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  • Retail Petroleum (DiUS and Environmental Monitoring Solutions)

    Nadine Cranenburgh

    Description: The Internet of Things is creating a whole new digital agenda for oil and gas. This case study details how DiUS helped Environmental Monitoring Solutions use the cloud and IoT to tackle the global petroleum industry problem of petrol station inefficiencies and make a positive environmental impact.

    Source: Based on a webinar delivered on 1 August 2017 to the Applied IOT Engineering Community of Engineers Australia by Zoran Angelovski, DiUS Principal Consultant and Russell Dupuy, Managing Director of Environmental Monitoring Solutions


    Zoran Angelovski has ridden the wild technology wave for over 20 years. He has a background in hardware development, broadband telecommunications and more recently electric vehicle chargers, smart energy devices and IoT products.

    Russell Dupuy has over 25 years’ experience in fuel system automation. He is an industry leader, disruptor and innovator. Forged from a formal engineering background, he has developed leak detection systems and wetstock management solutions for major oils in Australia, Europe, Japan and the USA. With a passion for the environment, Russell leads a number of environmental and industry workgroups to drive innovation and sustainability for what is often referred to as a mature and dirty industry.

    Title: Disrupting Retail Petroleum


    This case study describes the development of the Fuelsuite remote monitoring and 24/7 support service for retail petroleum outlets. This system connects onsite data from service stations to the Cloud in a scalable and cost effective manner to provide insights to clients in order to anticipate issues before they occur. A conceptual diagram of the Fuelsuite solution is shown in the diagram below.


    Diagram courtesy of Zoran Angelovski, DiUS and Russell Dupuy, EMS

    The petroleum industry can be divided into two segments:

    • upstream petroleum: exploration of crude oil; shipping of crude and refined oil; and cracking to the finished consumer product
    • downstream petroleum: bulk storage of oil at major storage facilities around the world; distribution and transportation of the oil; and retail marketing for consumer consumption.

    There are several examples of uptake of IoT systems in upstream petroleum: in seaboard terminals, refining or cracking plants, and ships. However most are usually embedded in some form of MESH or SCADA system. Fuelsuite is an IoT solution for downstream petroleum, which at this point has not shown good uptake of IoT technology.

    The retail petroleum market incorporates approximately 540,000 developed retail service stations around the globe, as shown in green on the diagram below. For the markets coloured dark grey in the diagram, verifiable information on the number of service stations is not available, however, research conducted by DiUS indicates that in excess of one million retail service stations exist.


    Diagram courtesy of Russell Dupuy, EMS and Zoran Angelovski, DiUS

    Developed retail petroleum markets typically have a point of sale and self-serve multi-hose fuelling for consumers. They also feature cash as well as other payment systems, and a high level of equipment automation. In contrast, attended sites, for example in Africa, generally operate on a docket or a cash system.

    Over the last 15 years, the number of manufacturers supplying petrol stations with equipment globally has decreased from 250 to 50. There are five dominant manufacturers, which are predominantly US- or European-based. These five companies are heavily invested in acquiring companies through consolidation, and with continuing proprietary systems for commercial reasons.

    Client profile and IoT solution goals

    Target clients are retail petroleum marketers, with the following profile:

    • own and operate up 800 service stations
    • sell up to 3 billion litres of fuel per year
    • spend up to $15 million per year cleaning up spills and leaks
    • spend up to $45 million per year in maintenance.

    Typical client technologies include the following:

    • POS-BOS
    • automatic tank gauge for measuring fuel
    • automated dispensers to deliver fuel to the hose
    • intelligent pumps to push the fuel from the tank
    • leak detection systems
    • water management and monitoring systems
    • fridges and air compressors
    • pie, coffee, slurpee, bain-marie
    • sensors for a range of things

    The goals of the IoT solution are to reduce:

    • environmental spend by greater than 50%
    • maintenance spend by more than 15% per year
    • fuel variance more than 0.2%.


    In retail petroleum, the various systems at a service station are not integrated, and clients are resistant to open architecture solutions as proprietary enterprise systems available from the small pool of global equipment manufacturers offer commercial benefits.

    Often, service stations run on old hardware and protocols such as a current loops connecting petrol pumps to point of sale terminals, which are mostly standards compliant, but may produce signals which are out of specification.

    Many retail service stations have automated technologies but revert to manual processes such as metering the fuel being delivered into tanks. This leads to safety and environmental issues including:

    • employees including being struck by moving vehicles or assaulted by customers
    • above ground spills leading to serious fires.

    Another challenge is maintaining underground tanks to meet environmental compliance standards for preventing fuel leaks. In the US, over a ten year period to 1998, 1.5-million underground tanks were closed due to non-compliance There were 380,000 sites to be cleaned up, at a run rate of 19,000 a year. Inventory management are often quite basic, resulting in high fuel variances, which means that clients are unable to accurately account for fuel underground.


    The solution developed by Environmental Monitoring Solutions (EMS) incorporated the following steps:

    • develop hardware to connect devices on site
    • connect it to the cloud
    • build a leading cloud platform
    • migrate our smarts into the cloud
    • choose a build partner
    • choose the right platform.

