The Challenges of Accurate Interface Measurement

Interface or multiphase level measurements exist throughout the oil & gas streams as well as petrochemical. While level measurement technologies have come a long way in effectively measuring liquids and solids, multiphase level measurement continues to be the biggest challenge and opportunity that exists today to which there is no perfect technology. However, experience has shown that process optimization and increased uptime can still be achieved in many separator applications through reliable, best-in-class, level technology.

Magnetrol® recognizes that interface measurement is a key concern for these industries, as well as many others. With that in mind, MAGNETROL has developed a white paper addressing the challenges and considerations around interface measurement and currently available technologies for process optimization. This blog is part of a series taken from the white paper and exploring these ideas in greater detail.

The Basics of Interface

In the oil & gas and petrochemical industries, the need for reliable interface measurement arises whenever immiscible liquids, those incapable of mixing, reside within the same vessel. The lighter medium rises to the top and the heavier settles at the bottom. In oil production, for example, water or steam is used to extract oil from a well. Well fluids then route to production separators where they settle into their primary constituents as a hydrocarbon over water interface.

interface measurement

Multiphase level in a tank

Interfaces can form between liquids and solids, liquid and foam, and liquid and gas; but the emphasis here will be concentrated on liquid/liquid interface (often with a vapor space above the top/lighter liquid). Immiscible liquids meet along an interface layer where they undergo some amount of emulsification. This emulsion layer (also referred to as a “rag” layer) may form a narrow, distinct boundary, but more frequently it is a broader gradient of the mixed liquids. Generally, the thicker the emulsion layer, the greater the measurement challenge.

Interface Measurement Challenges

While monitoring the top, or total level, is critical for safety and overfill prevention, knowing the level of an interface is necessary for maintaining product quality and operations efficiency. If there is water in oil that is not separated effectively (water carryover), then this can induce processing problems, equipment failures and unplanned shutdowns. If there is oil in water (oil extraction), then there can be production loss, environmental fines, penalties and forced shutdowns.

Of all the level switches and transmitters available, only a handful are suitable for reliable interface measurement. The leading interface measurement technologies include guided wave radar (GWR), buoyancy-based displacers and magnetostrictive, RF capacitance, nuclear/gamma radiation and thermal dispersion. Ideally, the technology utilized for interface applications does not have to differ from other level instruments installed at the facility in order to maintain familiarity with users. Standardizing on a technology helps reduce training, installation & commissioning, maintenance and downtime.

More Information

To learn more about interface measurement challenges and the technologies available to more accurately monitor interface, download the interface white paper.

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Every Level Measurement Matters: A Message from Magnetrol®

What matters when it comes to plant management? That depends on who you ask.

For a manager in a busy oil refinery, the most important goal might be increasing production and reducing downtime. For an engineer trying to solve multilayer interface challenges, the answer might be accurate, reliable measurements across the entire process flow. For the utilities director at a chemical plant, the focus might be on reducing fuel costs, increasing efficiency and saving the plant significant money.

level matters

An example of our fresh new branding.

Despite these differences in emphasis, there’s one thing all of these situations have in common. Accurate, reliable level measurement is a key component of every operation. In short, no matter who you are or what your industry produces, level matters.

Level Matters Out in the Field

Here at Magnetrol®, we’re very familiar with the impact that accurate, reliable level measurement has on an industry. Our level experts are in the field every day, and they see firsthand how much level matters in plants across the process industries and around the world. We listen to and learn from the complex needs and challenges of our customers—like we did on our visit to the second largest oil refinery in California.

Because of our research and experience in a variety of industries, we’re able to provide deeper level measurement application experience in the challenges you face every day. Our portfolio is broad and extensive, which gives us the capabilities to recommend a solution that meets your individual needs and applications. We’re not a one-size-fits-all business—our suggestions are tailor-made to your specifications.

Level Matters in Your Community

The importance of level goes well beyond production, however. Accurate level measurement is key to preventing accidents and spills, protecting your plant, employees, brand and community from harm. Level matters when it comes to reliability, too, whether it’s ensuring your plant runs smoothly when no one’s on site or eliminating costly downtime. In many industries, good level measurement is the difference between an expensive, wasteful operation and an energy-efficient one. Level matters as a key part of a system that doesn’t just function, but also flourishes.

