Trends in the Life Sciences Industry

For pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers, trends in the market place are driving changes in the way they have historically operated their production processes.

Emerson's Michalle Adkins

I caught up with Emerson’s Michalle Adkins who shared these trends with me. She identified six major areas: continuous manufacturing, single use technology, biosimilars & generics, personalized medicine, demographic shifts, and taking advantage of emerging technologies from the Industrial Internet of Things often seen as a significant part of “Pharma 4.0”.

The process to make medicines and other pharmaceutical products has traditionally been batch-based. Continuous processes, common across many other industries have the advantage of allowing smaller facilities to be built with lower capital costs required. New processes can be tested using Design of Experiment techniques in rapid-fire success to vary operating conditions, come to steady state, and sample the process to determine optimum operating conditions for the product and gain process and product knowledge.

Operating continuously also reduces the cost of goods sold with less work in process inventory, more efficient energy usage, and less waste. The quality of the products being produced can also be continuously monitored to identify and correct excursions before they surpass quality limits. A continuous process is also reliable and flexible to respond to changes in market conditions. Continue Reading

Natural Gas Liquids Mass Measurement

Emerson's Dean Minehart

Natural gas liquids (NGLs) are composed of many hydrocarbons including ethane, propane, butane, pentane and natural gasoline. Measuring the volume of this hydrocarbon mixture required for its sale is challenging because of the impact of pressure, temperature and how the different-sized molecules pack together.

Emerson’s Dean Minehart has written a whitepaper, Natural Gas Liquid Measurement: Direct and Inferred Mass to contrast different ways to measure NGLs and the advantage of the direct mass measurement approach.

Whitepaper Natural Gas Liquids measurementDean opens with a great analogy of the challenge of measuring volume in a mixture with different sized particles:

Mixing one barrel of sand and one barrel of marbles yields less than two barrels of mixture… This happens because the sand fills the spaces around the marbles that were empty when the marbles and sand were separate. Simultaneously varying the NGL stream composition, temperature, and pressure makes it impossible to predict the resulting volume of the hydrocarbon mixture.

To avoid these issues, mass measurement techniques are performed on NGLs. Guidance is provided by the American Petroleum Institute Manual of Petroleum Measurement Standards Chapter 14, Section 7 (API MPMS 14.7).

Dean describes two ways to accomplish this mass measurement: Continue Reading

Midstream Oil and Gas Sector Trends

Natural gas processing facilities, terminals, pipelines and other forms of petroleum product transport are part of the midstream oil & gas sector. Operating these midstream operations safely, efficiently and reliably has proven to be an ongoing challenge.

Emerson's Chuck Miller

Emerson’s Chuck Miller coordinated the gathering of midstream sector thought leaders so that they could share ideas and needs relative to how to better run their operations in the coming years. The project developers paradigm prior to the sharp decline in oil & gas prices was build it fast or build it to last. However, the current industry challenges have changed the gas processor’s focus to the improvement of existing asset reliability and efficiencies that drive capacity and throughput.

Thought leader exchanges included topics that ranged from the integration of field data, evolving deployed technologies and solutions, and mobile client applications for field operations teams to cybersecurity, process safety management, modularization and more.

Chuck shared a few highlights with me that I’ll pass along. For many midstream operators, total field data integration is needed since personnel in the field and at the wellhead do not necessarily communicate to the teams running the pipelines and gas plant. It’s important to be able to predict changes in incoming feed pressure, flow and composition to enable the appropriate action prior to the event actually occurring at the gas processing facility.

And, during pipeline pigging operations, better liquids estimates are needed by the gas plant operators to take proactive measures before the estimated influx actually occurs. Continue Reading

Better Handling Opportunity Crudes in Refineries

We’ve discussed in earlier posts how opportunity crudes, while reducing feedstock costs, increase the complexity of operating a refinery.

Emerson's Tim Olsen

At a monthly meeting of the South Texas section of the AIChE, Emerson’s Tim Olsen presented The New World of Opportunity Crudes.

In the presentation, he discussed the changes in the industry and shale-based production that led to opportunity crude oils, highlighted areas for refinery capital investments, discussed challenges for downstream operations, and described technology and behavior changes to process these opportunity crudes.

Tim described sources of opportunity crudes including tight oil, heavy sour crude, extra heavy crude or bitumen from the oil sand regions and high-acid crudes. For tight oil, there are higher concentrations of light components, large amounts of naphtha, high levels of calcium and iron that can lead to catalyst poisoning, very paraffinic (lower gasoline octane), and immiscibility concerns that can lead to fouling and corrosion issues when blending. Continue Reading

Reducing Risks in Scheduled Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages

It would be great if plants could run forever after starting them up, but unfortunately, they slowly degrade as they operate. Equipment and assets foul, corrode, erode, rattles and more. Some can be maintained while the process continues to run, but many require the plant to be shut down.

Emerson's Sorin Corbu

Emerson’s Julian Annison

These plant turnarounds require much upfront preparation and planning to be done to make sure the scope is clear, the execution performed as efficiently as possible, and timeline, budget and quality measures are met.

Emerson’s Sorin Corbu and Julian Annison will host a webinar, How to reduce the risk in your next Shutdown, Turnaround or Outage? multiple times in the coming weeks:

  • June 30, 11am CEST / 5pm SGT
  • June 30, 2pm CEST / 8am EDT
  • July 12, 11am CEST / 5pm SGT
  • July 12, 2pm CEST / 8am EDT

They’ll explore the challenges in current practices such as inspections performed during the turnaround, which could have been performed in advance, or servicing assets that don’t require servicing. These types of activities cost precious time that could be applied to activities that are more valuable. Continue Reading