    These steps are described further in the subsections below.

    Develop hardware

    One fundamental challenge was to develop hardware to connect all the devices on site. As there were commercial benefits in clients maintaining their existing enterprise equipment, it was decided to create a custom device for use with existing equipment on site at retail service stations, rather than swap out existing equipment to use a range of third-party devices.

    Firstly, the solution needed to connect to the gauge on the fuel tank, in order to collect fuel levels, water detection, fuel leakage, temperature and other readings. Secondly, a custom piece of hardware (a pump communications module) needed to be designed to connect to the pumps to detect how much fuel was being dispensed. This module had to be non-intrusive to the rest of the current loop that physically connected equipment on site.

    This allowed the data loop to be closed in terms of how much petrol was underground in the tanks, and how much was being dispensed through the pumps.

    The third task of the initial phase of the project was connecting to the price board. This was especially critical for remote sites with no attendant to change the price on site, so this is a task that ideally needs to be done remotely.

    The aim of this connectivity was to build the capability to collect data that is available in the Cloud that can be analysed in real time using advanced data analytics techniques. The availability of this data will help shift clients from reacting to problems that have already occurred to anticipating problems before they occur as shown in the diagram below.


    Diagram courtesy of Russell Dupuy, EMS and Zoran Angelovski, DiUS

    Connect to cloud and migrate system

    It was then necessary to build a leading cloud platform, as the existing legacy system was outdated: it was an enterprise website, not a true cloud application. All algorithms and intelligence needed to be migrated into that cloud.

    A physical diagram of the Fuelsuite solution is shown below.


    Diagram courtesy of Russell Dupuy, EMS and Zoran Angelovski, DiUS

    As shown in the diagram above, the Things (tank gauge, pump communications module and price board) at the petrol station were connected via a single board computer module and LTE modem to the cellular data network. Data was transmitted via the data network to the IoT Cloud infrastructure to consumers: the Fuelsuite management tools and the users that used the analysed data to take action to prevent problems before they occur. For example, turn off a pump when water contamination is detected.

    Build partner and IoT platform

    EMS chose DiUS as their build partner. The platform chosen was Amazon Web Services (AWS) for both Cloud and IoT.

    An architectural diagram of Fuelsuite is shown below.


    Diagram courtesy of Russell Dupuy, EMS and Zoran Angelovski, DiUS

    At one end are the Things, (devices and hardware). As it is intended to deploy thousand of Things over a multitude of petrol stations, the IoT infrastructure provides an effective way to communicate over a network across to the Cloud so that the Fuelsuite management tools can process the data and deliver information to users.

    The solution leverages an IoT connection from AWS, which incorporates an SDK software development chip, but essentially it operates on a simple single board computer module that gives connectivity from the remote end into the hub or the IoT gateway that is in the Cloud.

    This provides a secure end-to-end connection across the mobile data network. It also provides mechanisms to authenticate the devices using AWS generated certificates.

    Additionally, the solution needed a protocol that runs across that mobile connection. The protocol chosen was MQTT, because it will operate in a bandwidth-restricted environment. This was important because the developers anticipated the future deployment of narrow band IoT technologies and wanted to be able to leverage it.

    MQTT is also light protocol, so when thousands of devices are deployed. This will reduce the cost of the data plan necessary to communicate with thousands of deployed devices in many service stations compared to HTTP and other internet-based protocols.

    Once the data is in the Cloud, it is routed via the AWS Rules Engine. This is a very simple way to route data to other services, so that it can be manipulated, managed and delivered to the consumer. It also provides a very clear demarcation between the Cloud and the remote devices.

    If the platform provider brings out a new feature, or if new capabilities are required for the Fuelsuite solution, the routing and be easily adjusted on the Cloud side only without relying on a firmware upgrade, which is very convenient because with many devices out in the field it is desirable to avoid upgrading firmware remotely.

    The equipment supporting the service is managed through the Device Shadow, which provides a simple way of determining whether a device is online or offline and a clear view of the requested versus reported configurations. If there are any differences, the Cloud configuration can be reconciled with the actual hardware configuration and the equipment can go away and do its job. The Device Shadow also works with intermittent connectivity, which is really critical when the data is connected over wireless networks such as 3G or 4G.

    Lastly, the Device Shadow enables pre-configuration of devices before the devices being physically available. As devices are installed, their configuration is reconciled if there are any differences to the pre-configuration settings. This allows field staff to operate without needing to make changes in the Cloud.

    Other services used in the Cloud are:

    • Kinesis Stream: which provides a scalable way to capture and manage the large volumes of data that are funnelled into this concentrated point
    • Firehose: which provides the ability to stream data to other upstream services, such as Elastic Search and the notification queues
    • Elastic Search: enables the use of indexed searching.

    Next steps

    The custom hardware produced for this solution will be rolled out to about 1,000 sites in the second half of 2017.

    This will make tangible gains in the data collected by the industry, as currently only around 20% of tanks are connected to the internet, and they provide data about once a day. There is no pump data being connected at present.

    Further investigations will also be conducted into how to use the data to better target environmental monitoring and use limited resources to get better outcomes.


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