Level Matters to Magnetrol

For MAGNETROL, level measurement has always been a great strength. We realize that what’s most important to customers is not an individual product or service, but the way it helps provide the measurements that are essential to their industries.

Our new brand takes this focus and makes it our rallying cry going forward. You’ll see this commitment reflected in our new logo and tagline, our revitalized web presence, and all of our communications. We sum it all up in a simple phrase: Level matters.

At MAGNETROL, we understand all the ways that level matters to your business. That’s why it matters to us. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you tackle your most important level measurement.

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Level Measurement Solutions for Finished Refinery Product Storage

Once the petroleum refining process is complete, the results are stored at the plant until they are ready to be transported and sold. Finished refinery products are stored in tanks with capacities that often exceed 100,000 gallons. Some of the largest tanks store motor gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, fuel oils, and LPG. Marketed products also include feedstocks for textiles, tires, pharmaceuticals and plastics. Finished products must remain inside tanks without evaporation, contamination or accidents in order to protect the integrity of the products as well as the safety of the plant. refinery products

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the petroleum refining industry detailing level measurement challenges and solutions for each step of the refining process. This blog post is the final installment of an occasional series exploring each application in detail.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

Tank monitoring is typically accomplished by products utilizing buoyancy, pressure, servo-driven, or radar technologies. Tanks may be provided with automatic overflow control and alarm systems. Automated tank gauging networks can also be a vital part of tank farm architecture. Today, thousands of tanks can be linked in a network offering enhanced data acquisition, field calibration and remote diagnostics.

Level instruments for storing refinery products must be able to monitor these large networks of tanks with accuracy and minimal downtime. Precision is also key, in order to avoid overfill, explosions, and other accidents. Level instrumentation should be able to withstand the corrosive nature of some of the petroleum products.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL has produced level measurement solutions for the storage of finished refinery products:

  • For point level:
    Model A15 displacer-actuated level switch
  • For continuous level:
    Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar or Pulsar® Model R86 non-contact radar transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters

More Information

For more information on level measurement solutions for finished refinery product storage and other petroleum refining applications, download the petroleum refining brochure.

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Level Measurement Solutions for Blending Operations

After petroleum has been refined and processed, the finished feedstocks must be blended together in order to insert additives and produce the final product. Mixing finished gasoline requires level monitoring of blending stocks, in-line blending, additive storage, dilution systems and injection systems. Blend stocks are straight-run gasoline, alkylate, reformate, benzene, toluene and xylene. Additives include octane boosters, metal deactivators, anti-oxidant and knock agents, gum and rust inhibitors, and detergents.

Blending operations are the final step in creating the products of petroleum refining. To ensure that the care taken with the rest of the refining process does not go to waste, blending additives with stocks should involve the same level of care and attention to detail. blending operations

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the petroleum refining industry detailing level measurement challenges and considerations for each step of the refining process. This blog post is part of an occasional series exploring each application in detail.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

Level is normally measured only for inventory control and, in some cases, custody transfer. The precision of level indication that is required varies. If level is used only for internal inventory control, a less accurate measurement can be used. If level is used for custody transfer, highly accurate measurements are required. In either case, level instruments must be able to perform efficiently and safely with as little downtime as possible.

Level Measurement Solutions 

MAGNETROL has produced level measurement solutions for blending operations:

  • For point level:
    Echotel® Models 910, 961 or 962 ultrasonic level switches
  • For continuous level:
    Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter or Pulsar® Model R86 non-contact radar transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters 

More Information

For more information on level measurement solutions for blending operations or other petroleum refining applications, download the petroleum refining brochure.

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Level Measurement Solutions for Chemical Storage and Feed

The process that transforms crude oil into petroleum and other valuable commodities owes much of its effectiveness to chemicals. At every step of the refining process, chemical treatment and reactions help remove impurities, create feedstocks and improve the quality of byproducts. Chemicals such as sulfuric and hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, liquid catalysts, blending additives and water treatment chemicals are essential to a refinery’s day-to-day operation.

