Centrica calls on Vodafone 5G tech to assist delivery of gas storage facility

Gas supplier aims to address 1970s problems at Easington storage terminal with 21st century private 5G mobile network solution

A part of the construction of what is described as the gas plant of the future at its Easington facility, Centrica Storage Limited (CSL) has engaged comms provider Vodafone to deploy what is said to be the first 5G-ready mobile private network (MPN) for the oil and gas industry.

CSL says that key goals in its business roadmap are improved worker and environmental safety and increased efficiency. The advancements in network performance, availability, reliability and latency offered by an MPN mean that new overlay services can be implemented to address all of these priorities.

Offering a dedicated, secure mobile network for a specific site such as Easington, the MPN will aim to help CSL digitalise much of its critical maintenance and engineering operations. It is designed to allow the company to assess the risk and urgency of repairs in real time, streamline activities, reduce cost and increase environmental and worker safety by creating a fully connected digital ecosystem.

The 5G MSN has the capability of providing more reliable coverage than Wi-Fi; the low latency, high performance network will deliver ubiquitous secure and localised outdoor and indoor coverage for mission-critical monitoring, control and communications.

The new mobile private network, built by Vodafone using Ericsson equipment, will enable the overlay use cases to support a digital maintenance ecosystem for CSL. Vodafone says this will mean employees will be connected to digital applications across the entire site, increasing productivity while also helping CSL reduce cost.

Additionally, the mobile private network will give CSL the ability to have real-time visibility of work conducted at the plant, offering clarity around the condition and status of the various elements of the facility around the clock.

“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,” said Paul Stevens, information system and technology director at Centrica Storage.

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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 Storage Limited CEO Greg McKenna added: “The mobile private network will provide Centrica with a conduit through which we can connect a myriad of internet-enabled devices which now range from handheld personal devices to augmented reality headsets. This will improve safety, verification, asset performance and remote monitoring, which ultimately leads to a safer, more reliable and cost-efficient plant.”

Vodafone believes that the capability of its MPN will ensure not just productivity but also safety, as connected workers will be alerted to potential gas emissions which will be rapidly identified and managed in line with industry guidelines.

Mobile private networks can help businesses unlock the promise of Industry 4.0 technologies such as MEC, autonomous vehicles, VR [virtual reality] and AR [augmented reality],” said Vodafone Business CEO Vinod Kumar.

“All of these require powerful, flexible, low-latency connectivity to work well, which MPNs can deliver both over wide areas or inside buildings. We are working with an increasing number of customers across a variety of sectors to use MPNs as a way to underpin their transformation projects and achieve their business goals.” 

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