With more than 30 years of experience in the sector, Servomex provides fixed and portable gas analysis products to marine terminals and tanker vessels involved in the transfer and transportation of crude oil and refined products.
Strict regulations are in place to control the systems used to monitor marine vapors. These govern the performance levels of the analyzer and its suitability to the hazardous environment. Analyzers used in these systems must be approved by the relevant regulatory body.
The vapors produced during loading are either returned to the plant and used for fuel or raw materials, or taken to a safe area and incinerated. In either case, it is essential to monitor the return lines for air ingress, in order to prevent explosive conditions from occurring.
The regulations for this application insist on redundancy within each system, so at least two Paramagnetic oxygen analyzers are specified. Our solution uses either the SERVOTOUGH Oxy 1900 or SERVOTOUGH OxyExact 2200 analyzers, depending on application conditions. Both offer the enhanced reliability of non-depleting sensor technology, and are approved by regulatory bodies.
Servomex analyzers are known and depended upon by marine terminals and tankers using vapor control systems around the world. Our approved products provide customized solutions for individual process conditions.
Our experts have abundant knowledge of marine vapor control systems and the regulations you’re likely to face in your region. We can recommend a gas analysis solution that exactly matched your process requirements.
Servomex analyzers are approved for use in marine vapor control systems by the US Coast Guard and other regulatory bodies around the world, with more than 100 systems installed in the US alone. This strong track record places us at the forefront of gas analysis in marine vapor control.
A worldwide network of highly trained and experienced service staff provide the backing your gas analysis equipment needs, delivering peak performance across the lifetime of the system.
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SangWon Park, Business Unit Director, IP&E
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Keith Warren, Product Manager
Leading the life-cycle management of our Spectroscopic analyzer range, Rhys is responsible for the development of the markets they serve, and the strategic growth of those technologies.
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Overseeing the business development operations of our Industrial Process & Emissions team in China, Huiyu leads our pursuit of large international projects.
Huiyu Guan, Business Development Manager, IP&E, China
Starting his career at Servomex as an apprentice more than a decade ago, Matt now leads our Application Development Team, developing our regional presence and ensuring strong customer relationships.
Matt Halsey, Application Development Manager
Leading our business development team within the EMEAI region, Stephen is focused on long-term global and regional projects, particularly in the refining, petrochemicals and chemicals sectors.
Stephen Firth, Global Business Development Manager
Karen is responsible for managing the UK Application team, using the team’s expertise and capabilities to create the effective solutions that make customer processes safer, more efficient, and cleaner.
Karen Gargallo, Application Manager
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A life safety monitor designed for safe area or hazardous area environments, the OxyDetect delivers the superior performance of non-depleting Paramagnetic O2 sensing technology.
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Application Development Manager Matt Halsey is joined by Account Manager Louis Gansky and Application Development Engineer Robert Miller. To discuss Servomex’s solutions for safe and efficient marine vapor control.
Application Development Manager Matt Halsey is joined by Account Manager Louis Gansky and Application Development Engineer Robert Miller, to discuss Servomex’s solutions for safe and efficient marine vapor control.
Marine Vapor Control transcript
MH: Welcome everyone to another Servomex podcast, this time on the subject of marine vapor control. I’m joined by two of our experts here at Servomex; we start with Louis Gansky, our account manager based in the US. Hi, Louis.
MH: And Robert Miller, application development engineer in the Americas. Welcome, Robert.
RM: Good morning.
MH: So, the subject today: marine vapor control. Louis, do you want to give us a little bit of an outline of what we mean by marine vapor control?
LG: Sure. It’s a process wherein vessels that are loaded with liquids, typically high hydrocarbons, volatile and explosive vapors are collected and either recovered or destroyed. It all started back in the early to mid-90s, in the US specifically. When you loaded a vessel, you just went to the atmosphere with it. And obviously, the Clean Air Act started to look at volatile organic carbons going into the atmosphere as ozone production.
There were also a series of accidents related to venting hydrocarbons to the atmosphere. And that drove regulation, which is 33 CFR 154. And it’s controlled by the US Coast Guard here in the United States, because any vessel that is on navigable waterways must follow this regulation. And that is, as you’re loading material, you must collect that vapor and do something with it safely. So that’s the premise of marine vapor control.