From acids to water treatment additives, a wide array of chemicals are stored at a refinery in vessels that range in size from plastic totes to large steel tanks. As with all chemical storage, there is significant risk to employees and equipment if chemicals are not secured and stored properly. This is especially true in a petroleum refining plant, which has a variety of hazardous process conditions that could be intensified through improper chemical interaction. chemical storage

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the petroleum refining industry detailing level measurement challenges and solutions for each step of the refining process. This blog post is part of an occasional series exploring each application in detail.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

Liquid solution storage and day tanks require stringent level monitoring to ensure ongoing chemical processing. The nature of the chemical, the geometry of the holding vessel, and the presence of mixers or other hardware will determine the most suitable level technology for the chemical storage or feed application. In addition, level instrumentation must be able to withstand corrosive chemicals and deliver precise, reliable measurement to prevent accidents and spills.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL has produced level measurement solutions for chemical storage and feed:

  • For point level:
    Echotel® Models 910, 961 or 962 ultrasonic switches; or Tuffy® II float-actuated switch
  • For continuous level:
    Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter or Pulsar® Model R86 radar transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters

More Information

For more information on level measurement solutions for chemical storage and feed or other petroleum refining applications, download the petroleum refining brochure.

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Level Measurement Solutions for Hydrodesulfurization

Catalytic hydrotreating, also known as hydrodesulfurization, treats hydrocarbon liquids in the presence of hydrogen. This process removes 90% of the sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, and metals from feedstocks. Hydrotreating can also provide hydrodearomatization (HDAr), heavy diesel hydrocracking (HDHDC), dewaxing, and performance enhancements of pyrolysis gasoline and diesel.

Many countries have passed new regulations about the permitted levels of sulfur in oil products in order to cut down on sulfur dioxide emissions. With these new regulations in place, hydrodesulfurization has become an important part of ensuring petroleum refineries are in compliance with the law and increasing their output of environmentally friendly products. hydrodesulfurization

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the petroleum refining industry detailing level measurement challenges and solutions for each step of the refining process. This blog post is part of an occasional series describing each application in detail.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

Hydrotreatment will necessitate level indication of liquid/gas separators and water wash tanks. Level devices suited for high temperatures and pressures are essential in removing contaminants that can have detrimental effects on equipment, catalysts, and the quality of the finished product. Any level instrumentation selected for hydrodesulfurization applications must be able to withstand these challenging process conditions and accurately measure the liquid/gas separation.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL has produced level measurement solutions for hydrodesulfurization:

  • For point level:
    Series 3 float-actuated external cage level switch or B40 float-actuated level switch
  • For continuous level:
    Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter or E3 Modulevel® displacer-actuated transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters

More Information

For more information on level measurement solutions for hydrodesulfurization and other petroleum refining applications, download the petroleum refining brochure.

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Level Measurement Solutions for Isomerization

Isomerization in a variety of process configurations alters the arrangement of atoms to convert normal butane into isobutane, and normal pentane and hexane into high-octane gasoline components. Isomerization is similar to catalytic reforming in that the hydrocarbon molecules are rearranged, though isomerization only converts normal paraffins to isoparaffins. This process enables petroleum refineries to increase the quality of the gasoline components they produce.

Near the end of the process, reactor effluent is cooled and separated into the liquid-product known as isomerate and a recycle hydrogen-gas stream. Isomerate is caustic-washed and water-washed, acid stripped, and stabilized before going to storage. isomerization

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the petroleum refining industry detailing level measurement challenges and solutions for each step of the refining process. This blog post is part of an occasional series exploring each application in detail.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

During the washing and stabilizing process, stabilizer bottoms and wash tanks require level monitoring. This monitoring ensures that the isomerate is treated properly and that waste products do not re-enter the isomerization system.

In addition, the isomerization process involves a high-pressure environment that can be difficult to measure. Level instrumentation must be able to withstand these high pressures and challenging process conditions.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL has produced reliable, accurate level measurement solutions for isomerization:

  • For point level:
    Model A15 displacer-actuated level switch
  • For continuous level:
    Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter or E3 Modulevel® displacer-actuated transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters

More Information

 For more information on level measurement solutions for isomerization and other petroleum refining applications, download the petroleum refining brochure.

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Level Measurement Solutions for Coker Units

As part of their petroleum conversion operations, many refineries contain coker units. Coking is the final means of converting the heaviest products of atmospheric and vacuum distillation. Feed is heated and cracked into light gases, gasoline blendstocks, distillates, and gas oil.

