A 130,000-ton oil tanker might be a surprising place to find cutting edge wireless technology, but on BP's Loch Rannoch the world's first maritime "mote" network was developed to prevent critical machinery breakdowns before they happen. Standard monitoring practice is manual and time-consuming, an innovative solution developed by a BP-led team of BP, Intel, Rockwell and Crossbow applied leading edge sensory network technology to create the world's first mote network onboard an oil tanker. Rotating machines begin to vibrate imperceptibly as bearings wear and shafts become mis-aligned. Accelerometers placed on critical machinery capture equipment vibration, the data is passed wirelessly through a mesh-network to a datalogging computer so that machinery status can be monitored every day rather than manually every six weeks. ---helping improve preventative maintenance and safety!

Given the large number of rotating machines on modern oil tankers, it is not feasible for the crew to take readings more than every six weeks using hand-held dataloggers. Faults can develop up to six weeks before detection. Some machines require engineers to take measurements in confined or awkward spaces; wireless sampling removes this safety risk.

30 motes were installed in engine room locations logging vibration signals from 98 accelerometers for 5 months. The wireless, battery-operated motes allowed for rapid installation (17 hours) where traditional wired solutions were not feasible. Motes enable much more frequent sampling (every 6–18 Hours), increasing the quality of predictive analyses and enhancing our ability to spot machine defects early on before serious damage.

Loch Rannoch is an example of how the FIELD OF THE FUTURE programme develops technologies to improve management of BP's assets.

This paper describes the challenges faced in modern day operations and how BP is beginning to face these challenges with modern mesh sensor net technology.

1 Uptime, Optimisation & Safety
1.1 Challenges

Modern Upstream & Downstream operations face challenges of increasing the uptime of equipment, optimising processes and increasing safety. Meeting these challenges increases the need to understand the physical environment and parameters of our operations to new heights.

As we move towards a vision of the real-time enterprise it becomes increasingly apparent that a predictive rather than reactive regime will be required which fuels the need for much more data about our physical operations. The barrier to getting more data is that tradional wired sensor solutions are costly in terms of both money and time. It is not uncommon to see costs of $125/metre for cabling and months of elapsed time for a management of change process to get a sensor functioning.

The rapid changes in digital and sensor technology are beginning to show how enterprises can acquire plant data quickly, reliably and inexpensively

1.2 Technology

Late in 2003, whilst searching for ways that existing sensor technology could be read wirelessly by hand held devices BP discovered Mote technology and immediately saw the value that this technology could bring.

Probably the first thing to explain is that Mote is not an acronym but derives from old English for speck or particle, as in dust motes. Kris Pister, CTO Dust Networks, who coined the phrase when commenting that devices would be so small they would be like dust. So what is a "mote", what's the big deal?

  • The core of a mote is a small, low-cost, low-power computer (microcontroller). All of the motes available today use 8bit processors with between 128–512kbytes of flash memory to store programs.

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