Improving Efficiency at Offsite Operations

The ever-increasing global demand for energy requires tremendous daily global movements of crude and refined products. Offsite operations play a vital role in the hydrocarbon supply chain. These offsite operations provide the receiving, shipping and storage facilities for handling bulk liquid or gas products. These sites typically include tank farms, blenders and terminals for handling truck, rail, and marine transport.

Tank farms and terminals are found at various stages along the production process from oil & gas collection terminals to refinery terminals and depots, to primary depots where refined products are loaded and transported to your local gas station.

I caught up with Patrick Truesdale, a senior consultant, in Emerson’s advanced automation services team. Patrick will be co-presenting with Emerson’s Gerrie Benjert at the upcoming Emerson Exchange. Their topic is developing a business case for tank farm and terminal automation.

The biggest business challenge Patrick finds from his work with offsite operators is the lack of spare capacity throughout the global distribution system. Capacity utilization is at a maximum and assets in many of the established markets like North America and Western Europe are aging. This increases the chances for unplanned shutdowns. These facilities often lack flexibility to deal with changes in market demand.

Other challenges include increasing safety and environmental requirements and increasing compliance reporting. In addition, new regulatory mandates for ultra low sulphur fuels, biofuels and other additives increase the number of products to manage through the distribution chain.

Overcoming these challenges is the basis for the business case that Patrick helps offsite operators build. If the case for improvement justifies capital investment, an important step will be reviewing the key components in an offsite automation system. These components include automatic tank gauging and inventory management, goods movement automation and control, blend control and optimization, and terminal management systems.

The more these components are integrated, the better the efficiency of the offsite operations can be. Automated data collection, correlation, and reporting help streamline the regulatory reporting challenge and provide a better data to make process improvements. In addition, custody transfer of the liquids and gas can be more accurately measured, accounted, and billed.

In his presentation, Patrick and Gerrie will discuss some of the quantified benefits that some offsite operations have been able to achieve. It is important to establish a continuous improvement loop to collect data before and after these offsite automation system components are added or modernized. This is so the data can be analyzed and used to generate additional projects to further integrate and streamline operations, based upon quantified results.

Posted Monday, August 13th, 2007 under Modernization, Project Services.

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