Podcast: Avoiding Tank Overfills and Optimizing Storage Terminal Capacity

by , , | Mar 8, 2021 | Measurement Instrumentation, Oil & Gas, Tank Gauging | 0 comments

Terminal Capacity Podcast SeriesOne of the most common and dangerous hazards that can occur at a tanks and terminals site is a tank overfill incident. Industry data indicates that statistically, one overfill occurs every 3,300 fillings (Marsh and McLennan Companies, 2011). Any incident can result in fines and irreparable & environmental damage. Investing in tank overfill prevention with the right instrumentation and control systems or increasing terminal capacity is your first defense to safer operations and reputation preservation.

Modern overfill prevention is based on a holistic perspective and an understanding of the many elements that contribute to tank overfill conditions.

Key elements of modern overfill prevention strategy include:

  • Conducting a risk assessment
  • Following procedures documented in an overfill management system
  • Education
  • Use of appropriate equipment
  • Non-adjustable alarm points
  • Appropriate commissioning procedures such as Site Acceptance Testing (SAT)
  • Periodic maintenance and proof-testing
  • Management of change

In this episode of our Optimizing Storage Terminal Capacity podcast series, Rich Ireland, a 40-year sales veteran and North American Sales Manager for Rosemount Tank Gauging systems, touches upon the practical steps and solutions storage terminal operators can introduce to improve overfill prevention.

Listen in for tank gauging and overfill prevention solutions covering all storage tank types and installation conditions.

Rosemount Tank Gauging Systems support everything from independent additional level measurements as part of a SIL 2 or SIL 3 Automatic Overfill Prevention System (AOPS). Using the same types of proven devices for tank gauging measurement operations and overfill prevention simplifies training, procurement, parts handling, engineering and installation.

Visit the Optimize Terminal Capacity section on Emerson.com for more on ways to gain increased visibility into your terminal operations to maximize volume capacity, turnover, and revenue capture.


Jim: Hey, everybody. I’m Jim Cahill with another edition from our Increasing Terminal Capacity Series. Today, I’m joined by Rich Ireland, who is a sales manager here in North America responsible for Rosemount Tank Gauging Products. We’ll be discussing tank overfill prevention strategies. Welcome, Rich.

Rich: Good morning, Jim. How are you?

Jim: I’m doing just great. Well, I guess to begin, can you share with the listeners your educational background and path to your current position here at Emerson?

Rich: Yep. Yeah, I sure can. So, I started in this industry about 40 years ago after going to just a small technical college, and I started in a technician side of things as a field tech. I worked a lot in the motor controls industry initially, PLC work, that kind of thing, and then I got into a little more technical stuff with weighing systems. So, I worked in that arena for quite a while designing and programming weighing systems, and then started a manufacturer’s rep firm. And actually, was what was called Saab back then, which was the radar gauge system that is now Emerson’s Rosemount Tank Gauging System after an acquisition. So, after the joys of selling that equipment for so long, I decided to join the company so to speak.

About 17 years ago I came on as the Eastern regional manager. I’ve been working ever since. I do a lot of work, as we all do, in our roles with API, which is the American Petroleum Institute that sets standards. There are several conferences that we attend on a regular basis. I’ve done presentations for the International School of Hydrocarbon Measurement, which is called the ISHM, so specializing in tank gauging, overfill prevention, and Emerson has put a lot of emphasis on safety and overfill, preventing overfills. So with the release of our latest fourth-generation gauging system, we’ve really tried to swing for the bleachers on that.

Jim: Well, that’s a nice, varied background and a lot of getting your hands into different technologies. That’s really great. I guess, for our listeners who may not be all that familiar with tank gauging, can you give us a description of Emerson’s Rosemount Tank Gauging solution?

Rich: I can. And I like to start by saying a lot of people sort of take tanks for granted. As they’re driving through metropolitan areas, they’re looking at the buildings and the traffic, or if they’re taxing to their gate in an airport, they just see jets and luggage wagons, and for me, I see tanks. There are like 500,000 or more aboveground storage tanks in North America just by it alone. And there’s a lot of stuff in those tanks, gasoline, chemicals, the glycol de-icer for your wings, and all that stuff is in those tanks. And the situation is we want that stuff to move to where it needs to go, into your gas tank or onto the aircraft. Every time you move product, you have to refill the tank.

And so, we can’t take these things for granted. And they’re very large. They hold a lot of product, oftentimes very non-hazardous, but in most cases, it’s not something that you want on the ground. So, we started our business several years ago as Saab, working in primarily the financial side of it in the sense of inventory management, accurate measurement, pulling all of that information together, making calculations. In hydrocarbons, it’s all traded in volume, and you have to convert level and temperatures, and come up with what’s called a standard volume. So, it’s all traded at 60 degrees Fahrenheit around the world. So, we developed that system with radar and we invented that, so…and then in 2001, I believe it was, Emerson acquired the company, put it under the Rosemount [brand], and we’ve been the center of excellence ever since. We built all the radar design and manage the radar program for Emerson and Rosemount.