MH: So this regulation you mentioned, this 33 CFR 144 – what are the main points of this regulation when it comes to a control system, especially in terms of what we’re interested in here at Servomex, which is the analysis side of things.
LG: A typical system will have a vapor blower on it, something that will collect those vapors that come off of that. A safety skid will have either a carbon bed on it, or it will have a thermal oxidizer. To ensure the safety of the transfer of that material, especially in a vapor destruction system, you have a very large ignition source on one end, and a very large amount of flammable vapors on the other. So the dock safety skid sits in the middle, and its purpose is to take those vapors, push them to the thermal oxidizer through a series of valves and detonation arresters.
What we’re doing, our use in this, is the measurement of the oxygen level in that gas to ensure that it is in the safe region. That’s done by enriching. In other words, when that gas vapor comes off, we’re going to inject natural gas, supplement that, and drive the oxygen concentration down so that everything is in the LEL region, typically below 14%. Anywhere between 14 and 16% is the target range. It also depends on the actual material, some are nitrogen-inerted. And you’re looking at lower concentrations. So there’s various things out there. But the predominant application is the injection of methane to drive the oxygen concentration less than around 14%.
You can drive it lower, but then that’s kind of wasteful. We have hydrocarbons that can burn, we’re adding the methane to make sure it burns, but you don’t want to waste any more methane than necessary to go to the thermal oxidizer, you just want to make it safe.
So, the Coast Guard regulation requires this type of measurement: add safety by making it to the LEL, or there is one other one that’s not very commonly used, which is enriching it to the UEL, ensuring that you are so rich in vapors that you have no chance for any kind of explosion.
All of the ones I’ve done since the mid-90s, everything I’ve been associated with, if I’ve done 1000 of them, 999 out of my recollection have been the oxygen style. There are the odd methane requirements, but that is actually a way to do it as part of the regulation. Typically, though, it is done as an oxygen measurement.
MH: Sure. I think logically that’s the safer way to go, is to feed in the natural gas, of course, especially if there was ever a leak or an ingress of air. I think that’s possibly the safer way to go. So, oxygen-wise, a very important measurement on this application. And luckily, Servomex are, obviously, one of the world leaders in oxygen analysis. And the technology that’s applied to these applications is typically the Paramagnetic-type measurement, which really is Servomex’s bread and butter, of course.
We have two types of analyzer which we would normally use in these types of applications, right? We have our SERVOTOUGH Oxy 1900, and we have our SERVOTOUGH OxyExact 2200. Both are heavy-duty process Paramagnetic analyzers, they’re both from the same family. So fundamentally, they do the same thing, but they have distinct advantages and disadvantages versus one another. The Oxy 1900 is still obviously a very high-end product, but maybe slightly lower on the price-performance curve compared to the OxyExact 2200, which has a few more bells and whistles, as we’d say.
In your experience, Louis, which of these two do we see the most of in these applications?
LG: We’ll definitely see the 1910 series, mainly due to cost. You have to consider that marine vapor control is a cost of doing business, you don’t really make money by running it, you have to own it to operate. So, the lowest long-term cost of ownership is really a key driving factor. And the manufacturers of these dock safety skids, they look to suppliers that can give them the material that is very, very reliable, at a good price point. It has to make the measurement and there are various ways of doing this. The Coast Guard regulation says you must measure oxygen, it doesn’t tell you how you have to measure the oxygen, it’s just that you must measure oxygen if you’re doing the methane enrichment, to make sure that you’re in the LEL.
Available technologies that have been on the market for years are Zirconia, electrochemical, obviously Paramagnetic, various types of paramagnetic, and then obviously TDL, some of the newest technology that’s available measuring oxygen. And the Coast Guard, they don’t tell you what to use, but they do tell you that you should not use Zirconia, which is kind of obvious to me. To everyone else that may not know, Zirconia is a hot type measurement, of measuring oxygen, it works great in a combustion application, but not so well in an application where there are hydrocarbons. So they do exclude its use.
And then just say the rest of it is, you know, go ahead, and you need to have at least two analyzers in there, they do give you guidelines in the design criteria. And again, since this is kind of getting back to the applications, primarily safety, but of course, it must be efficient use as well. You take a large tanker or a large barge and you start moving engines, multiple hours of loading, and the cost sitting at a dock is quite high to the company that is moving that material they have to pay dock demurs and all of those start racking up, so this system must work.
