Have you ever stopped to consider the path and ownership transfers your car’s gasoline or diesel took from the wellhead when it was still crude oil until you pumped it into your tank at the gas station?For the businesses involved in custody transfer process through the supply chain path, how accurate, reliable, safe and efficient were these transfers? In a Tanks & Terminals article, The Power of Automation, Emerson’s Murali Krishnan and Christopher Amstutz describe how automation and improved work practices can improve these measures and meet demand for greater throughput across the supply chain.
Tank farms and terminals are a vital part of the supply chain. Murali and Chris note that performing manual or partially automated terminal operations is risky given the flammable and potentially explosive nature of the products being handled and the requirement for near perfect execution by the operators.
They site three terminal accidents where failed level sensors, leak detection systems, and manual valve position setting caused the loss of life, toxic emissions and massive property damage. Effective instrumentation and automation would have prevented each of these accidents.
Modern terminal automation systems handle two major functions:
First, it has to be the terminal’s cash register and bookkeeper, recording all flows in and out including custody transfers and product movements. All the data comes from the facility’s instrumentation through the process control system.
The movement of hydrocarbons through the terminal drives revenues for the terminal operator and measurements and control play a key role in efficient operations [hyperlinks added]:
- Sophisticated instrumentation, such as the Rosemount 5900S high precision radar gauge, keeps a close handle on product movement, down to proper compensation for changes in volume caused by temperature variations.
- DeltaV automated control driving valve actuators can create lineups in an instant, eliminating the need for operators to walk through and check potentially dozens of valves and segments over thousands of metres.
- Instrumentation can detect spills and determine where other releases are happening in a facility. Spilled product wastes money in addition to creating HSSE issues.
Terminal management covers all activities at a facility:
- Inventory monitoring includes quality and quantity of contents, heating or cooling if necessary, blanketing for fire suppression, and corrosion monitoring to avoid leakage.
- Process control encompasses movements, vapour recovery, in tank actions, blending, and other processes required by customers.
- Asset management monitors the operation, utilisation and condition of equipment including jetties, gantries, piping, pumps, instrumentation and safety devices.
Not only does reliable measurements and automation help the movement of product through the terminal, it can help with the movements and custody transfer out of the facility through high accuracy volume measurements, on-the-spot transfer documents and billing, transfer vehicle identification, and final blending batch control. Together these help improve the efficiency and throughput of load out activities.
Read the article for more on automation in action across a terminal facility including how SmartProcess TMS (Terminal Management Solution) connects the buyer’s sale order system with the tank farm’s automation system to electronically capture the transactions and streamline the custody exchange process.
The overall oil and gas supply chain is hugely complex, and tank farms and terminals can make or break the profitability picture for customers and operating companies alike. Efficient movement of products, by whatever transport mechanism appropriate, ensures adequate supplies and stable markets. The processes necessary to operate terminals efficiently are not conceptually complex, but they can be difficult to execute manually day in and day out.
Automation systems can handle these functions reliably and easily, and the more the various aspects are integrated, the better the overall performance. Piecemeal automation solutions can exhibit many of the same drawbacks of manual approaches, so the greatest benefit, as the customer realised, is found when using a single supplier capable of deploying a truly integrated approach from the enterprise level to loading gantry.