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Maximize Production by Monitoring Erosion

  There’s an old saying in manufacturing that suggests if you’re machinery and equipment don’t break down from time to time, you aren’t pushing production hard enough.

Some maintenance people may take issue with exactly how such a concept is implemented, but it’s true. To maximize production, you have to know exactly how hard you can push without causing so many outages they outweigh the gains. Let’s apply that to oil refineries and other chemical processing where one of the wear items is piping itself. Eventually after you push enough product through the pipes, they lose metal from the inside due to erosion and corrosion. The pipe wall becomes thinner, and if not caught in time, fails and releases the contents. Naturally, the harder the plant runs, the faster this happens.

Understanding when piping has reached such a critical point and where it is happening is the challenge. However, there are answers, which is the topic of my article in the December 2019 issue of Oil & Gas Engineering, Maximize Production by Monitoring Erosion. It examines the tools and techniques for determining how fast piping is losing its metal and eventually integrity. Without hard data on equipment condition, it is difficult to optimize production and determine the best use of CAPEX dollars.

Fixed equipment integrity is one example where cohesive, high-quality and timely data is often lacking. On the one hand, the corrosive effect of produced fluids and the erosive impact of produced sand particles in oil & gas-produced streams is well understood. On the other, information about the impact of these corrosive or erosive materials on actual asset integrity is often absent. The solution is to monitor continuously for corrosion and erosion and use this information to improve operating efficiency.

Such a program has two parts: First, look for the causes of accelerated metal loss, and a primary culprit is sand in the liquid. Second, monitor the actual wall thickness continuously in real time. Let’s look at how these two parts work together in concert.

Sand entrained in oil & gas streams poses significant risk to production equipment because it is moving at high velocities inside fixed equipment and can eat away metal piping and equipment from the inside, with an effect like sand blasting. This erosion occurs inside of piping and equipment, making its effects extremely difficult to detect via exterior inspection. However, modern measurement techniques can detect both entrained sand and its impact on asset integrity. Acoustic sand detectors identify the presence of sand in the production flow by listening for the sound of solid particles hitting the piping’s insides. With careful calibration, the sand entrainment rate can be estimated.

This monitoring calls for Emerson’s Roxar SAM Acoustic Sand Monitor, which can turn sand noise into actionable data. Understanding how much sand is in the product is very valuable information, but it doesn’t indicate how much damage has been done. We also need the second part of the answer, wall thickness monitoring.

Now imagine the transformational effect of automated sensors permanently attached to strategic points in the infrastructure to take continuous, robust measurements of remaining pipe wall thickness. The sensors use wireless technology to send gathered data for analysis at a central, safe and convenient offshore or onshore location. Operators would gain immediate insight into what’s happening with fixed equipment at any given time, with no need for guesswork.

Emerson’s Rosemount Wireless Permasense ET210 Corrosion and Erosion Monitoring System provides ongoing visibility of corrosion and erosion trends in real-time, using data supplied by unique and non-intrusive ultrasonic sensors that continuously measure pipe thickness.

Putting these two solutions together—and comparing factors such as production rate, sand content, and other variables against metal loss over time—presents a far more complete picture of what is happening, providing operators with the ability to identify cause-and-effect relationships.

You can find more information like this and meet with other people looking at the same kinds of situations at Emerson Exchange and in the Emerson Exchange365 community. It’s a place where you can communicate and exchange information with experts and peers in all sorts of industries around the world. Look for the Oil & Gas Group, and other specialty areas for suggestions and answers.