If you look at the history of this, at the beginning, of course, they used a lot of electrochemical because they were relatively inexpensive, easy to put in, but after years of service, they started changing out to non-depleting type technology, primarily Paramagnetic. Our Paramagnetic is ideal in that it doesn’t require any reference gases, like some other types. It’s very, very stable. And of course, our package is small and compact, and we are able to combine that with a sampling system that is supporting the requirement of two analyzers that are in a voting system. The doc safety skid measures that and, being self-diagnostic, that gives you some alarm capabilities and enhances the overall operation of the dock safety skid.
You know, what comes from that is getting called out to a lot of these systems they evolved, like everything, your earlier systems are totally independent of one another, the way that was originally interpreted, two pumps… Essentially, you had two totally independent sampling systems measuring pulling from two separate locations on the vapor skid. So they were large and complex, and if anybody knows anything about analyzers and sampling systems, it’s hard enough to get one thing to get reliable, put two of them that are totally independent of one another, and make sure that they absolutely always read exactly the same.
The evolution of that was, again, cost. You start looking at large footprints for sampling systems, many of the manufacturers started going towards a single sample tap but still, obviously, having two analyzers. We’ve added in flow alarm controls and various things that ensure that we’re always getting a consistent measurement. And I think that’s really helped, is not only is it the measurement technology, but the understanding of what the sampling system requires, for that particular application specifically for the oxygen measurement itself.
MH: Sure, I think it’s a good time to point out, you know, you’ve been you’ve been talking about the sampling system quite a lot. And we’re talking here about another part of the Servomex package. We’ve been doing this and making systems for these marine applications, for a number of years now, even as far back as 20-30 years. The package that we produce now is actually quite relatively repeatable. A lot of the systems have very, very similar elements, obviously, end users are dictating, sometimes, certain brands of equipment: flow meters and flow control devices, certain materials. But fundamentally, the systems are quite similar.
One of the more humorous anecdotes I’ve heard about these marine vapor systems from our systems team, and our sales team is “really all we do is ask the customer whether they want the door hinges on the right or the left”, that’s what they say, so very, very repeatable. But obviously, the, you know, the Servomex capability of systems, of course, is to make something bespoke that fits that application, which we can absolutely do, if there’s slightly different requirements here or there. Yeah, but very, very repeatable. And obviously, more or less each and every time using the same type of analysis equipment, the paramagnetic.
LG: it’s very important in in that there’s consistency, because ultimately, these need to be maintained out in the field. You know, these aren’t situated inside the refinery, and in cases where these are not at a refining company, they are a logistics company, they’re tank farms. And there’s usually plenty of technicians with skills and stuff that are employed at that the refining end; however, when you get to the logistics end, there may or may not be that skill level. So simplicity, something that’s easy to work on, and if it does break, available spares, support and local support for that is really crucial to the success and operation of it.
That’s why this technology, I guess does lend itself is because you can change out modules, it’s not a complicated-type technology. It definitely lends itself to it. Again, being non-consuming, you don’t have to worry about replacing electrochemical cells. TDL, it’s not as complex, if something fails, you can’t really fix one, you have to replace it. I think that’s that has been one of the major reasons we’ve been so successful, is the platform does allow for that cost of ownership and more importantly, reliable, they just work and work.
MH: Yeah, “cost of ownership” has really hit the nail on the head. And from our perspective, it’s about economy, as you say the cost of ownership, but also, you know, absolutely maximizing the uptime, reducing the maintenance as much as possible. There’s nothing on these analyzers that is particularly designed to be consumable, nothing that really degrades. If the sample system is treating the sample as it should, the measurement will just keep going on and on and on.
If we do another sort of comparison to the other main technology on the market for this, which is the electrochemical, and I think you’ve covered a lot of this already talking about things like the consumable nature of electrochemical, especially. The fact that an electrochemical sensor will deplete over time, it will need replacing, that the cost of replacement may not be that high each time, but that that really adds up over time as the years tick by. And I think one of the other major factors, certainly with my experience with electrochemical technology, is not the necessarily fact that it depletes – because that’s a known – it’s more the fact that it can fail unexpectedly, and can fail in sometimes quite an unsafe way, not always giving much of a warning when they do fail and providing false readings and things like that.
