How to combat

How to combat
fuel theft
Tamper protected sensors reveal fuel theft at sites while comparing fuel
alerts with invoices deters fraud
Fuel theft is believed to add up to 30% to energy opex in
Africa. In the battle with the diesel mafia, how can RMS tip
the conflict in favour of the tower owner? TowerXchange
wanted to learn more about fuel theft, and learn more
about how to configure and filter RMS data to meet the
needs of different users. So we spoke to Telemisis, who
have an installed base of tens of thousands of RMS systems
from small deployments at fifty sites to many thousands. In
Africa, Telemisis’ SitePro RMS systems have been deployed
in Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis
Keywords: RMS, Fuel Security, Installation, O&M, Capex,
Batteries, Site Level Profitability, DG Runtime, Site Visits,
Skilled Workforces, KPIs, Job Ticketing, Opex Reduction,
Infrastructure Sharing, Africa, Telemisis
Read this article to learn:
< The importance of tamper-protected RMS in minimizing fuel theft within the supply chain
< How to prevent the damage caused by kerosene contamination
< The importance of remote upgrade and reprogramming of RMS to minimize site visits
< How self-configuring RMS reduces reliance on high skilled deployment technicians
< How data from RMS is filtered to support different users, from technicians monitoring local alarms
to management comparing and selecting equipment and service providers
XX | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
TowerXchange: Thanks for speaking to us Chris.
Let’s be honest, a lot of fuel pilferage originates
within the supply chain, so is there a risk of
remote monitoring sensors being damaged by
staff or subcontractors?
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis:
Unfortunately much of the fuel fraud or theft is
internal, so interference with sensors is a common
problem we pick up.
For example, one of our clients was aware of
regular small amounts of diesel theft, enough to
supply one or two vehicles, at one of their sites. The
parties responsible tried to sabotage the sensors
by disconnecting the power. They thought they’d
disabled the system and started draining the fuel.
Fortunately our devices are extremely resilient to
tampering (our systems have independent power
systems, internal disconnection sensors, tamper
protection on fuel probes and fuel hatches), so the
thief triggered an alarm and the client was able to
dispatch someone to the site, where they discovered
the security guard was pilfering fuel.
We can also combat fraud by cross-referencing
fuel alerts against invoices. On one fairly large
system we picked up invoices routinely 10% above
what the subcontractor said had been delivered.
We conducted an accuracy test on our system
and found it was accurate within 1 litre. In that
particular instance, we found that the metering on
delivery vehicles was 10% high across the board, so
the error was corrected. | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
Africa so GPS tracking provides the potential for the
equipment to be tracked and recovered.
On a single site the operator
was paying for 12,000 litres
of diesel per year that they
were not actually using!
In Tanzania we had a site where the client was
burning 1,000 litres of diesel per month in two
deliveries of 500 litres… yet the tank capacity was
only 430 litres! After we deployed our RMS the
system didn’t need refueling again all year, as the
grid supply was reliable. So on a single site the
operator was paying for 12,000 litres of diesel per
year that they were not actually using! Multiply that
kind of saving across many sites, and add in the
savings from reduced truck rolls, and it pays for an
RMS system in no time at all!
In another example, I remember one of our
Caribbean customers had installed one of our main
units into their gensets when they experienced the
theft of one of their generators from a site. The
system has GPS ring-fencing, so they dispatched
someone to the site with local law enforcement,
noticed on the way that the GPS said they’d just
passed the generator, stopped, turned around and
found the dumper truck the thieves had used to rip
the generator off the site! Unfortunately theft of the
actual generator itself is a common occurrence in
XX | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
TowerXchange: Is watering down of diesel
another common problem?
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis: Yes,
so fuel quality monitoring is also essential. Water in
the fuel is actually relatively easy to detect. On the
other hand, kerosene or biodiesel contamination
is extremely difficult to detect. If you put kerosene
into a diesel generator, it will keep on running, but
the generator will run until it destroys itself, so it
can be extremely harmful. We have a solution for
monitoring kerosene and unexpected hyrdocarbons
contamination that costs a tenth of the price of the
other solutions available on the market.
TowerXchange: How do you differentiate
Telemisis from competitive RMS solutions?
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis:
Telemisis has a background in electricity
monitoring, security and automation, using small
format solid-state site equipment designed to work
in harsh environmental conditions meaning that
reliability and ease of deployment are designed in.
Our rugged SiteNode telemetry device is capable of
withstanding operating temperatures from -30oC to
A lot of competitors’ RMS systems come from a
background of IT monitoring where environmental
conditions are benign and communications
are reliable which means that some struggle in
the environments experienced in Africa. Our
experience in power source management on cell
sites, whether utilising green energy sources or
maximising battery usage within operational
limits before remotely starting the genset, means
that we can provide a solution for the most
important aspect of cell sites; the power source.
