A Process Engineering magazine article, Level best, poses a question:
Has the deployment of level measurement devices changed in the wake of the Buncefield [UK] disaster?
The article’s author connects with several instrumentation suppliers including Emerson’s Christoffer Widahl and Andreas Hessel for their thoughts on the progression and use of level measurement technology since this 2005 incident.
Christoffer noted that the newer generation of engineers want a simpler configuration process for level measurement devices. He added:
“They just want it to work. There is the same expectation for the use of this type of technology as the devices they use privately.”
According to Widahl, the most popular level measurement product line among oil and gas, refining and petrochemicals customers is guided wave radar (GWR).
“It is well suited for most applications, including where temperatures and pressures are high,” he says.
“Process companies need accurate and reliable level measurement, and they don’t want anything that could shut down the process, as that would cost tons of money.”
Although GWR technology was launched at end of 1990s, Widahl says it is still considered quite new.
“The technology did struggle for a couple of years, but it is getting more mature and people are starting to trust the products and find them a very reliable method of level measurement,” he says.
“We have had a huge success in upstream oil and gas in the north American market, and that is one of the contributing factors to our success with guided wave radar.”
However, no single technology can be used to measure every level and for this reason the company supplies a wide portfolio of devices.
“Every plant has one or a few applications where nothing has been proven to work when it comes to measuring level,” says Widahl.
“Typically this is where you have lots of turbulence or foam in a process fluid, or in tall vessels requiring long measurement ranges. One way in [to a new site] is to try and see if you can solve this.”
Andreas highlighted the importance of not just the process variable (PV), but also the diagnostics coming from the level measurement device:
This means greater automation and diagnostics.
“Up until now the differentiation between devices has been between accuracy, sensitivity and range,” he says.
“But now most vendors are focusing on building more functionality and ease of use in transmitters. So instead of just an error code, you’d get a clear text message asking for maintenance or communicating a problem with the process.
“So we’re building more and more smart transmitters with more and more diagnostics offering advice to the user rather than them having to troubleshoot on their own.”
Wireless capabilities are also proving increasingly popular in remote locations or where there is no existing infrastructure.
Christoffer added how wireless guided wave radar level measurement devices are now available for these types of locations.