Process Diagnostics for Oil and Gas Separators

by | Mar 4, 2020 | Industry, Oil & Gas

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Editor

Smart instrumentation has been around for decades. Most of us understand the value of the diagnostics they provide to make sure these devices are operating properly and providing accurate data to the control system.

With advances in operational analytics, these smart instruments and the applications they feed can now help identify problems in the process early in order to maintain optimum performance levels. I caught up with Emerson’s Drew Baker in the Permian Basin Service Center to share some onshore oil & gas production examples with me.

Oil & Gas Horizontal SeparatorThe diagnostics in modern flowmeters, such as Emerson’s Micro Motion Coriolis meters, can identify problems in the separation process of oil, gas, produced water, and basic sediment coming from the production wells. For processes with horizontal separators, the density and drive gain diagnostics provided by a Coriolis meter can indicate that the separation process suffers from poor level control.

Changes in the density and drive gain indicate problems are developing. Sharp increases in both indicate the presence of liquid in the gas outlet and the potential for lost production. If density drops and drive gain increases indicates the presence of oil in the produced water.

Problems with the level control or dump valves may cause entrained gas or oil mixing in the separator’s water leg. Based on the early indications provided by these diagnostics, technicians can check for proper valve sizing and/or level control adjustments to resolve the issue before production levels are affected.

Another example around these horizontal separators is level measurements provided by guided wave radar (GWR) level transmitters and vibrating fork level detection devices. The diagnostics in these devices can reveal inefficiency in the separation process due to inadequate retention time. A GWR with weak signal strength would indicate the presence of oil/water emulsion.

The vibrating fork level switch can detect low fluid level and/or confirm gas carryunder in the bottom of the separator. The flexibility of the fork and the frequency of its vibration can also indicate or confirm the presence of oil, water or sand in the production vessel.

By properly analyzing these diagnostics, operators can avoid process upset conditions by adjusting temperatures to stabilize the oil, treating the fluids with chemicals to break down emulsion, or creating setpoints for proactive trips to empty sand from the separator.

Visit the Separator Solutions section and Digital Oilfield section on Emerson.com for more on the technologies and solutions to drive improved safety, reliability and production performance.

Drew shared that for onshore oil & gas producers in the shale-producing regions of Texas and Oklahoma there are some upcoming technology expo sessions to see these applications and more in action. Emerson Impact Partner, Vinson Process Controls and Emerson will host the expo in Oklahoma City on April 15. The next expo will be in the Midland/Odessa area on April 23. And the third expo will be June 10 in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.