These systems are absolutely critical to safety. That’s what they’re there for. And both the analyzers I mentioned earlier, the Oxy 1900 and the OxyExact 2200, also come with SIL assessment. So, safety type assessments, which are becoming ever more important in SIS (safety instrumented systems). So we have those features available.
LG: Yeah, definitely. That that goes right into the evolution of these systems where now the older ones were quite manual, you know, you open up turn-hand valves and the technician adjusted everything. Most of that’s been eliminated now where the operator pushes a button on the PLC control system with the dock safety unit. And it sends a signal to our system that automatically does its own internal self-checks, calibrates itself, and then gives feedback to the system. And that’s very helpful. And analyzers that have their own internal self-diagnostics, that provide that uptime and reliability are very, very important. It really lends itself again, to “do that operation, push a button, walk away and it will start loading”. That’s all they really want to do. That’s all anybody really wants to do. Their money is made by loading the tanker, not by touching buttons on the dock safety skid.
MH: Yeah, absolutely.
LG: They don’t want a part of that, so make it work, and make it work all the time.
MH: So Louis, there’s two main types of vapor control system, they’re typically split into these two main areas of destruction and recovery. So perhaps you’d like to give us a little outline on those two types of system.
LG: Sure. Obviously, the vapor combustors, as you’ll hear them as VCUs if they’re vapor combustors, or VDUs, vapor destruction, a very common acronym for them, as compared to a VRU or vapor recovery. So, I mean, they’re quite self-explanatory, we’re getting rid of one and we’re collecting the other and reusing it, where possible. Obviously, in the beginning, the most economical way to go about it was just burning it, there weren’t a whole lot of emissions requirements, we were worried about putting [unintelligible] and safety. And then when we were burning it, we weren’t so much worried about the NOx, the CO and all of the other stuff that went on, but that obviously has it all been caught up with us. And we recognize that the amount of CO2 that goes into the air and other types of things, and a vapor combustor they’re very high temperature 1400 plus degrees in a thermal oxidizer, and it’s necessary to ensure destruction of all hydrocarbons.
The challenge of that is, if you’ve got a lot of oxygen present, and we’re not burning it, too, we’re not using it as a heat transfer type thing, where we were worried about oxygen limits being very low, we actually have very high oxygen concentration, obviously, because of the potential of the application and wanting to run too high to ensure that we have complete combustion. That produces a ton of NOx. So a lot of what we’ve seen is, is those areas that have a lot of vapor combustors are looking at continuous emissions monitoring systems where they would have a classic CEMS, an O2, CO, NOx type monitor. These vapor combustors don’t run 24/7 like a large heater in a refinery. However, they do run fairly often. And depending on their BTU capacity and length of burn, they may have to have a continuous emissions monitoring system.
So we’ve also successfully installed those at those locations using our Paramagnetic technology for oxygen and our infrared for the CO and the NOx. So that’s another point of opportunity. And also, as a customer comes to us, we can look at the total complete package, we can help you on the dock safety skid we can help you with the emissions and this has been a good point for us. But because of all of these emissions, and natural gas usage, and everything else, they’ve always been around, a lot of companies have used vapor or carbon beds for vapor recovery. But they have really started to grow in use, and in a lot of places, not necessarily vessels, but in truck, car, gasoline, so that’s another real… It’s vapor you’re taking, you’re taking the liquid and putting it into a vessel and you’re pushing the air that’s in there out, and you need to make sure that that mix of hydrocarbons and air are [unintelligible] whether it’s a tanker on the ground, or tanker in the water, or a rail car, or a truck sitting at a loading rack, moving gasoline around.
When you start looking at some of the types of liquids that you’re doing, crude, when you load a ship, produces some hydrocarbons off the top. But the collection of those may or may not be all that beneficial, depending on the type of crude. However, some of the lighter sweeter crudes, especially out of Texas and the Eagle Ford shale areas have a lot of light natural gasolines that will come off. And so a vapor recovery unit makes a lot of sense because instead of burning that, we can condense it, and collect it, and use it, and have a liquid back instead of just going to carbon dioxide and nitrogen and burning it. Obviously, gasoline is already a refined material and it has a huge amount of value. So vapor recovery units have carbon beds and may or may not also have some refrigerant units that will help the collection of that by cooling and condensing it, but are now utilized instead of going to a combustor. You go to these carbon beds, the carbon itself will start trapping the higher hydrocarbons, the propanes and higher. They’ll start collecting and they switch back and forth and you’ll attract hydrocarbons back out of the carbon, and then have that as a liquid, and return it back.