Because Telemisis SitePro is designed as a remote
telemetry system from the ground up, it largely
self-configures, which reduces the need for highly
skilled technicians to deploy the system.
Site owners can install all elements of the system
supplied by Telemisis, or it can be designed to work
with equipment and sensors already on site.
Our system ranges from small format, solid-state
devices deployable for machine monitoring and GPS
tracking on generators or off grid solar-powered
sites, to larger switch sites.
TowerXchange: How have your clients’
requirements changed and how has your
solution evolved over the last ten years?
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis:
Our system has evolved in many ways over the
past ten years from feedback from our customers’
requirements and to take advantage of new
technologies as they become available. Some of
our systems have been installed for many years,
and over that time our clients’ requirements have
evolved and their site monitoring solution from
Telemisis has expanded to meet these needs. If you
can address changes without sending people to | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
TowerXchange: How do your sensor devices in
the field communicate with the NOC?
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis:
The information collected on site is intelligently
processed and transmitted to the NOC through the
most applicable route such as Ethernet, GPRS or
SMS. Multiple back-up communications options
are available to ensure the information gets back,
particularly when there are problems on site that
may affect the primary transmission path.
the site, that fulfills one of the key aims of RMS; to
reduce site visits. We don’t want to create site visit
requirements for the telemetry, so remote upgrade
and reprogramming is made possible though our
secure interface.
We understand that once you’ve gone down a
route partnering with a telemetry supplier in your
network, it is expensive and difficult to change
so to a certain extent you’re committed to that
supplier. For this reason we think it’s critical that
new hardware retains backwards compatibility so
that expansion and upgrade is easy. Our SitePro
system is backwards compatible to the equipment
we installed in 2002-3.
TowerXchange: Tell us more about deployment
of your systems, from self-configuration to
communication with the NOC.
XX | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis:
Our devices automatically configure themselves
to connect to the server. For example the system
recognises the SIM card and the settings it needs.
Our temperature and humidity sensors are all
pre-calibrated and fuel sensors are automatically
calibrated as part of the startup procedure.
Once we’ve established communications with
the central server, the intelligence in that server
enables a project manager in the NOC to rapidly
apply the correct configuration. The system only
presents options that are viable in terms of the
equipment that is connected on site.
So we only need a skilled technician at the NOC,
who configures and commissions the site with the
person on site processing through physical tests by
walking in front of sensors, closing breakers etc.
Integration with the NOC systems is often
implemented by Telemisis at an SNMP level but
higher levels of integration provided by SitePro
provide valuable insight into site condition
allowing proactive site visits or reduced site visits
by diagnosing the faults remotely and responding
accordingly. The more detailed information
is useful particularly where customers want
integration with back-office systems. This makes
business intelligence more powerful through the
integration of live, real-time data.
Our ability to buffer data in the event of a
communication problem is critical to the integrity of
the system but fallback transmission means the data
is available to the engineers when it is most needed,
when normal site communications are down.
TowerXchange: Tell us where the Telemisis
SitePro system fits within the systems and
processes within the NOC.
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis: It | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
The SitePro system collects a lot more than alarms,
by providing readings that enable the user to
have valuable additional information enabling
them to act more efficiently. SitePro passes the
clear cut alerts that the NOC operators want to the
NOC screens but makes the extended information
available to the engineers or managers providing
them with the information they need so that they
have a good idea what to expect before they go
onsite and can respond efficiently, maximizing
productivity and site availability.
For example, an operator might see a generator
alarm from a remote site two and a half hours
drive away. From the NOC he can see that the
charger alternator has failed. He can then dispatch
a maintenance person equipped with a replacement
charger alternator to replace then and there,
rather than having to make a five hour round trip
for diagnostics and another to perform the actual
TowerXchange: How do RMS support decision
making processes?
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis: We
think it’s important that we provide genuine Remote
XX | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
TowerXchange: Why is RMS so critical for
Our job doesn’t end with
the installation of sensors;
it’s critical to feed back
management information
into the decision making
processes of site owners
and operators to support
their tendering
depends what systems the client already has and
what information they want. Typically the NOC has
basic alarms transmitted to it through BTS inputs
which typically offer very little useful information
on the site systems, or in some cases by SNMP which
can generate a large amount of alarms which are
too numerous to handle at the NOC.
Management not just Remote Monitoring. Our job
doesn’t end with the installation of sensors; it’s
critical to feed back management information into
the decision making processes of site owners and
operators to support their tendering with provable
information on service patterns, fuel use, and fuel
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis: The
intelligence from RMS enables towercos to optimise
their site operations, which is critical for improving
site level profitability. The visibility of site condition
is of prime importance because if you don’t know
what is happening on site you can’t respond, and
failure to meet SLAs can be costly to towercos.
