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Spot-on sprit tank measurement accuracy

19 August 2018

Retrofitted 80 GHz radar sensors are offering a versatile and accurate spirit tank measurement solution for Halewood International. 

Halewood International is the largest independent producer and distributor of alcoholic products by volume in the UK, and is responsible for brands such as Whitley Neill Gin, Lambrini, Tequila Rose, Red Square and Crabbies.

At the Halewood site spirits are stored before transfer for distillation at other sites in the group. When alcohol is stored in vessels HMRC guidelines require highly accurate readings relating to the contents. This is also important for Halewood the duty paid is proportional to the volume stored. Radar sensors supplied by VEGA have been used at the Halewood site for a number of years on various products and processes, and when a new 80 GHz sensor was introduced it offered an extra measurement dimension at the site. The focused beam, for example, is more forgiving of mounting positions, down long nozzles, close to vessel side walls and the possibility to mount in smaller process connections, made it more versatile. The radar sensor now also offers +/-1mm accuracy as standard, which provides the high accuracy of level measurement distilleries and alcoholic beverage producers need as they transfer and store alcohol-based products.

Out with the old
Traditionally, the Halewood site employed servo tape-based level gauges, which were becoming increasingly expensive to operate, were maintenance intensive and spares were getting harder to obtain. Swapping over the top connections into the vessel to install a radar-based device was a fairly straightforward operation.

Calibration or ‘linearisation’ to vessel shape (allowing for geometry like horizontal cylinders, coned, dished or sloping vessel tops or bottoms) is also made easier with the dimensional input software inside the sensor. However it was a new improved feature that makes it very simple to be commissioned and cross correlated with an approved flow meter to create a ‘strapping table’ of up to 32 points, just by typing in the volume added during a staged fill.

This recently updated and improved software feature for calibration against flow meters, meant these were among the first commissioned in this way early in 2018. The VEGA service engineer said both he and the customer were impressed by the accuracy of the sensor versus the flow meter. “It was really simple to do, and the accuracy was amazing. Each time as we stopped the fill to calibrate it, the radar was always within a few litres, that's quite exceptional in a 50,000 litre tank.”

The units used are VEGAPULS 64, 80 GHz radars, in this application they have 3”/DN80 PP plastic encapsulated antennas; installed on the tanks using the existing connections from the tape gauge system (they can have connection sizes from as small as ¾” BSP for ultimate versatility). The units have local, ATEX certified, volumetric readouts at the tank bottom for operators, as well as retransmission to the control system for blending and packaging. Another great user feature: using a ‘simulation mode’ (via Bluetooth App, keypad or PC) means the radar can also generate/simulate output values, perfect for checking any control systems precisely correlate to local readings.

For spirit tanks and alcohol storage, VEGA 80Ghz radars offer a simple and affordable solid-state electronic solution, 1mm accuracy without drift or needing recalibration. Easy to install with a range of process fitting sizes, sharper focussed signal makes it easier to retrofit to exiting vessel connection positions. It is straightforward to calibrate with PC or smart device, intrinsically safe and the optional local readout and programming module, powered from the sensor, makes it useful for operators. The Bluetooth communications for set up and readings make it convenient and safer to use and share information.

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