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Downstream in-line monitoring for better processes and products

Every second is critical towards rectifying a plant upset or ensuring efficient plant management. What if you could incorporate in-line analysis for your dry and liquid products?

Companies that introduced in-line particle size analysis at the milling stage noticed significantly less over-milling. Hence seeing as much as a 2% increase in plant throughput. In-line elemental analysis allows petrochemical companies to closely monitor Fe, Ni, V which destroy expensive catalysts.

Why incorporate in-line analysis?

  • Real-time monitoring of your batches
  • Make immediate corrections to poor batches
  • Prevent wastage
  • Improve your manufacturing efficiency
  • Adhere to industrial regulations

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Here is an interview explaining our in-line solutions which was made prior the Downstream Summit Exhibition

At Malvern Panalytical, what is some of the work you are doing that will interest downstream operators? Are there any new findings which are worthy of mention?

10888_fullimage_Epsilon_XflowWe’re constantly trying to find ways to spur greater operational efficiency and product quality. This year, our R & D team has developed a solution that helps refineries to save as much as €250,000 annually. This is by extending their catalysts’ lifespan through in-line monitoring of catalyst killers. I will share more applications during my technical talk about this new product launch – the Epsilon Xflow for in-line elemental analysis. With the merger of Malvern and Panalytical, both materials characterization companies, we are able to offer a more holistic solution to our clients. Our solutions range from close-loop elemental analysis to in-line particle size analysis, granting more extensive applications.

We will feature products tailored for downstream companies including the Epsilon Xflow and Insitec. With the Epsilon Xflow, you can analyze elements during your production processes enabling the detection of costly catalyst killers,  such as S, Fe, Ni or V.  Insitec, on the other hand, analyzes particles including dry powders and hot sticky slurries for greater control of industrial processes. 

What are the latest technology adoptions by downstream operators? Are there any success stories that other operators can learn from?

Apart from looking at products for topline revenue, many process engineers are looking at improving their crack margins from plant operations. While I talked earlier about preventing the replacement of expensive catalysts, I also see many plants focusing on their maintenance costs and downtime due to maintenance. Did you know that plants can spend as much as 36% of their maintenance costs due to corrosions from toxic elements like sulfur and chlorine? That is why international standards like ASTM D4924 are in place to help plants be more efficient and lucrative by monitoring such toxic elements.

For such routine elemental analysis, it is beneficial to choose simple push-button analytical solutions, preferably with low running costs. Traditionally, plants leverage on wavelength dispersive XRF (WDXRF) for light element analysis like sulfur and chlorine. While results are good and repeatable, WDXRF spectrometers are large and confined to laboratories. That means a transport time gap between the plant and laboratory. Energy dispersive XRF is the new technology to watch. Did you know that the instrument’s small and portable footprint allows you to analyze low ppm levels of chlorine in the presence of high concentrations of sulfur?

On the topic of process efficiency, a FCC cat client recently incorporated in-line particle size analysis at the FCC production and achieved %-level reduction of cat-fines. By monitoring the particle sizes, they were able to reduce the < 2 mm fraction, which we know to cause problems for plant operations and reduces efficiency. So if we analyze, there are many ways to improve your process and hence margins and product.

What are your views on Asia’s downstream industries rate of digitalization as compared to counterparts in other regions i.e. America, Europe and the Middle East markets?

I see companies like ExxonMobil in Singapore which leveraged on technology such as the Global Energy Management System to improve their energy efficiency by as much as 17%1 at their refinery in 2016. That is indeed a significant impact not only to their bottom line but also to the environment. With the levels of investment by the local governments, I would say that Asia is definitely the region to watch in terms of efficiency, sustainability, and growth.

As globally many initiatives emerge using digitalization and energy operators get more distributed, it should be a big drive for the Asian downstream industries to adopt new services and business models. The digitalization cannot be fast enough if Asia wants to keep and increase it position. Malvern Panalytical is able to support these changing distributed business models by its leading global service and support network. 

What’s the greatest impact IoT, data analytics and AI will have on the industry? What lies ahead of operators and how will they adapt?

In 2016, BP used big data analytics technology to analyze data from wells in the UK North Sea. Analysis was completed in mere seconds compared to what a geologist would typically take – one month2. Now imagine if this swift data analysis can be automated to form a predictive mechanism for companies. Chemical plants will be able to objectively determine when they need to conduct preventive maintenance given the volume and type of corrosive elements at in-bound QC.

AI still needs data and information and at Malvern Panalytical we make sure we play in this area while adding value to the AI part.  For example, we combine best-in-class analytical results with a so-called Virtual Analyst which proposes the best given analytical condition for the material at hand. Combining these solutions in an AI network in your company, allows you to adapt faster to the changing feeds and thus increase your margin.

As what Alibaba founder Jack Ma said in a recent CNBC interview: “the age of digitalization and AI is here to stay. We will fall behind if we do not embrace or adapt. Automation and data analytics do not always come with a small price tag. Same applies to being a corporately social responsible company producing sustainable and safe products for consumers. Think about it this way – what is the opportunity cost if your company did not embrace these paths? Will your company be able to sustain the next 100 years in history? It takes gumption to try, fail and improve than not trying at all”. 

What will be the highlight of your presentation at Asian Downstream Week? 

As ASTM International’s Vice Chairman, I get the opportunity to discuss the whole energy value-chain with multi-national companies from the petrol, chemicals and polymer industries. These discussions lead to insights about a lot of processes, standards and regulations. I hope to be able to shed light on what keeps such companies awake at night when designing and manufacturing better products while staying competitive. I will be able to share solutions developed based on these discussions which companies can consider in terms of operation reliability and asset management. As long as people start to think about my highlights when back at the office or at home I am already satisfied. 

The 10th annual Asian Downstream Summit will take place at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Singapore from the 25-26th October 2017 – Booth #9.

Wednesday, 25th October, 1.25pm
Join our technical talk and learn about real-time elemental analysis with Malvern Panalytical’s newest in-line monitoring analyzer, the Epsilon Xflow.

Thursday, 26th October, 12.10pm
I will give a talk on “ASTM integrated asset protection, process optimization and regulations compliance”.

Contact us for a free test of your sample

References:

  1. Business Times, 2016 http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/hub/energy-efficiency-national-partnership/exxonmobil-focuses-on-continuous-improvements
  2. BP, 2016, http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/bp-magazine/innovations/8-technology-breakthroughs-that-may-change-the-energy-landscape.html