Whether you are responsible for operations at a fuel distributorship or collection service, or perhaps you are an inventory manager, you will be aware of the efficiencies that remote fuel tank meeasurement can deliver. If you are still relying on the expensive process of manually measuring fuel levels then you are wasting valuable human resources on an unnecessary task and very vulnerable to unexpected events (under fill, overfill, shortage, spills and theft).
If you have not yet implemented remote tank monitoring, you are forgoing the opportunity to empower your business in optimizing delivery/collection routes and saving on delivery/collection costs. Real time data enables you to reduce costs and improve margins over time.
Recognizing that there are proven positive outcomes associated with implementing an effective remote fuel tank measuring solution, why are so many companies still collecting and managing their tank data manually? The underlying reason most often identified is that implementing a solution can be complex! Let’s demystify the complexity and help you save time, energy and money on your remote tank management!
The first step is to get a clear picture of the tanks that you have in your operations. In a previous post, Sensor Selection Essentials for Remote Tank Monitoring, we did a thorough review of the many variables that you need to consider when planning a solution. This review can serve as a comprehensive checklist that you can use to identify your needs.
The second step is to identify which type of sensor will work best for your application. There is an abundance of fuel tank level sensor technologies available to you. Each fuel level measurement application has unique challenges. In our experience, factoring in variables such as environment, type of fuel being stored, sensor cost, tank size/shape, and measurement accuracy should be carefully reviewed when trying to figure out the best option that is available for your application.
Pressure or Ultrasonic
Ultrasonic sensors are frequently used in fuel tank measurement. They are relatively easy to install, inexpensive, and do not come in contact with the fuel. However, many fuels, such as gasoline, give off thick vapors. This makes it difficult for ultrasonic sensors to provide reliable readings.
Pressure transducers are not affected by vapors or other environmental obstacles that create issues for ultrasonic sensors. Also, pressure sensors are inexpensive and also as straightforward to install as ultrasonic sensors.
Ultrasonic fuel tank level sensors are ideal when you don’t have to worry about vapors.
Pressure or Level Probes
Similar to pressure transmitters, level probes are not affected by vapors. Level probes are very simple, relying only on the rise and fall of the float. Level probes are quite reliable and offer a very good level of accuracy.
The challenge with level probes is that they are very cumbersome when it comes to transportation and installation. Conversely, pressure sensors are easy to ship and are very easy to install.
Higher end level probes are very useful when you need very high accuracy. Magnetostrictive fuel tank level sensors are accurate up to ±4mm.
Pressure or Radar
Radar level sensors are generally not impacted by the varied environmental challenges present in fuel tank level measurement. Radar sensors are easy to transport and install. Radar sensors are also extremely accurate.
What makes pressure transducers more desirable is the cost (and this is the case in comparison with most sensors used in tank level measurement). A rugged and reliable pressure sensor for fuel tank level measurement costs a few hundred dollars whereas a radar level sensor will set you back a few thousand dollars.
The third step is to identify the data acquisition and communication system that will connect with your fuel tanks so you can monitor them remotely online with a server application, and from your mobile devices. A good mobile system will provide instant alarm notification, and allow you to review the alarm condition from the convenience of your phone or tablet. A server application will allow you to access all your tanks regardless of their location and your operators can check any tank at any time to verify inventory levels and process data.
Do you require a flow sensor, a custody transfer meter, or other process sensors? You will want to ensure the data acquisition system has enough channels to monitor all of your tanks, and sensors. How far apart are your tanks and can you run the sensor cables to one central location without compromising the signal integrity from the sensors. Ideally your data acquisition system will provide a growth path so you can easily add more tanks and sensors in the future. Cellular modems, and wireless mesh networks are an excellent solution for your growth plan and they allow you to connect with tanks that are not ideally located in close proximity.
Digital inputs on a data acquisition system should also be considered when designing your tank monitoring solution. An inexpensive way to monitor process data is to utilize digital inputs to detect high level switches, low level switches, hatches, valves, and flow switches etc. Digital inputs are an excellent way to collect more data from your remote tank monitoring site and receive additional status and alarm conditions. When choosing a data acquisition system ensure there are adequate interface options for your current and future requirements.
Digital outputs are not often considered when reviewing tank monitoring solutions, however a remote monitoring solution that can utilize outputs will also allow you to control valves, or pumps so security can be managed remotely. Digital outputs provide many interesting options to upgrade the security of a remote site to ensure valves only get opened when they should be. What other kinds of things could be remotely controlled on your tank site that would improve your operations?
Asset Monitoring Solutions’ eTankdataTM was designed for the efficient, real-time monitoring of fuel tanks. The unique feature of eTankdataTM is the mobility it provides while managing the system. Distributors and their customers have access to the cloud server to monitor and control tank inventory anytime, anywhere, from a desktop computer and mobile devices. Distributors can check inventory levels, set up and monitor alarms as well as analyze historical data all from their smartphone.
eTankdata’sTM cellular communication provides access to the cloud where eTrackdataTM automates the data collection process from remote tanks. Distributors can organizer all of their customers tanks (by customer, facility, etc.) and also manage user access and their levels of permission.
- Automated tank monitoring inventory.
- Optimize logistics and increase efficiency of field operations.
- Mitigate risk with real time inventory and alarm notification.