Very generally, “Internet of Things” (IoT) technology uses sensors to collect, send, and receive data to and from the Internet. Once on the Internet, and with the aid of processing computers, the data can be useful in making decisions about what is being sensed and sending data back to the sensors for controlling equipment and processes. Within the chemical enterprise (industry), sensors can be placed on process equipment, on transportation equipment, and in other areas where data collection and processing can be useful for decision-making and control.
I have done an extensive Internet search looking for examples of actual use of IoT technology in the chemical enterprise. I found examples in what I have categorized as five broad areas: predictive maintenance; processing; energy consumption/management; safety; and transportation. These examples are provided in the following paragraphs.
Predictive Maintenance. A starch producer used IoT technology to decrease unplanned shutdowns; replacing them with planned maintenance. BP is using IoT technology as part of a leak detection system at chemical production sites. A SABIC olefins plant in the United Kingdom is using IoT technology to detect potential problems with pumps before they disrupt normal operations. A PEMEX refinery is using IoT technology to detect problems with cooling towers. Phillips 66 has used wireless temperature sensors to predict the health of exchanges by correlating the data from these sensors with production and environmental data. Several companies use drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to monitor those plant sites, difficult for personnel to get to, for maintenance concerns.
Processing. BASF has automated a soap production process with sensors, actuators, and digital communication via networking. A pulp and paper industry company has raised production 5% by using embedded temperature sensors whose data is used to automatically adjust a kiln flame’s shape and intensity. BASF is using IoT technology to identify a key step in a polyester production process that needed to be more efficient. German companies are using low-cost sensors and the Internet to determine reasons why actual production does not match maximum capacity production.
Energy Consumption/Management. Borealis uses data mining and modeling to develop target values for plant energy consumption. Current plant conditions, outside temperature, system fouling, catalyst aging, and other data are used to determine target values.
Safety. Drones used in predictive maintenance also provide safety advantages by relieving personnel of accessing dangerous plant locations. Chemcial companies are using drones at their plant sites.
Transportation. Dow monitors thousands of shipments at any one time using RFID, GPS, and the Internet. Also sensors can track the conditions of products while being shipped. INEOS uses senses, satellite technology, and the Internet to track containers and rail cars with ethylene oxide. They also track the condition of the chemical. Several midstream energy companies, such as TransCanada, that supply various products to downstream chemical producers, are using IoT technology to insure and enhance pipeline deliveries.