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Monitoring crude oil quality inline (TIA)

When transporting crude oil, whether by pipeline, ground or sea, quality testing provides critical information for decision making.

Article Summary
Extracting samples and sending them to an off-site lab for testing takes too much time. Besides, lab test results are never in real-time and sampling does not represent the variation in the product between sampling times. Only online analysis offers real-time continuous information and allows for true quality control of crude oil products.

Online monitoring is particularly recommended when the country in which the company operates mandates the observation of certain properties for safe transportation or to reduce pollution or when there is a need to ensure that a stable and reliable product reaches the end of the pipeline for efficient distillation. These and other goals require analysis of a variety of properties of the crude oil. Results need to be in real-time to ensure continuous control and adherence to requirements. ParaFuel crude oil analyser, from Grabner Instruments and LT Industries, provides such an analysis tool.

You maybe are refining crude oil and need to monitor its properties to optimise your distillation and costs. Blending low cost crudes into higher cost feedstocks helps reduce raw material costs. Optimisation of the blend can result in significant savings. Performing that optimisation in real-time with inline analysis will allow you the control needed to achieve the greatest savings.

How can you monitor crude oil?
Whether in the pipeline, in the refinery, or anywhere along the chain of custody, there will be quality parameters that will help you better manage your product or process. The key is monitoring the parameters that mean the most to your organisation. The following examples show a few of the applications where the ParaFuel analyser provided the specific quality parameters to achieve required crude quality goals.

Pipeline to the refinery
The crude oil being transported in the pipeline eventually terminates at the refinery. Historically, the customer has had to deal with a wide variation in the quality and performance parameters of the crude. This variation complicates efficient management of the refining process and leads to less than optimal operation. By measuring the crude oil at the injection sites, the quality of the crude in the pipeline is not only known in advance but can be controlled by managing the injection feeds. Through online monitoring of API gravity, density, sulphur, TAN, and water, the product variation in the pipeline is held stable. This allows for the incoming crude feed and resulting distillation to be managed successfully.

Pipeline to distributors
Product quality can often be critical to determine type, grade, speciation, price, and safety for transport. Instantaneous online measurements of crude oil for a full range of properties allows for a deep understanding of the exact product that is being transported at any given moment: density, sulphur, MCR, TAN, C3-C20,IBP, 5% to 90%, EBP, water, pour point, RVP and flash point.

In addition to monitoring the physical and quality properties of the crude oil, the ParaFuel analyser allows companies to build a library of crude types for instant feedstock identification, without the need for extensive comparison of properties.

Understanding the crude oil and all its defining characteristics allows pipeline managers, end users, and stake holders throughout the distribution chain to better know what is being bought, sold, or loaded into a vessel.

Pipeline flow management
Some pipelines require injection of additives to improve transport. Methanol injection is used to facilitate good flow properties and control freezing. The amount of methanol needs to be controlled closely. Real-time monitoring of methanol in crude oil at the injection points helps to ensure good product flow characteristics. It also helps to confirm that product is within limits at the receiving end, insures it is suitable for refining or transportation and if it requires any further processing.

Some Grabner Instruments and LT Industries’ customers use ParaFuel to monitor the physical characteristics of asphaltene precipitation in order to reduce precipitation in the pipeline. Others blend higher cost and lower cost crudes at optimum blend ratios, consequently reducing the feedstock expenses incurred. Together, asphaltene precipitation and methanol concentration are two ways customers manage their pipeline flow characteristics.

Inline integration for any point in the process
The ParaFuel analyser is suitable for applications in almost any process. With probes suitable for high temperatures and pressure measurements, the analyser allows for monitoring to be done in pipes, blenders and wherever else it may be needed (see Figure 1). The analyser can be mounted in the field and in hazardous areas too, allowing for a wide range of integration and installation options. A benefit of the technology is that it typically can be done on the product as is. However, sampling systems are available if needed.
Improved profit, feedstock management and safety
Whether in upstream, midstream, or downstream business, the ParaFuel analyser offers online monitoring to help companies achieve their objectives. Real-time measurements of crude oil offer return on investment in a matter of weeks.

This short case study originally appeared in PTQ's Technology In Action feature - Q1 2019 issue.

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