Instrumentation provides you with sufficient information to make data-driven decisions in a safe and efficient manner and increase productivity through automation. The challenge is often to choose the right technology and features. This article will help you determine the correct type of instrumentation, suitable to your needs.
As this article is one of the more extensive ones we have published here at the Process System Performance blog, we have for your convenience, highlighted its content here:
Instrumentation for your oil and water separator is a tool that helps solve specific challenges. As such, in order to choose the correct instrumentation, you have to begin by clearly identifying the challenges you aim to solve.
Take for example a diesel tank on a truck. The diesel tank can also be considered an oil and gas application, as diesel is a hydrocarbon. However, the diesel within the tank has already been processed and stabilised; meaning that there are no gas, water or emulsion present. As a result, there is no need for advanced equipment. The only thing you require is a level monitoring system that tells you when the diesel tank is empty, too full, etc.
Within the oil and gas industry there are several different latitudes – stages to the process; upstream, midstream, downstream, distribution etc. The instrumentation you need, thus vary on the stage. Consequently, if you have a simple application, you can look at more cost-competitive, simplified instrumentation packages.
In the upstream stage of oil production, the fluid is unprocessed; meaning you have to deal with a lot of different, as well as uneven levels of fluids and solids. In addition, you could face more complex challenges such as high temperature and high pressure. Not knowing what is going on inside your separator can drastically reduce the efficiency of whole separation process as well as generating safety issues that could have huge consequences, such as explosions.
Hence, having instrumentation that allows you to make data-driven decisions, is also a matter of safety, not only efficiency and productivity. In short, if you are dealing with complex conditions, you require more data, resulting in more advanced instrumentation.
To help you make the right decision and optimize your separator performance, we will briefly outline the main two categories of level instrumentation in upstream production. Note, that there is a third category consisting of less advanced technology (like Ultrasonic and Non Contact Radar), but these are rarely used for upstream production today.
By looking at the brief description of the two main categories above, you can see that the presence of complex fluids is the biggest differential. In other words, when there is no issue with fluid complexity, there are several types of instrumentation technologies that can read the interface between two very different liquids (such as oil and water), or between two very different fluid phases like liquid and gas quite well.
The challenge occurs when the interface is not even and consists of a mix of several different fluids, thus creating uncertainties that can easily develop into issues. Solving these issues can take time, and consequently you are left with delays, reduced or loss of production and increased production costs. As such, when dealing with complicated mixes of fluids, you require an advanced technology that provides you with high quality data, allowing you to read, as well as understand the structure of the layers, and their behaviour over time
In addition to identifying your current problem, I recommend that you consider the changes that are happening within the industry. In other words, take into account not only what you need today, but what you might need further down the road.
Today, there seems to be a natural tendency to choose advanced instrumentation also for simpler applications, as it is viewed as a good investment; preparing you for the challenges you might face in the future. In addition, advanced instrumentation will provide you with more data for your digital twin and to feed with higher quality data your automation system. As everybody is focusing on automation and digital solutions to boost productivity, the quantity and quality of the data has become fundamental.
Oilfields naturally experience changes throughout their lifespans. Such as changes to the well stream in terms of flow rate, temperature, pressure, density, fluid composition and higher presence of by-products like water and sand, etc.
In other words, you may not need the most advanced instrumentation today, but it is likely that you will need it in a few of years. Advanced instrumentation can therefore make you more robust long-term and consequently make you a stronger competitor.
The simplest instrumentation is of course cheaper, however provides little information with little value. In contrast, the more advanced instrumentation creates more value over time and has a much higher degree of flexibility. Consequently, can be used for the whole life of the field.
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