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The rise of instrumentation

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

As the energy industry looks to align with other global industrial trends to decarbonise production operations and become more sustainable, greater emphasis will be placed on the downstream oil and gas sector to meet climate change targets, such as those set out by the Paris Agreement. Operators have a key role to play in delivering increased energy efficiency and reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by investing in technology to enable process improvement and asset optimisation. There are significant investment and operational challenges associated with emerging initiatives such as electric cracking and replacing feedstocks, but there are other, lower-cost options that can be implemented over a much shorter timeframe to improve efficiency and potentially reduce emissions.

Instrumentation is a vital part of process control – it provides information to operators to assist in decision making, and acts as a safety function to prevent unplanned or unsafe conditions from occurring. However, it can often be overlooked as an area for improvement. There are technologies that lend themselves to troubleshooting production problems and process optimisation, such as neutron backscatter (NBS), tracers, and gamma scanning, along with fixed instrumentation that can offer more than just a conventional signal output. Only by having a complete understanding of the process through these valuable insights can operators make the changes required to deliver safer and more efficient production.

The refining process is energy intensive, and searching for opportunities to reduce energy consumption – especially when considering the volatility in the wholesale gas market – is becoming more of a priority. The industry is shifting to greener energy production and a number of oil and energy majors have recently announced plans for blue and green hydrogen production facilities. While greener sources of process energy are important, so too is optimising oil and gas processes to reduce consumption.

Gaining process insight

Following a number of recent projects in crude desalter units (CDUs) for Tracerco’s refining customers, the company found that process insight through scanning and instrumentation has given operators more confidence through evidence-based analysis to deliver more efficient operations. The use of NBS to preliminarily identify ongoing issues and upsets to guide process improvement, whilst maintaining continued control for ongoing efficiency, is achieved through instrumentation. While scanning can provide a snapshot in time, an advanced nucleonic instrument facilitates the continuous monitoring of process fluids in process vessels to enable efficient control of multiple interfaces, reducing demand for electrical grid transformers and improving salt removal efficiency (SRE) to decrease overhead corrosion and heat demand...

Written by Neil Murch, Tracerco, UK.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering magazine. To read the full article, sign in here or register for a free trial subscription.

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