Coker units contain many complex components that need monitoring. Level applications for delayed and continuous (contact or fluid) coking include the fractionator, light gas oil stripper, steam, condensate, blowdown and settling drums, and vent gas knockout drums. coker units

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the petroleum refining industry detailing level measurement challenges and solutions for each step of the refining process. This blog post is part of an occasional series exploring each application in detail.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

The equipment that makes up coker units presents many measurement challenges. Process conditions that level instrumentation must contend with include high temperatures, high pressures, foaming, and steam. Level instruments must be able to return reliable measurements despite these intense conditions. In addition, an interface level gauge in drums that are susceptible to foaming will help avoid foam-over and increase coke drum output.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL has produced level measurement solutions for the difficult process conditions found in coker units:

  • For point level:
    Series 3 float-actuated external cage level switch or B40 float-actuated level switch
  • For continuous level:
    E3 Modulevel® displacer-actuated transmitter or Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters

More Information

For more information on level measurement solutions for coker units or other petroleum refining applications, download the petroleum refining brochure. And to learn more about solutions for interface level measurement, download the interface brochure.preflash drums

 

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Level Measurement Solutions for Catalytic Reforming

In a petroleum refinery, crude oil is processed and transformed into an overhead liquid distillate, known as naphtha. Catalytic reforming upgrades low-octane naphthas into high-octane gasoline blending components called reformates. Using heat and pressure with platinum catalysts to rearrange hydrocarbon molecules, this process converts low-octane gasoline fractions into petrochemical feedstocks and higher octane stocks suitable for finished gasoline blending. Reformates can also be used as a source of chemicals that are important in plastics production, such as benzene or xylene.

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the petroleum refining industry detailing level measurement challenges and solutions for each step of the refining process. This blog post is part of an occasional series exploring each application in detail. catalytic reforming

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

A hydrogen-rich gas stream is removed from the separator for recycling. Liquid product monitored for level at the bottom of the separator is sent to a stabilizer. Where stabilizer fouling has occurred due to the formation of ammonium chloride and iron salts, a monitored water wash system should also be included.

In addition, any level solutions selected to monitor catalytic reformers must be able to withstand the challenging process conditions in petroleum refineries, including high temperatures and corrosive media. Delivering accurate measurement readings in the face of these conditions will ensure the safety and reliability of the catalytic reforming process.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL has produced level measurement solutions for catalytic reforming:

  • For point level:
    Series 3 float-actuated external cage level switch
  • For continuous level:
    E3 Modulevel® displacer-actuated transmitter; Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter; or Pulsar® Model R86 radar transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters

More Information

 For more information on level measurement solutions for catalytic reforming and other petroleum refining applications, download the petroleum refining brochure.

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Level Solutions for Alkylation Tanks

Alkylation units are an important part of increasing many petroleum refineries’ capacity for production. During the alkylation process, low-molecular-weight alkenes, like propane and butane, are transformed into alkylate, a high-octane component of gasoline.

alkylation tanks

Alkylation tanks in a refinery.

After the separation of the reactor effluent into acid and hydrocarbons in the acid settling tank, the next stage of alkylation is storage and cleaning. Storage and wash vessels in the alkylation unit include those for fresh and depleted acid and water, an acid analyzer settling pot, and a number of wash tanks. Caustic washes neutralize free acid carried over from the reaction zone and neutralize alkyl sulfates in the net effluent. Water washes decompose remaining esters and remove caustic and salt that might have carried over from the caustic wash.

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the petroleum refining industry detailing level measurement challenges and solutions for each step of the refining process. This blog post is part of an occasional series exploring each application in detail.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

Interface level control in caustic and water washes prevents corrosion and fouling of the deisobutanizer and other downstream units. Levels rising above high set points can cause carryover of caustic or water, while too low levels can cause hydrocarbon carryunder. Instrumentation selected to measure alkylation tanks must be able to accurately and reliably detect interface level.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL has produced level measurement solutions for alkylation tanks:

  • For point level:
    Echotel® Models 910, 961 or 962 ultrasonic level switches; or Model A15 displacer-actuated switch
  • For continuous level:
    E3 Modulevel® displacer-actuated transmitter; Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter; or Pulsar® Model R86 non-contact radar transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters

More Information

For more information on level measurement solutions for alkylation tanks and other petroleum refining applications, download the petroleum refining brochure. And for more information on interface level measurement, download the interface brochure.

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