Phillips 66 is testing a private 5G cellphone network to control sensors at one of its Louisiana refineries.
The company is working with Accenture and AT&T at its Belle Chasse refinery south of New Orleans to install 5G towers that provide wireless service to sensors placed throughout the refinery. The wireless network monitors equipment and provides alerts, using IoT, or internet of things, technology.
An announcement from Accenture and AT&T says the project will lay the foundation for potential future 5G use cases, including support for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and low latency applications.
“Mobile applications are central to our day-to-day business activities—we use them for safety inspection forms for oil distillation units, capacity tracking and more — so connectivity is critical to keeping our operations running,” said Zhanna Golodryga, senior vice president, chief digital and administrative officer at Phillips 66. “The results of the proof of concept are promising. This private cellular network can address existing coverage gaps today and potentially lays the foundation for pervasive connectivity to enable upcoming use cases based on IIoT and 5G.”
Phillips 66 invited Accenture to address cellular performance gaps with its existing public cellular network near the refinery. The private cellular network—a local cellular network that includes cell sites and core network servers that support the connectivity of a specific organization’s requirements—was selected as a proof of concept to demonstrate the ability to handle increased mobile connectivity needs from the ongoing Phillips 66 digital transformation initiatives.
The proof of concept private network was designed from the ground up to address Phillips 66’s industrial digital requirements. AT&T was selected as the telecommunications provider to develop the necessary engineering for a dedicated cellular network solution, using multi-access edge compute across licensed spectrum.
During the proof of concept, teams were able to bring dedicated private cellular infrastructure onsite and record speed improvements at the refinery. In addition, the cellular reference signals showed the potential for improvement in signal strength at selected process units. At Phillips 66, a number of technical hurdles continue to be worked out and sustainable engineering solutions are being developed, before the cellular option can be made available for scale deployments while meeting the operational requirements at the refineries.
“Reliable connectivity is accelerating business transformation and enabling companies to innovate faster than ever before,” said Chris Penrose, SVP of Advanced Solutions, AT&T. “Our multi-access edge compute solution will help give Phillips 66 the control, performance and security they need from their private network today, while also giving them the flexibility to expand to their other locations in the future.”