So there’s cost savings to that, and you’re seeing quite a few customers doing it. Also, they will start using it mainly because they don’t have to worry about non-attainment and CEMs in the production of NOx. So you’re capturing the hydrocarbons, they don’t go to the atmosphere. So, where it used to be 100% combustion, it went 90-10, 80-20; a lot of instances now, it might be 50-50. As you see the evolution of these types of things, a lot of the environmental requirements driving it. The thing is when you go to a vapor recovery unit, now, we don’t have an ignition source readily in the system. So a combustor has a burning flame on the other end, you’re taking gasoline on the other, so it’s really, really important. Here we’re going through the carbon beds, everything is no [unintelligible] points. But we still now ensure that the carbon beds are working efficiently.
And again, it’s part of the US federal regulations, the specific one escapes me, but you know that it is “sub-par BBB BBB” that requires that the air now that is going to the atmosphere out of the carbon beds is free of hydrocarbons. It has to have less than, depending on the application, anything less than 2% or 5%. Most of them run around less than 2% total hydrocarbons as propane. You know, when you get into analytical methods for that there’s some challenges to that. You want something that’s simple, economical, reliable, doesn’t take a lot of utilities and all those other types of things to work. The typical way of doing that is using an infrared analyzer, measuring the hydrocarbons that all absorb in a general region. And it works great.
One of the challenges to this, though, is that you’re measuring total hydrocarbons as propane, and your C1, C2, your methane and ethane, the two ones that cause you a little bit of trouble. The methane itself, since it’s a naturally occurring hydrocarbon in the atmosphere, we aren’t required to report it, so the methane can come on through. In most infrared applications, you can separate ethane from C2s and highers fairly well, there’s some overlap, but there’s the opportunity to do it to a high degree and actually fairly reliably, so that you can give a methane/non-methane-type measurement.
The real kicker is when you get into these lighter hydrocarbons, ethane comes through, and you can’t separate the ethane from the propane. You know, there’s some measurement requirements that are making it difficult for a lot of these operators to work reliably. And they can get what they call false highs. That causes a lot of shutdowns. You could have a saturated carbon bed, because you’re having high hydrocarbon, that it could not be that at all, it could be a perfectly fine carbon bed, a lot of methane coming through, contributing to that, because the ethane doesn’t get caught in there, the ethane and the methane go out. Ethane is not always there, but when it does come through, it presents a huge issue to these people that are operating carbon beds. So there are some opportunities to do that, they’re either trying to use a small GC, which is again, complicated requires all kinds of utilities, and it’s a complex measurement. Again, we are out on a dock, where it’s not the nicest place to be – no offense to those people that work out of the docks, obviously! Environmentally, it’s very aggressive, salt sprays, and those types of things. And delicate instrumentation needs to have a house or some place to live, and you have limited footprints. Other ways of maybe looking at that are, when we start looking at multicomponent infrared technology, you’re starting to look at things like FDIR, mass specs, and all kinds of things, which are now rather complex.
There are some multicomponent infrared measurements that are somewhat economical, and one of those is our SpectraScan, which is a tunable filter spectrometer that does a very good job of separating the C1s through C5s and gives you an opportunity to at the very least measure the ethane reliably moving out, the methane and ethane and then you could use our combined C3-plus output or another device that is just measuring total hydrocarbons and then you’ll subtract the carbons, is the C1, C2.
MH: That’s very, very detailed there Louis, thank you for that input. So that is a very natural segue into the other expert that we have on the podcast today, Robert Miller. So, Robert, you are, I think it’s safe to say, our resident TFS, tunable filter spectroscopy, expert. You work with these things a lot in your day-to-day role here at Servomex. Louis has kind of introduced why you might start thinking about using a product like a TFS. Especially in comparison with some of the more, let’s say, traditional technologies on the market, like GC mass spec, which as we know, are typically quite big, they have long sample times, long measurement times, they’re very expensive. They’re very complicated. What do we mean when we say TFS?