SitePro also provides remote control capabilities
meaning that action can be taken either without
sending an engineer or while the engineer is enroute. For instance you receive a generator “fail to
start” alarm from site, meaning the site is running
on the batteries and so time is ticking away towards
a site outage. Remote control of the generator
means that the engineer can take remote control of
the generator and manually start the set and check
its condition so keeping the site operational.
In the unlikely event of disputes, towerco’s can use
SitePro to prove the achievement of SLAs.
Our information helps identify patterns in faults
and equipment degradation, informing battery
replacement decision-making processes by
assessing battery performance over time against
specifications laid out by the client.
Towercos also often install tracking devices on their
fleet of vehicles. With SitePro this can be integrated
within the same monitoring system, providing a
more comprehensive enterprise solution. If fuel
delivery vehicles are included on the system, the
fuel supply chain information is condensed into a
single point of interface.
We provide accurate data on fuel delivered and fuel
burned, which is critical when re-tendering for fuel
supply and delivery.
TowerXchange: Tell us about the scale of human
intervention required to respond to remote
monitoring alarms – at what point is the network | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
User interface examples
too big for one person to manage alarms and
manually integrate with job ticketing?
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis: You
need to set up a tree structure and group sites by
area to keep supervision to perhaps a maximum
of one hundred or so sites per region. It varies
according to the requirements of the network
concerned. Some operators might only be able to
cope with ten or so sites, but automated processing
and filtering of information is critical.
With Telemisis SitePro, automatic reporting is
supplemented by a unique user login that filters the
information to just the information at the level of
concentration that user needs to see. Auto reporting
XX | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
means that the users don’t need to login to the
system for day to day information, it is in their
inbox each day that they need it, for that region,
for that person in the org-chart. Automation is
important if you’re managing more than ten sites,
and it’s critical if you’re managing thousands.
For example, a towerco they may want to make
some fuel data available to a subcontractor, so
that data can be filtered by geography and by
subcontractor, and only the information important
to that subcontractor is shared. Similarly, towercos
can allow network managers and operator tenants
to login and examine certain data across multiple
regions, but only seeing sites on which they are
In general, you’re probably looking at an average
capex of around £2-3,500, depending on which
country you’re in. That’s the installed price
including a reasonable base of sensors. Installation
costs vary significantly and some countries you
need to add £1,000 per site just for labour costs. So
I’d estimate maybe £2,500 for the equipment in a
well equipped system, plus £1,000 for installation
since you don’t need technical guys on site.
The central monitoring team in the NOC can use
their normal screens, other users can use our
web-based interface, while the field engineers use
integrated mobile apps for industrial tools and
smartphones. The management team typically uses
business intelligence tools fed with information
from our system. We can provide trouble-ticketing
and service management alerts, or our data can be
fed into existing systems if preferred.
TowerXchange: Please tell us an example of the
Telemisis solution in action.
Ours is a scalable system able to manage ten to
twenty sites on a Telemisis hosted system, or up to
tens of thousands of sites where operators typically
host their own systems and often have data fed into
their existing business intelligence systems.
TowerXchange: What is the estimated capital
outlay per site to acquire and install your
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis: That
really is a “how long is a piece of string” question as
so much depends on the client’s objectives, and that
may differ from site to site.
Chris Begent, Commercial Director, Telemisis:
When Hurricane Dean struck Jamaica in 2007, the
incident really illustrated the benefit of RMS. The
network equipped with our telemetry was able
to get up and running within 24 hours, while a
competitor’s network took many days to get back
into full operation. Telemisis monitored the shut
down of grid power at the peak of the hurricane
(so 240V weren’t running through the systems
during extreme weather!), and the immediate start
of generators afterwards. Vital information on site
alarms allowed the prioritisation of visits to affected
sites keeping active sites on air and enabling rapid
repairs to be undertaken efficiently with best use of
resource | TowerXchange Issue 3 |
SitePro—Remote Monitoring
SitePro - Monitoring and Control
Solutions for On Site Power Generation including Fuel
Rectifiers and Off Grid Power Systems
Small size for flexibility of location and
solid-state reliability, with a broad range
of interfaces to provide a solution for all
site needs.
Grid Power
Batteries and DC Power
Security & Safety including Tower Lights
Environmental systems
Site Management Optimisaton
Vehicle and Mobile Plant Tracking
SitePro the intelligent solution for remote site and machine monitoring.
Automatic alerting, reporting and data analysis means the information
you need to minimise your costs and maximise performance is in your
hands simply and easily.
SitePro—Quality by Design
Tel: +44 (0) 3333660088
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Email: [email protected]