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Hydrocarbon Loss: Regaining Control

Hydrocarbon Loss costs individual refineries millions of dollars per year and occurs daily in refinery operations when improper systems, processes, and behaviours are in place.  Best-in-class targets are under 0.25% loss while under 0.5% loss is considered an achievable target for the average refinery. If your refinery is performing worse than these targets or, worse, is operating in the dark, don’t worry, a solution exists – Hydrocarbon Loss Control Programs.

A Hydrocarbon Loss Control Program is a set of measures that can be implemented to systematically reduce refinery Hydrocarbon Loss. A key component of the program is Mass Balance.  At a refinery, there are various temperatures, pressures, and chemical transformations happening throughout the process that make measuring on volume ineffective. As a result, mass – which can be neither created nor destroyed – is used to identify where hydrocarbon loss or gain is occurring.

An effective Mass Balance program will identify all refinery fence line inputs and outputs to identify known losses and potential causes of unknown losses.  In a previous article, we discussed the common causes of Hydrocarbon Loss. At Trindent, we use a structured approach to prevent these common causes, regain control of Hydrocarbon Loss, and achieve mass balance.

How Do We Reduce Mass Balance Loss?

Mass balance relies heavily on accurate data; however, at a refinery, there are many possible sources of error. One way our team of Hydrocarbon Loss Consultants helps reduce mass balance loss is by improving measurement accuracy at the refinery fence line. With more accurate data, refineries can use data-driven decision making to eliminate the root causes of loss.  Part of our mass balance programs focus on:

  • Meter Troubleshooting – First and foremost, it is important to determine if the proper meter is in place for measuring the desired characteristics considering the process and environmental conditions. Secondly, meters need to be proved at the right frequency and with the right conditions in order to be meaningful. We use meter proving check lists and control charts to determine whether this is occurring.
  • Tank Gauging – There are many methods for storing hydrocarbons: tanks, rail cars, marine vessels, shore tanks, etc. Each method has its own sources of error when measuring the quantity of hydrocarbon. For example, tanks can have tank stratification or shifted bottoms which reduce the accuracy of measurements. Marine vessels can be subject to dynamic ocean conditions which can make for difficult measuring conditions. We use our knowledge and standardized check lists to troubleshoot and reduce these errors.
  • Measuring Sediment and Water (S&W) – Understanding the sediment and water content allows for the refinery to properly account for these non-value added intrusions. However, refineries do not always follow measurement best-practices and can obtain erroneous results. For example, when measuring suspended S&W it is important to grab samples from the top-down to prevent contamination. Another common error is to not use a demulsifier or to use expired demulsifier which greatly reduces the ability of a centrifuge to separate water from the crude sample. We use standardized check lists and measurement analysis tools to obtain representative samples and determine when action is required.

At Trindent, we focus on tangible results and showing improvement through data. Our data-driven approach links our results to financial or other key performance indicators.  In addition, we make sustainability a key part of each engagement, and train your employees to sustain results.

To learn more about how Trindent can Make It Happen in your company, reach out to our team on LinkedIn or through our Contact Us page.

The author of this article, James Greey is a Senior Consultant at Trindent.