RM: What the TFS stands for, the acronym, is for tunable filter spectroscopy. And what it does is it scans a certain wavelength, where pretty much the C1 through C5s are. The advantage that you have with it over GC is time. Because you can control the scan time word updates, and let’s see what the concentrations are, you can go with a default of five seconds up to a maximum of 120 seconds. But being able to do that every five seconds in an operation such as this, I mean, you’re seeing in near real-time exactly what’s happening, any variations. And when you’re talking about your feed coming from, let’s say, if it’s coming from a gas, or your IG inert gas or whatever coming through, and you’re trying to dispose of it, and it’s going to be variable, because its base is coming from the boiler feed, you need to see exactly what’s going on. Based on the temperature that you’re dealing with, and a thermal oxidizer, and like Louis was saying you’re looking at somewhere 1400 degrees and above, and if you measure the stack, you can see what hydrocarbons you really shouldn’t see anything shouldn’t see any benzene, you shouldn’t see anything, especially dealing with gasoline, it all should be combusted.
And when we’re talking about carbon filters, that absorption, I can see exactly what’s coming through there. The methane, ethane, propane, butane, so you can get in near real time exactly what’s being emitted. And if you really want, you can actually think about looking at using the SpectraScan for a monitoring the breakthrough of the actual carbon absorption beds, because what you see once it becomes saturated, absorbs, you’ll start seeing ethane, you’ll start seeing propane, they’re going to be increasing because they’re not be held on the active sites of faith on the activated carbon.
MH: I see. So the measurement is actually used to monitor when effectively one carbon bed is it has done its job, and you need to switch over to the next one. Whereas I guess most of the time at the moment, without such a measurement, really the carbon bed switching is done on a calculated basis.
RM: Right, exactly. It’s done on time.
MH: Yeah. So this allows them to actually get a real view of when the carbon has trapped as much of the hydrocarbons and volatiles as it can before they can switch over to the next bed and effectively empty the other bed, regenerate the carbon bed and absolutely maximize the efficiency of that extraction.
RM: Exactly. It’s all based upon the flow and how fast your feed is coming [unintelligible]. And currently how fast at carbon bed is going to be saturated. And if I can sit down there and look at it in near real-time, I can sit down and switch with the capability of the SpectraScan as well as tying in an HMI that can control solenoids and switch flows, you could have this whole thing being totally automated.
MH: Are there any other advantages we should be mentioning, of the SpectraScan over FTIR and other types of products? For example, I know that this thing’s a lot smaller than a traditional process GC.
RM: Oh, that’s true. It has a path length of 35 centimeters or something like that. But it’s really fast as it sweeps and C1 through C4s, you have no problem all the way through, all the isotopes of C4s. The one thing that you have the capability of doing is grouping hydrocarbons. Let’s say I’m not interested in being above C3 or C4, I can just group C4, C5, C6s, as in C4s, all that, and report that out. So that will be able to give you that same speed, but you don’t have to have the detail. And then in addition, if you wanted to look at the capability of calculating BTU, and your gross and net heating values, Wobbe index, you have that capability because you are separating those, and you can calculate that. And that’s built internally into the SpectraScan.
MH: And of course, no carrier gas, which is a really big downfall of a GC – very expensive carrier gas requirements.
RM: Exactly, there’s no carrier gas at all. So, you’re just running it as a basic… you can do up to, I guess, 50 liters a minute, or whatever you have the capability of, heavier flow goes through there. But most of the time, that’s all being controlled by a sampling system. And so you can just run it and basically, with an HMI, be it an actual, physical HMI, or even, they have software HMI that you can do reporting with, because everything with the SpectraScan, data-wise, is through Modbus, whether you want to do it with TCP-IP, or you want to do it to RS45, you have that capability to report to either data control system, whatever.
MH: Thanks for that, Robert. Yeah, I think I think it’s, in many ways, quite a revolutionary product compared to the traditional technologies on the market. And we’re seeing increased adoption of such technology. So always something to consider on these types of applications.
Just to fill in some of the gaps from earlier. Louis, you were talking about continuous emissions monitoring, and the use of a multi-bench analyzer that contains multiple measurements like oxygen and CO and CO2. Of course, from our perspective, what we’re really referring to there are 4900 MultiGas products, which we’ve spoken about in previous podcasts, if anybody’s tuned in and listened to those.
