the need is to monitor tanks for tampering or theft. Vibration or Motion sensors monitor if someone is tampering with the device, Vandalizing or something has fallen over in a heavy wind. Motion patterns can also signal that a tank is being be emptied, which could happen when tanks contain a valuable commodity that can be resold by thieves. In some situations when prices for commodities, like copper, are high then tank material is itself at risk of theft. This is a common crime in developing nations. Such cases can also be detected with motion and vibration sensing to raise early alerts to security teams or law enforcement.
IoT is the vehicle for providing asset connectivity to the cloud. But it does not provide just monitoring. It provides control. From the IoT cloud, the local controller can interface with the tank to close values or otherwise take corrective action based on either automated pre-set rules or by manual action remotely.
And it is not necessary to turn over tank monitoring to the IoT cloud vendor in all cases. Agriculture and industrial tank owners in many of cases already have their tanks attached to the tank vendor’s cloud or a 3rd party monitoring service. That data can be drawn into the overall company’s monitoring system by tapping into that service’s API. This can be taken one step further to integrate with the ERP PM system to cut maintenance work orders when filters or other component needs to be replaced. That is more cost effective and efficient than changing out such pieces on a fixed schedule.
Finally, and consistent with what we just said, tactical day-to-day tank metrics can be fed into the organization-wide analytics system to help improve that asset's visibility, understand utilization, seasonal variations in operational and planning systems.