CPChem deploys eight private LTE networks

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company (CPChem), the petrochemical giant owned jointly by Chevron and Phillips 66, has deployed eight private LTE networks using CBRS spectrum.

The company did not work with a wireless carrier, but instead tapped Nokia and Kyndryl as partners. Nokia supplied the wireless equipment and expertise, while Kyndryl oversaw the network deployment and integration. 

“We’ve kind of cracked the code in terms of working in some of the most hazardous environments in the world,” said Paul Savill, Kyndryl’s global practice lead for networking and edge compute. 

Those hazardous environments are one of the reasons CPChem wanted the reliability of private cellular. Private LTE will support the safety of business-critical operations, the companies said. “The safety requirements of the facility plants and some adversity to technological changes were considerable challenges,” Savill noted in an article posted by Kyndryl. Some of the biggest changes are on factory floors, where Kyndryl integrated the network with operational technology in order to monitor and manage industrial equipment.

The networks will also cover outdoor environments, enabling workers to access online manuals and complete work orders in the field, Savill said. The companies estimate 3,000 mobile devices will be connected to mission-critical business applications.

LTE is sufficient for all these use cases, and Savill said 5G “was not a major requirement” for these networks. However, the CBRS networks are ready to support 5G as more industrial devices and use cases leverage the standard.

The CBRS spectrum is shared, meaning CPChem's networks could face interference if other entities try to access the bands. Parent company Chevron purchased 26 CBRS Priority Access Licenses during the government’s 2020 auction, but according to published reports most of those licenses cover areas in West Texas. CPChem has at least one facility in West Texas (Brownwood) but most of its U.S. plants are in East Texas, closer to Houston. Without licenses, the company must use the spectrum under General Authorized Access.

The networks use Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud private wireless solution along with the vendor’s specialized hardware and software designed to run edge applications in industrial settings. They do not connect to any of the public cloud providers, which Savill said puts these networks in the minority among Kyndryl’s private network deployments. 

The company only disclosed the location of one of its private networks, which is at its headquarters in The Woodlands, north of Houston. Savill said CPChem already had an outdoor Wi-Fi network there, but wanted to add private cellular. 

CPChem is not the first Texas chemical maker to deploy private wireless with Nokia and Kyndryl. A Dow Chemical plant in Texas was a flagship customer for the partners and Nokia has said Dow plans to expand the model worldwide.

Savill said Kyndryl and Nokia have jointly deployed 18 large private networks across three continents. He said some cover as many as 20 square miles. Nokia is emerging as a private networks powerhouse, with more than 550 deployments to date

In addition to its partnership with Nokia, Kyndryl has forged alliances with Microsoft and VMware, which can also support its private network initiatives. But Savill said those partners did not participate in the CPChem networks.

Kyndryl, which was spun out of IBM two years ago, considers itself the world’s largest infrastructure services provider. The firm has clearly prioritized private cellular through strategic partnerships, and by training employees to deploy, integrate and monitor wireless networks. Savill said his team is providing ongoing monitoring and management of services that will automate the identification and resolution of issues that could disrupt the CPChem networks.