Instrumentation, process control and automation solutions for the downstream industry

In the oil and gas and petrochemical industries, the need for reliable interface measurement arises whenever immiscible liquids, those incapable of mixing, reside within the same vessel

Martin Menachery is the editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery is the editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

The latest advances in instrumentation, process control and automation can augment refiners and petrochemical manufacturers to operate more efficiently, reliably and safely. The key to ensuring downstream units can operate even better than they did in the past is additional measurements and the benefit of time to act on the early detection of wear, or abnormal operation. The latest instrumentation, process control and automation solutions provide downstream industry with a competitive advantage, the focal point being enterprise performance. It is also important to note that these solution providers, which are active in the downstream industry, are starting to implement their own platforms and analytics capabilities to meet the need for asset performance management and operations optimisation.

As explained in the Knowledge Partner column (pages 30-31) of this Special Report, in the oil and gas and petrochemical industries, the need for reliable interface measurement arises whenever immiscible liquids, those incapable of mixing, reside within the same vessel. The lighter medium rises to the top and the heavier settles at the bottom. In oil production, for example, water, or steam is used to extract oil from a well. Well fluids then route to production separators where they settle into their primary constituents as a hydrocarbon over water interface.

As further detailed in the column, interfaces can form between liquids and solids, liquid and foam, and liquid and gas; but the emphasis here will be concentrated on liquid/liquid interface (often with a vapour space above the top/lighter liquid). Immiscible liquids meet along an interface layer where they undergo some amount of emulsification. This emulsion layer (also referred to as a ‘rag’ layer) may form a narrow, distinct boundary, but more frequently it is a broader gradient of the mixed liquids. Generally, the thicker the emulsion layer, the greater the measurement challenge.

As elaborated in the column, while monitoring the top, or total level, is critical for safety and overfill prevention, knowing the level of an interface is necessary for maintaining product quality and operations efficiency. If there is water in oil that is not separated effectively (water carryover), then, this can induce processing problems, equipment failures and unplanned shutdowns. If there is oil in water (oil extraction), then, there can be production loss, environmental fines, penalties and forced shutdowns.

The Market Focus section (pages 28-29) in this Special Report elaborates on the growing demand for instrumentation valves and fittings in oil and gas field along with rapid growth of marine and shipbuilding sector in Dubai and prevalence of automation in manufacturing units across various industries are the key factors, which are driving the growth of UAE instrumentation valves and fittings market during the past few years. As clarified in the section, furthermore, exploration of newer and proven natural gas reserves in Abu Dhabi emirate and expanding social infrastructure and development of ambitious transportation projects along with recovering construction industry in Dubai, owing to upcoming event World expo 2020 would act as a catalyst for the growth of UAE instrumentation valves and fittings market.

Ganesan Kathirvel, industry manager for petrochemicals, Endress+Hauser, explains the numerous challenges faced by the petrochemical industry as it addresses growing energy demand, the need for sustainable operations, production under extreme conditions, growing competition, and therefore, increased significant cost pressure, increasing safety requirements due to the growing number of regulations and tightening of laws and directives, etc., in the Last Word column (page 33) in this Special Report. According to Kathirvel, with reliable and accurate data and with the means of using this data easily, balancing production efficiencies while maintaining product quality, adhering to safety standards and compliance, and maintaining costs while delivering the milestones have become easy and achievable goals.

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