And we’re in our fourth-generation gauging system, so, of course, with the eye on the fact that we’ve always been an inventory-type system, there’s a lot of other deliverables that we can do. We have a very reliable measurement technology. It’s very accurate, very low maintenance, and there’s no reason why it cannot also aid in the prevention of overfills. It’s a nightmare for an operator to have overfills. If they’re relying on old, outdated equipment or they have poor operational procedures, it’s very easy for that product to come out of the tank and next thing you know, it’s on the ground and it’s a reportable spill, and nobody is happy. So, we tried to wrap in a lot of those deliverables to our 4th-generation system called the 5900S-based Rosemount Tank Gauging System. And so, that’s the 30,000-foot view of what we do. But it’s amazing, overfills can occur, and there was a study done by Marsh & McLennan that said 1 out of every 3,300 filling operations worldwide can result in an overfill, but they’re so preventable. And we knew that. It was really low-hanging fruit for us.

Jim: Can you describe a little bit more about that radar gauge’s role in overfill prevention?

Rich: First and foremost, there’s a concept that we want to try to instill on customers, awareness of their level, the product level, we call it the basic process control system. So, if you have an accurate level, I mean, it’s what we rely on when we ride down the road, look at our gas meter and say, “How much gas do we have? Are we going to get to our destination? How much gas can I sit in the tank?” The primary thing with the best duty cycle that you’re relying on all day long is your primary measurement. Even though that is not your emergency alert, it’s the first intelligence you have in your tank of what is in there and what you’re doing with it. Is it moving? Is the product moving up? Is the product moving down? So, we came from that standpoint. We do very accurate radar level measurement, which means we send radar waves from the top of the tank down to the liquid, and we can tell exactly how much free space is between the liquid and the roof, and then we calculate level. And then with that, there’s no reason why we can’t even add a second unit, second radar unit. They’re extremely reliable. There’s no maintenance to them. They don’t need to be recalibrated. You set them and forget them. If they’re put in correctly, they will work for many, many years trouble-free. So, we wanted to use that as a concept for launching the two-in-one system, which I know we’re going to talk about a little bit.

Jim: You know, when you talked about the spill on the ground and being an, you know, environmental matter, it sounds like it’s also a safety matter, especially in hydrocarbon, you know, build with hydrocarbons. So, what are some of the overfill standards and how does this radar technology help storage terminal operators meet these standards?

Rich: Yeah. Good question. Worldwide, the operating standard for hydrocarbon industry is the American Petroleum Institute in the sense that they set standards. It’s obviously a group of operators, it’s regulators, it’s people like ourselves, experts in the industry, and manufacturers that get together on a regular basis and look at everything from how a tank is built, to how it’s measured, to the overfill prevention standards. And the concept there is giving the operators several what they call categories of protection. And with each category, you kind of get rewarded. It’s based on, you know, how… We talked about trying to maximize capacity. You know, tanks are not an inexpensive asset. They’re very expensive and tank storage space is expensive. And so, the higher you can fill it safely and the faster you can fill it is on your bottom line, okay? It rolls right down to the bottom line. And the less manpower you use to do that is advantageous. So, that’s kind of our concept, working around eliminating the uncertainties around filling and emptying tanks. And we do that with our technologies, obviously.

Jim: Okay. And a minute ago you had mentioned the two-in-one technology. So, how does this play in, it sounds like a safety instrumented function or a safety loop or, you know, compliance with the API standard?

Rich: So, two-in-one is what it sounds like. We have two radars housed in one unit. They’re totally separate from one another. They don’t even know each other exists. They just park in the same housing. They can measure the same…to the same surface through the same opening in the tank. So, therefore, the installation cost is halved. There’s really one opening in the tank…because every time you may not have enough nozzle space on the tank. Where do I fit this thing? Where do I put my secondary overfill prevention device? Well, now, I can put it in the same…basically the same hole, drop it in, it’s there, it’s shooting the product. That’s a concept that came out of our marine capabilities. We do marine tankers all over the world for Emerson for a long time. And we are doing really well with that. So, it gives an independent layer of protection using the most reliable technology out there, which is the radar-based technology. So, it’s not trying to back up a car with a buggy whip, you know, horse and carriage in a buggy whip, it’s using the best-of-class technology for both the operational awareness of the tank and the overfill prevention in the tank.

Jim: Okay. So, just so it makes sense for me, with two independent radars, so one is doing your basic operational where the current level is that may feed the distributed control system or whatever the system running there. And the second one, that’s performing the role of the overfill prevention, you know, the level safety highs or whatever the right terminology. Is that right?

Rich: Yes. You have it correct. It’s typically called an independent layer of protection, and it provides that. It provides it in the most reliable way, and it’s cost-effective for installation. There are operational benefits both in maintenance, lower maintenance, testing, because testing must be done on these overfill systems. And there’s also benefits to how high…you know, the reward I was telling you about, when you do the most state-of-the-art type of system, you can run your levels up much closer to your critical high level. These are called levels of concerns. They’re pointed out in the API standard, and they’re set based on a time frame. And if you have the best-in-class system and you can show and demonstrate your response times, you can run very, very high maximum levels in your tank very safely I might add.

