RDL//Nano Helps Hevasure Prevent the Corrosion of Water Pipework Systems

Water Plant Room

Corrosion of Pipework and components in water based heating and cooling systems nearly always results in costly repairs and unwelcome disruption, especially where a large office block, hospital or district heating scheme is concerned. When failures occur the tendency is to investigate the failed component and possibly much later to call in specialist corrosion consultants to find the root cause of the problems and recommend a solution. That is all well and good, but it is a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, especially when one considers that the problems could have been predicted and therefore avoided if proper measurements of key parameters had been made from the point of installation and commissioning.

It is worth putting the financial implications into context here: As a consultancy Hevasure have worked with many clients where failures of heating systems due to poor maintenance practices have required hugely expensive remedial action or litigation costs (well in excess of £1m).  These costs would have been avoided by early detection of adverse conditions.  The cost of monitoring systems to avoid this eventuality are almost negligible by comparison to potential losses, even when allowing for the many premises that might be monitored compared to the few that might have suffered major failures.

“The industry has been slow to seize on the opportunity that continuous monitoring presents”

One of the basic problems has been that building maintenance / facilities management companies have relied on periodic water sampling to check on the health of the systems. Not only does this give a partial picture but it is a snapshot taken at best once per month, which may or may not be correctly viewed over time to see trends. The industry has been slow to seize on the opportunity that continuous monitoring presents; namely monitoring and recording of all key parameters, 24×7, viewing data automatically and easily in graphical trend form, and having high and low alarm thresholds set on all parameters which if breached trigger automatic alarms to nominated recipients. The return on investment calculations with new lower cost systems and cloud based CDLSmartHub features are compelling.

Hevasure (Formerly Midlands Corrosion Services) are specialists in this field and partnered with Caption Data Ltd to provide the real time & on-line CDLSmartHub interface for their instrumentation. There are now some 20 systems installed by Hevasure monitoring corrosion, while Caption Data have many thousands of systems installed world-wide providing on-line and real time monitoring of a wide variety of sensors. These range from monitoring moisture in the roof timbers of the Houses of Parliament to Turbidity in portable water supplies for UK Utility Companies, to shock and vibration monitoring on structures as diverse as lighthouses to traffic bridges and construction sites. Caption Data specialise in providing remote monitoring systems that operate completely autonomously in inhospitable field locations.

In the specialist area of corrosion protection, Hevasure have shown by using a combination of high quality reliable sensors and data loggers that all key indicators of system problems can now be continuously monitored remotely, with alarms set for all critical parameters. In addition, regular reports on the health of the water systems and recommended actions are simply generated.

Parameters that are routinely monitored by Hevasure include:

  • Dissolved oxygen: Even moderate levels can give rise to corrosion of metals
  • Pressure: Positive pressures need to be maintained at all times throughout the system to prevent air entering the system
  • Make-up water intake: Flow on the make-up line may be indicative of a leak in the system
  • Conductivity: A change in the conductivity suggests that inhibitor levels are not being maintained
  • Galvanic current: This gives a good indication of general corrosion rates of steel
  • Crevice corrosion monitor (patent pending): This gives a good indication of localised corrosion rates especially in crevices and under debris
  • Temperature: Can check that heated water is circulating as required

The RDL//nano remote monitoring systems will take all this data, at user defined sampling and reporting frequencies which can be anything from minutes to days, and transfer it seamlessly and securely across the mobile phone network to their own super-secure cloud servers. There data is analysed and managed and available for viewing, interrogation and download by clients, or their nominated third parties. A number of fail-safe systems protect the integrity of data, so for example, an on board battery back-up ensures that if a power failure occurs to the monitoring system an alert is sent. Local data storage ensures that if the mobile phone signal is lost the data is not, and will be resent, with its correct time stamp, once the signal is restored

RDL Nano Used for Corrosion Monitoring
Figure 1 – An RDL//Nano from Caption Data is used to monitor corrosion parameters by Hevasure.

For the Hevasure application an RDL//Nano was used to gather and send data to the CDLSmartHub. The RDL//Nano offers a significant amount of monitoring capacity in a robust unit with small footprint.  This version offered 4 digital inputs plus 2 analogue plus RS232/485, with on board intelligence for local real time monitoring against downloaded alarm thresholds, and firmware over the air (FOTA) capability, as well as on-board data storage and battery back-up, and with fully roaming international SIM pre fitted, the unit packs a punch.

