Natural Soda recovers sodium bicarbonate using a process known as solution mining. This involves pumping heated water 1,900 feet underground to dissolve nahcolite beds and form a brine solution that is pumped to the surface and sent to the production plant.
Mining nahcolite requires very careful monitoring of temperature, pressure and flow to not only optimize production performance, but to mine the product sustainably and protect the freshwater aquifer. WirelessHART transmitters make it possible to monitor remote injection wells to protect the environment, increase efficiency and improve productivity.
Natural Soda’s facility is located in mountainous and rugged terrain, and as such, it is very difficult and expensive to employ wired devices. Some of the wells are more than a mile from the production plant. Installing wire and conduit the entire distance from the well fields to the DCS is cost-prohibitive. Instead, engineers installed a wireless I/O card (WIOC) in one of the DCS racks. It receives WirelessHART data and transfers it to the DCS. The cost of installing the WIOC was a fraction of the price of hard wiring, and it was installed within the required timeline, saving time and reducing capital expenses.
The most important result of using WirelessHART flow, pressure, and temperature transmitters at the well pads is that operators can confidently deliver expected production results with no leakage into the freshwater aquifer. The system works flawlessly to protect the environment.
Not only did WirelessHART transmitters help meet regulatory requirements, but they also cut maintenance costs because the system has no fuses or power supplies, and no wires. WirelessHART status and diagnostic information indicates if any transmitter has a problem, and the system alerts the operators accordingly. If a problem does occur with any transmitter, technicians can go right to the device and troubleshoot with a HART communicator. A laptop is not required in the field for maintenance.
Natural Soda intends to keep expanding, and its WirelessHART infrastructure will make it easy. Future plans call for installation of asset management software to enhance troubleshooting, including the installation of pump and motor health management hardware and software. The WIOC will accommodate additional well pads and wireless transmitters, which is very important, because the company plans to expand production and add wireless monitoring of tank levels in the future.