Storage tank operator turns to IoT for energy savings
Let’s start with a thumbnail description of Vopak.
We are a liquid bulk third-party terminalling business. We store liquids for customers — chemicals, tropical oils, biodiesels, asphalt, many different types of commodities — and distribute them by truck, rail, pipeline and vessel. We’re headquartered in the Americas out of Houston, Texas and globally out of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Here at the Savannah terminal we have 54 tanks in four tank farms. A little over half of those are insulated, meaning that we have product in them that we heat and agitate. The total capacity of the facility is 1.4 million barrels. Our largest tank is 80,000 barrels and our smallest is 5,000 barrels.
What problem were you trying to solve when you went looking at Internet of Things technology?
It started with our global innovation group, which is out of the Rotterdam office. They had contacted IoT company Atomiton and visited the terminal in Savannah last year to see if IoT made sense to help us solve problems. Together we brainstormed ideas on problems we had, like the lack of visibility into and the ability to change the way we utilized electrical energy at the terminal. We have substations throughout the terminal that house different types of equipment and are all fed by the Georgia Power Company.
We had very little real time visibility into what equipment was running when – what tank was being heated or mixed or what pumps were being used to load or unload a truck or railcar – so we had difficulty knowing when we had multiple pieces of equipment running at one time, which would drive up our peak electrical demand and that peak demand determines our billing rate.
Everything that we had tried to do in the past to address energy usage was very after the fact. By the time we were able to get the information from the power company, synthesize it in a spreadsheet and try to determine what path we should take to reduce our consumption, it was too late. We couldn’t make a model that would sustain conservation efforts.