We had, I think in our podcast around process heaters, one of our business development managers, Stephen, gave a very in-depth overview of a 4900 and a typical CEMS emission system, what that involves, you know, a probe and a heated line and a chiller to drop out some of the moisture, because this thing needs a dry measurement. So we won’t labor the point in this podcast, but I refer anybody to go and listen to that one on process heaters where we go into that in more detail.
And, of course, tying this emissions conversation into the Servomex Clean Air campaign that we’re trying to run this year. Again, we’ve done a special two-part podcast in fact, on the clean air, and to summarize the customers and the end-users of this equipment are just becoming increasingly sensitized to the issue of emissions of CO2 output and, of course, the output of other toxic and hazardous gases and other greenhouse gases to the environment. So the emissions monitoring system is becoming just so, so important, as well as more efficient combustion control for example, when these volatiles and hydrocarbons are being destroyed or combusted.
So yeah, I just want to tie that back in and, again, refer people to please do go and listen to the Clean Air podcast. It’s very interesting. We had another one of our business development managers, Barb Marshak, join me for that one, and she gave some very interesting outlooks on the emissions both in the US, which is where she’s based, but also from a global perspective.
Going back to this application a bit more holistically, this all really kicked off in in the US. I think you mentioned that earlier, Louis, that this became a Coast Guard-led regulation. I’d say the vast majority of these systems appear in the US where it is so heavily regulated, but we have noticed, which I think is very important to mention, that such requirements are becoming more prevalent in some of the other regions as well. India, for example, and Europe, even though the regulations aren’t quite as advanced, let’s say, as those in the US. We’re starting to see many of these types of systems spring up and many of the suppliers, the American manufacturers of the systems that adopt our equipment, are actually now supplying systems into Europe, some of the big players are supplying the systems.
We’re also seeing a lot of chatter at the moment on these types of systems required in the Asia-Pacific region – Japan, we’ve seen requirements slightly spring up. So, this is becoming much more of a global thing for something that started off life in the US predominantly. So very much a global outreach.
LG: Certainly, as environmental laws and awareness start to change, the obvious application is to reduce the amount of organics into the air, and then do something with it safely. So yeah, there’s definitely going to be an adoption of that as we move around the world globally, certainly.
MH: One product we haven’t mentioned yet, which I think we should be fair and give it some airtime, is our SpectraExact 2500 product. Maybe Robert, you could give us a little outline on what the 2500 is, and then we’ll maybe talk a little bit more about how that’s used in these systems.
RM: Basically, it’s an IR, single beam, dual-wavelength. It can look at the same case, that is used in the marine vapor recovery marketplace, it can be monitoring total hydrocarbons. And so you’re interested, it gives you that whole capability, looking at that whole span of hydrocarbons from C1 to C5, C6, C7, you can have it set up. We have customers that use it for benzene, and they can look at total hydrocarbon or they can look specifically for benzene, it gives you that kind of capability to do the same thing that the SpectraScan does, but it gives you a wider analytical range to be able to do that.
MH: Sure. And it’s I think it’s typically used, again, in the more emissions monitoring side of things and these types of applications, again, tying in with a lot of the stuff that Louis has spoken about around the emissions. It’s another example of a very rugged type of infrared analyzer with a bench in the middle that can span anything from a few millimeters to a couple of meters depending on the on the measurement range, but it’s a highly speciated measurement as well, so as you say, it can be used to measure individual gases through IR absorption or collection of hydrocarbons.
LG: Yeah. And we’ve actually applied it quite successfully in many of the carbon bed applications, in that it was used to give a total hydrocarbon as propane, where we did not have a lot of ethane issues, because of our ability to find a clean line of methane away from the C2 and above, it allowed us to install it and it worked quite successfully. Again, very rugged design doesn’t take a lot of care and feeding, gets kind of stuck in a box out in the middle of nowhere, and doesn’t take a lot of maintenance to it. Again, part of one of these automated systems that lends itself as a continuous emissions monitoring system, you know, you just like a pollution CEMS, O2, CO and NOx, these run 24/7, 365 as compared to a dock safety skid. So a dock safety skid very well may sit for a month before it runs, and then it must work when you start it up. On the other hand, the continuous emissions monitoring systems never shut down. So they must be of a design that doesn’t have a lot of drift, doesn’t have a lot of required maintenance, very long term, low cost again, and our source design just lends ourselves… The 2500 is a very, very rugged process, field mounted instrument and been very successful in that application. As long as there’s not a lot of ethane present, they work extremely well. If ethane is there, we have to look at other technologies to try and support that.
