Energy giant Centrica has commissioned Vodafone to build a private 5G network for one of its gas plants in Yorkshire.
The new ‘fully connected digital ecosystem’ will be built by Vodafone Business using Ericsson equipment at Centrica’s natural gas plant in Easington. It will utilise 5G’s low latency, high speed and enhanced stability to digitalise much of the gas plant’s critical maintenance and engineering operations.
Essentially, 5G will enable devices and equipment throughout the plant, both indoors and outdoors, to record and transmit data in real time, improving maintenance and safety across the facility while simultaneously reducing costs. The new mobile private network (MPN) will enable workers to be alerted promptly of any gas leaks, as well as any other equipment failure.
Paul Stevens, Information System and Technology Director at Centrica Storage said “The mobile private network we are building at our Easington terminal will help us address 1970s problems with a 21st Century solution, taking our business to the future from the moment it’s live. Safety is a critical measure of success at Centrica Storage and the solution we are putting in place in Easington will reduce risk for everyone on our site. By using this technology ahead of our peers, we will establish ourselves as leaders in the future of oil and gas processing.”
Centrica’s Easington facility is described as being of “vital national importance”. It receives, processes and stores vast amounts of offshore natural gas before it’s distributed to millions of homes across the UK.
The 5G industrial revolution
While Vodafone’s latest 5G announcement is being described as “the first 5G ready mobile private network for the oil and gas industry,” the next generation network is already proving transformational in manufacturing.
Back in June, Vodafone announced its successful bid to build a private 5G network at Ford’s Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering facility in Dunton, Essex. Ford will utilise 5G’s unique attributes to improve the performance of welding machines on its electric vehicle line.
Prior to that, in March, the UK government announced a scheme to pump £9 million into 5G manufacturing. The so-called 5G-ENCODE project represents the government’s biggest investment into 5G manufacturing yet, and it will produce a private 5G network at the National Composites Centre (NCC).
Last year, industrial communications specialist HMS Labs issued a white paper predicting that 5G would provide “safer, flexible and more efficient manufacturing systems,” filling an urgent role in a way that no other network technology can. As a result of its potentially transformative effect, ABI Research anticipates that manufacturing could be responsible for 25% of all 5G revenue over the next eight years.
If this latest announcement from Vodafone and Centrica is any indicator, then the energy industry could be set to contribute its own hefty percentage of 5G revenue in the years to come.