Cutting the cost of refinery process control and CEMS gas analysis

Developments in equipment functionality to reduce maintenance costs, innovative service delivery which can enable outsourcing and an array of digital solutions are teaming up to transform the landscape of refinery gas analysers. These three trends are combining to result in significant benefits: reduced capex, simpler operations and a lower cost of ownership.

Stephen B Harrison
sbh4 Consulting

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Article Summary

As refiners focus on process automation for margin improvement and legislation drives deeper emissions monitoring requirements, additional gas analysers often feature on the capex budget. Spending that money wisely will make a difference to the cost of ownership and bolting on service packages can drive simplicity and opex reductions. So, it pays to stay well informed as these three trends transform the purchase, ownership and use of CEMS and process control gas analysers.

Trend #1. — digitalisation of hardware, communication and technical service delivery
Modern gas analysis instrumentation incorporates cutting edge analytical chemistry. The miniaturisation that has been achieved in building rapid response and highly accurate gas analysers is staggering. The technology that is wrapped up inside these instruments has immediate parallels to the electronics sector. With this background, it is no surprise that gas analysers are leveraging digitalisation. Augmented reality, cloud computing and QR Codes are three examples of digital developments which are helping service engineers keep gas analysis hardware in tip-top condition.

David Lincoln, Global Digital Lead at ABB’s Measurement & Analytics  explains why digital solutions matter: “the right combination of digital technology, service delivery and high-tech hardware puts us in the sweet spot to provide unrivalled value for money to our customers”.

As part of the ABB Ability™ suite of digital solutions, ‘Remote Insights’ allows an operator’s instrument technician to communicate directly with an expert remotely. It is a two-way video and voice augmented reality interaction enabled by a hand-held device such as a tablet computer. It means that the refinery instrument technician can share what they are seeing directly with their counterpart at ABB and get instant feedback about the best course of action. Lincoln says that “in the past, training, maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs all meant a service call-out. With Remote Insights, there will be much less travel required — saving time, cost and CO2 emissions”.

‘Remote Assistance’ is ABB’s new collaborative cloud-enabled operations concept. Many refineries operating within a large company have implemented ‘Remote Operations Centres’. These are like the ‘Remote Assistance’ model. The concept relies on Condition Monitoring of the gas analyser diagnostics which let the refinery instrument engineer, or the service team at ABB know the status of the gas analyser. This data can be used to diagnose consumable materials replacement requirements or trouble shoot equipment faults. The goal is to guide the local operations team towards a speedy resolution. Lincoln says that “a Remote Assistance centre is a vibrant hub of activity. Rows of computer screens and teams of experts react instantly to incoming requests for advice. It’s an amazing place to work”.

Dynamic QR codes are a digital innovation that is being integrated into the ABB Measurement Care service offers to help refinery operators get closer to 100% uptime availability for their gas analysis instrumentation. This uptime target is important for many process control applications but has special significance in regulated refinery continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) for environmental compliance. In many countries, emissions measurement data must be reported 98% of the time to avoid shutdowns and penalties. The Dynamic QR code displays the latest system configuration data and the real-time analyser status. It communicates with a proprietary App called ‘my Installed Base (myIB)’ and can be scanned using a smartphone. The instrument owner can transmit real time information so that an ABB engineer can offer advice immediately or follow up with a site visit to fix the issue.

Picking up on another mega-trend, Lincoln adds that “data privacy and data security are key topics in this digital age. The Dynamic QR code technology is sensitive to this issue because there is no permanent data transfer from the refinery’s gas analysers to our systems”.

Trend #2. — services for the full lifecycle with depth ranging from support to outsourcing
One of the most powerful trends for services bundled around refinery gas analysers is to integrate the services provided by people more closely with digital solutions. As an example, Adrian Heaton, Global Service Sales Manager for the Measurement & Analytics Division at ABB outlines a recent case where low-maintenance CEMS gas analysers and field service engineers teamed up to support a major operating company in Italy. “Our customer was targeting immediate cost-savings and looking for a reliable service provider to support their installed CEMS gas analyser base across their 13 sites. To meet the cost-saving target, we offered a holistic approach. That included a standardized maintenance strategy across their sites with rapid response and optimized routine services. The ABB Ability™ Condition Monitoring solution was also implemented”.

Condition Monitoring enables service teams to work with refinery or gas processing plant instrumentation engineers to review the health and status of their gas analysers. The concept means fixing little glitches in the gas analysers proactively before they escalate on the one hand and avoiding unnecessary maintenance if it is not required on the other. All in all, condition-based intervention saves time, reduces cost and improves safety.

“The condition-based monthly review of the CEMS devices resulted in better emissions data reporting uptime and lower labour costs”, concludes Heaton.

A further trend with services is simply to offer more. “We will be there during the full lifecycle of a gas analysis instrument” says Heaton. “Our services begin with product selection proposals, equipment installation, commissioning and training. In the operational phase the focus shifts to spare parts, consumables, maintenance, technical support and repairs. As time moves on, extensions, upgrades and retrofits are the order of the day. And, when twilight finally comes it’s time to consider replacement and end-of-life services”. The ABB Measurement Care packages are a modular framework which allows each refinery to customise a service package from all the available options that focuses on their needs. That means service is there, when the refinery or storage terminal needs it the most and operating costs can be controlled.

Trend #3. — high reliability, low maintenance gas analyser hardware
The right gas analysis hardware can make a big difference. “The kit inside the box really matters. We are on a mission to control our customer’s costs, cut complexity and make their CAPEX go further. That’s why we work tirelessly to continuously improve our comprehensive gas analysers product range”. So says Stephen Gibbons, Head of Product Management for the Continuous Gas Analysers product range at ABB Measurement & Analytics.

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