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Performance improvement of on-line analyzers in flow measurement

Investing in an efficient future and a robust industry

The performance of systems is now, more than ever, a hot topic in the oil and gas industry. Not least because of low oil prices, which compel companies to more seriously save. Increased efficiency is usually mentioned as the best way to do this, and accurate flow measurements with on-line analyzers is also a piece of the puzzle. This, provided that the performance is sufficient, which is often lacking.

I’ve been trying for years to spread a vision to create awareness in the market about the quality improvements that validation and data integration can deliver for the overall performance of systems. This holistic approach is fortunately becoming more popular, and I also noticed it on the conference floor at the recent Kuwait Flow Measurement Technology for Oil & Gas Conference.

Unreliable analyzers

What do you want to achieve as an oil and gas producer? Safety of the plant and the staff, is of course top priority. After that, I hear as the biggest goals: lean and mean production, doing more with fewer people, lower cost at higher quality, less product loss and finally more transparency in contact with clients. In short, efficiency is king.

In achieving these goals, flow measurement plays an important role. Through the use of on-line analyzers in product flow, you can measure the composition and physical properties of the product. This is the input for flow measurement systems so as to be able to compute the quality and quantity delivered. The calculated quantities and quality are used to determine measuring stations, well revenues, concessions and reservoirs. We call this allocation (the allocation of quantities and qualities for sources). Thereby analyzers are also necessary for the (legally required) measurement of emissions and monitoring of the process safety.

So far, no new insights or problems, were it not for the reality that on-line analyzers often fail and fall short of their goal: reliable measurement. Why do analyzers often not do (or not do often enough) what they should do? First, they are complex, delicate and fragile, and it takes a lot of attention in order to adjust them properly. If this is not done properly, it results in a lack of long-term stability. In addition, the engineering and maintenance personnel working with them are not always competent enough. And yet another reason is that on-line analyzers are insufficiently integrated into automatic validation software maintenance systems. This creates both large and small errors as a result. Consider then, not only the additional costs, but also the reputational damage.

Performance monitoring

Despite all this, on-line analyzers can provide essential measurement data and data process applications. This, provided that they are optimally maintained, and monitored so that the performance is in hand and can be improved. I distinguish here between the intervention control and interpretation of the performance. The first means that the monitoring takes place continuously, so that it can be done in time, where necessary. Control charts, warning signals at crossings and alarms based on decision rules here are sensible tools. Next comes the interpretation phase. Think of an assessment of the analytical performance of on-line analyzers and statistical inference, as well as availability analysis. Engineers may be able to use international traceability standards, standardized calibration schedules and calibration materials. For IT departments, it is worth considering collecting this data from other instruments to convert it into usable knowledge, and linking it further to integrate with existing business systems.

Investing in efficiency

This kind of monitoring strategy and methodology doesn’t simply implement itself in the workplace. However, there are IT solutions for plants, such as those from Hint, that help take the work out of your hands and provide an easy way to understand your processes. Such metering supervisory and validation systems offer many advantages. With the improved performance of analyzer and flow equipment, the operation can better rely on the equipment, and these function on spec. Maintenance costs are reduced and the entire plant runs more efficiently. There are also non-technical advantages, such as enhancing your reputation as a reliable business partner.

Nevertheless, automatic validation and maintenance monitoring solutions are not used everywhere. It is often thought that an investment in such a thing is too expensive and doesn’t provide a fast enough payback, which couldn’t be less true because the savings in both the short- and long-term, outweigh the initial costs. Think of it as an investment in an efficient future for a robust industry that can take a beating.

Wouter Last, president Hint