Gas Bottle RFID Tagging

The large value of gas and capital cost of bottles and containers requires efficient management. One of the ways in helping to solve some of these problems is in the identification of gas bottles and containers.

A major problem with gas bottles and containers is eradic circulation times. Traditionally containers and bottles have a serial number engraved in the metal casing for identification and all transactions with the container and bottles recorded manually. With the large number of bottles and containers it is essential to have an automated method of identification. Because of the environment bar codes are not feasible, as they are easily damaged during the life of the gas container.

RFID can be used to solve this problem. Identifying gas bottles allows gas manufacturing companies to minimize gas bottle losses, maximize container utilization, keep accurate gas bottle inventory records.

Below is a sample from a report sent to one of the major gas producing companies in South Africa during recent RFID tests performed at one of their depots. You may download the complete report here (pdf – 133Kb).

The effective and efficient management of gas cylinders as assets and returnable containers could have a significant influence on balance sheet and income statement sections of the gas provider’s management accounts.

Worldwide, gas companies experience cylinder inventory, return, shrinkage and routing related problems that could be reduced by real-time point-of-transaction ERP systems updating during each of the functions as shown in the above diagram.

The use of UHF RFID as an automatic identification method to effect/assist this updating of cylinder related information has been widely debated and evaluated. Individual cylinders can be tagged and registered on the ERP system.

These tagged cylinders can subsequently be identified during the cylinder life cycle either; as mass loads, or individually.

This identification can be achieved by means of:
handheld reading devices,
overhead fixed reading devices.

The identification process can be used to update the;

  • Filled status,
  • Quantity related info in the depot,
  • Geographic location in the depot,
  • Quantity related info at client sites,
  • Geographic location in the user cycle,
  • Transaction related to responsible entity,
  • Date and Time stamps,
  • Inspection and Maintenance related into.

The proximity reading of individual gas containers by hand is relatively simple and reliable results can easily be obtained. In contrast, the mass identification of Cradle loads (up to 25 cylinders in a fork lift operation scenario), and Mass loads (70 plus in a truck operation scenario), needed to be proven feasible and reliable.

The only technology considered capable of achieving the read range that would be required for the reading of the mass load described above is RFID operating in the UHF band (860 to 960 MHz depending on the jurisdiction). In order to demonstrate the capability of achieving the required reading performance a simple test was planned to demonstrate the performance of:
Shroud Tags based on the EM4222 RFID Transponder chip,
915 MHz 4w RFID readers (legal under South African jurisdiction).