Call-outs will be reduced significantly

The ability to use the lowest possible signal strength and signal quality to successfully transfer data is a key feature of Caption Data systems. Most OEM clients, like Hevasure, are putting units in difficult situations like plant rooms, while remote field locations for environmental and structural monitoring often present equally challenging environments. Clearly through continuous remote monitoring, maintenance staff will not need to visit site to check on the conditions.  Call-outs will be reduced significantly and when they do occur will be far more effective as the only time an engineer is needed is when it has been identified that a specific parameter is outside specification allowing them to arrive ready prepared for the work that may be needed.  It is easy to imagine the host of applications where access is difficult and where remote monitoring equipment pays dividends by eliminating surveillance visits– from roof structures to sub stations, from isolated geographical locations to urban high-density ones.

Water Plant Room
Figure 2 – a typical plant room for corrosion monitoring

Data from the remote monitoring system is viewed via the CDLSmartHub allowing easy graphical interpretation and decision making. For example the data on Corrosion from one of Hevasure’s test rigs shown below can be viewed from any internet enabled device via any browser, by any authorised user anywhere in the world. Screen shots can be annotated and cut and pasted into emails or reports for communication to interested parties;

Hevasure Sensors responding to changing conditions in a Low Temperature Heating
Figure 3 – Hevasure Sensors responding to changing conditions in a Low Temperature Heating Water system test, viewed via the CDLSmartHub.

Like any asset, a major heating or chilled water system has an operational life (typically 40 years).  However a significant minority of systems dont survive anything like this length of service.  The critical time is during the commissioning and cleaning phases where simple mistakes can lead to systems having to be completely replaced.  There is absolutely no reason why, with remote monitoring, a water system (a very expensive asset) cannot be maintained in an ‘as new’ condition for decades.  By continually monitoring the parameters of heating systems it has often been possible to identify when the chemical inhibitors needed to be topped up and when there were problems with pressure allowing air into the system.  By implementing such a comprehensive monitoring solution the risks of catastrophic failure (due to corrosion) are significantly reduced and day to day operational efficiency is optimised..

Clients with multiple installations use the CDLSmartHub to create useful dashboards to allow “at a glance” management of their installations on assets.

Figure 4 – showing a CDLSmartHub dashboard used as a “big screen” image in the Technician Control Centre of one client.

The systems automatically register the approximate location (by pinpointing the local mobile phone masts) but also have a simple upload routine using a QR code label on the unit to take the exact Latitude and Longitude from a mobile phone direct to the records of a unit. Each unit is uniquely permanently and indelibly identified for life by its IMEI number. This creates the data for a map style dashboard, with colours of individual pin markers controlled by status of parameters or alarm thresholds, but this could also be manipulated to changing circumstances – for example to visualise and manage service engineers dealing with calibration schedules on instruments. Each pin offers the ability to immediately drill down to the details of that unit, view trends, alter thresholds, alarm recipients etc., particularly useful for engineers in the field.

In the case of Hevasure, as with most users of Caption Data remote monitoring systems, they wanted all of their staff to be able to see on Smartphones, tablets and PC’s the status of their clients units with a specific parameter visible and colour coded for immediate customer service. This allows them to be proactive in responding to clients issues – usually before the client even knows they have an issue! Some of Caption Data’s larger users with commitments to Corporate Social Respponsibility use the SmartHub to track the number of “virtual” visits and therefore the CO2 savings made as a result.

Hevasure dashboard
Figure 5 –allowing all their staff to be instantly aware (via smartphone, tablet or pc) of client issues, and to drill down by clicking any button on the CDLSmartHub

The security of data, through all the stages of collection, transmission, storage, analysis and presentation to, or download by, authorised users is absolutely vital. Caption Data operate some of the most sophisticated and robust data security protocols as many clients in turn are working for or mandated by major insurance companies. All data is hosted by independent state of the art European data centres with 256Gbit connectivity, guaranteed 24/7, with on-site power supplies, security, cooling systems, restricted access, continual back up processes, dual firewalls, failed log in investigations, and much more.

Onboard and embedded telemetry technology for original equipment manufacturers

The range of application for remote monitoring within Asset Management is almost unlimited. Caption Data have worked with a number of OEM clients to embed their technology into devices such as dehumidifiers, chillers, uninterruptible power supplies, water & air quality instruments, power monitoring instruments, voltage optimisers, pump controllers, diesel generator engine control units, Building Management systems, etc. In addition we work extensively in the sectors of Environmental and Structural Monitoring.

Virtually regardless of the parameter to measure and whether driven by customer service SLA’s, contracts or risk mitigation obligations, it is now possible to gain the operational advantage of having data “on-line and real time” at a cost level that makes the investment decision compelling.

How could web enabling your equipment improve your business or service offering?

Caption Data Ltd are based in Worcester, and operate globally with systems in use in 15 countries. Contact us to discuss the potential of your equipment, machinery or how we can connect you with your sensors. Click here to get in touch.

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