Jim: So, Rich, what about from an installation standpoint? You had mentioned the two-in-one and the one nozzle in there. Are there any other installation considerations?

Rich: Yeah, there’s actually one thing that’s very big with Emerson and delivering value to our customers is the Emerson WirelessHART network. We have that capability in both the primary level in inventory measurement, as well as overfill. And it’s in the latest edition of API 2350, which is Edition 5. It’s actually addressed very clearly in there that the network, the IEC standard that we conform to is an acceptable standard for this type of measurement because the idea is they want people to install overfill prevention, and they don’t want the barrier of the wires and the installation costs being the thing that stops them from doing it. So, it’s encouraging them to put these systems out there. And we can do that. All that is covered on our tank gauging site, which we’ll talk about, all the downloadable information. And we can always help you. We’ll come out there and do a survey if needed to make sure it fits your facility.

Jim: Well, that sounds like it makes it much easier if you don’t have the wires and have to, you know, run them that way to go in with wireless. Are there any examples of, like, what might be typical without the technology or using the technology? You know, what kind of capacity increases people might see?

Rich: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a calculation because, I don’t know, every tank is you know, smaller or larger in diameter, these kinds of things. But if you use best-in-class technology and you…API assigned you sort of a number of minutes of flow into the tank between what you call your maximum working height and your cutoff point. And if you have, say, the lowest level of technology, which is Category 0 at this point, they’re telling you to leave 60 minutes at your flow rate. That could be a lot of product between…so that could be 5%, 8%, 10% of your tank volume is sitting there empty just as a safety margin whereas when you go to Category 3, which is the tightest system, the assignment is 15 minutes. So, it’s giving you much better throughput capacity in your tank. And then in addition to that, there’s an option for you to demonstrate your response time in real terms. And you can go as…then it comes out of the time domain and says, okay, we’ll let you go as high as you can within 2 inches of your critical high with the most state-of-the-art system. So, it’s a typical bonus right there. It’s clear as day that you can use the state-of-the-art equipment, do a little bit of homework by documentation, and then bring your tank capacity within 2 inches of its critical high.

Jim: Wow. That sounds like definite capacity increase, and I guess people could calculate what that is for their particular tanks, and the volumes, and that kind of thing. And you had mentioned earlier a little bit about the operational and maintenance improvements. Can you maybe contrast it with if you’re not using radar level technology versus if you are from operational and maintenance standpoints?

Rich: Yes, certainly. Now all my friends in the terminal business, you know, every company has different ways of doing things and there’s the old school way. And the typical, common stated, I wouldn’t say state-of-the-art, but the standard today is basically electromechanical switches for overfill prevention. So, the switch is sitting there with a float on it. And these requirements go out twice a year and basically exercise that device with a cable making sure it’s going to mechanically function. You’re really not testing the full functionality of the unit by doing that, but you are getting some proof-test and you have to record that and keep it in your files. And that means you’re conforming. Now this also goes down to the local regulators. I mean, your local Department of Environmental Protection is going to have certain requirements based on API standards in many cases. Sometimes more stringent, sometimes less. The radar system now, especially when you have our two-in-one system, you can do this from the control room. You can do simulated and actual automatic proof-testing with reports. So, manpower requirement drops significantly. Your operational certainty of throughput and reporting is nearly guaranteed if you operate…if you do this thing on an organized basis. But it can be all done from the control room. So, amazing savings there. Nobody’s climbing tanks, nobody’s near tanks. The less people that are up on top of the tanks, the safer everything is. You’re safe for your operation.

Jim: Wow. So, we’ve hit on increased capacity or throughput through the terminal, the operational and maintenance, and then the personnel safety side of it. So, it sounds like a lot of really good advantages for going that route.

Rich: I agree. And you know, I think it’s evident. It just takes a little bit of wrapping your head around the concept, but it’s proven itself time and time again now. We have several systems installed operating…delivering value to the customers.

Jim: Well, this has been great. I know I’ve learned a few things here along the way, and I hope our listeners have too. So, I guess, to close things out, how can our listeners connect with you and where can they go on our website for more information?

Rich: The easiest way, and I actually did this myself to make sure that I was giving you the best, quick…I know where to go, I mean, it’s in my browser already, right? So, I can find it. But I was playing customer, I just put in any search tool, Rosemount Tank Gauging, and it popped right up to our site. No problem. That’s the easiest, best way because otherwise, it’s a word salad of URL to find it and dig down. But if you put Rosemount Tank Gauging there, you’ll find it. We have a lot of information. One thing that I wanted to mention with this system is that we also support safety instrumented systems. So, SIL 2, SIL 3, it’s a certified system if that’s needed in your application. We find that a lot of times around large liquified petroleum tanks, LNG tanks, we do that kind of measurement. That information there all the way down to the safety manuals in the certificate, we can show you the math behind our SIL approvals.

Jim: Well, that’s great. So, whether meeting API standards or if it’s in a safety instrumented system-type application, it’s good to know that it has the versatility for both of those. Thank you so much for joining us today. And I hope our listeners got some benefit out of it.

Rich: Thanks, Jim, for having me. I always love talking about tank gauging, so it’s great. Anytime.

-End of Transcript-

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