LG: There is another measurement when we start talking about marine applications. We started all this talking about when we’re loading a vessel. Now once that vessel is loaded, and it starts moving, to go to another port to offload, you have a big moving tank on the water, no different than a tank farm. Now it’s just a mobile tank floating across the top of the ocean, and there is a headspace, and that headspace is going to be filled with hydrocarbons. And, as you’re moving, there’s plenty of opportunity for ignition on a vessel, right? There is a need to ensure that the vapor space, or the headspace, in the hold of the vessel is blanketed so that we reduce the amount of oxygen that’s in there again, ensuring that it’s in a safe level, we want to be at the LEL.
The most common way of doing that is taking the off-gas from the engines. The combusted hydrocarbons now are predominantly nitrogen, carbon dioxide, some carbon monoxide (which is a fairly small amount), a whole bunch of water, and, in the case of bunker fuels, a lot of really nasty particulates. Onboard a ship, they have what they call an OBIGGS, an onboard inert gas generation system. That OBIGGS takes that waste gas, runs it through a water scrubber, takes out all of the nasty soot, particulates, and such, and there’s an analytical method necessary there to ensure that the oxygen concentration is low enough to be used to blanket the holes of the vessel.
Very common is the use of our Paramagnetic oxygen analyzers as a fixed, or possibly a portable, analyzer. And the reason is because they’re non-consumable, they last a long time, they’re extremely durable, and you’re in the middle of the ocean, you can’t stop for spares. You want something that works all the time, every time. And we do have numerous installations, onboard vessels, with our measurement technology, ensuring that oxygen concentration is safe for transit.
MH: Yeah, absolutely. And we’re back again to the discussions around maximum uptime, low maintenance, high level of reliability, which is what the Servomex Paramagnetic analyzers are renowned for, they have a very, very good reputation. And that application you’re discussing, this very much is a global application…
LG: It is.
MH: …so there’s millions of ships in the ocean at any one time doing this, and they all need this type of measurement, and so there is a big global market, for this measurement. It’s probably important as well to link this back to, really, this applies to any tank filled with volatiles, whether it be a ship or not. You mentioned tank farms, on any number of applications or any number of industrial processes, be it a chemical production plant, a refinery, anywhere where there’s storage tanks, there is an opportunity and a need for, typically, some type of oxygen analysis. Servomex has had a lot of success in these tank inerting applications globally with the Paramagnetic technology.
LG: Another application that we have seen come from that, is when you get on land, is you’re not sending the flare again. The whole reason that… if you don’t have to flare, you don’t have to worry about emissions, right? But the flare is there as a safety outlet valve. If you see a big flame up on the end of a flare, everybody thinks that’s bad. It’s actually a very good thing, because it’s controlled at that point, and we don’t flare unless it’s absolutely necessary, for the obvious reasons. But again, if there’s an opportunity to capture those hydrocarbons and use those hydrocarbons as fuel, we are seeing a resurgence of that type of application, where we collect it – and it is a vapor recovery type thing – and it specifically is then used as a fuel gas, back into the facility, and that lends it back into the SpectraScan as a device to measure hydrocarbons and oxygen for safety… It’s all intertwined, whether it’s floating on the water or sitting on the ground, if there’s safety and efficiency as a requirement, Servomex has a potential solution for it, which really puts us in a good position to sit down as being a solutions provider with our customers, as opposed to just trying to sell one particular widget.
MH: Yeah, of course. It’s the same measurements regardless of where they are, it’s the same products, it’s typically very similar solutions. And again, as I just mentioned about these tanks, flares just appear all over the place, on different types of industrial process, and the measurements are roughly the same from flare to flare. So, yes, absolutely, Servomex are a key solution provider in all of these applications that we’ve discussed today.
Thank you, everybody, once again for listening to another one of our Servomex podcasts. Thank you so, so much Louis, thank you very much Robert, for joining me today.
LG: Thank you, it’s been a really fantastic time, I’ve enjoyed talking to everybody.
RM: It was really good. A lot of interaction, a lot of accumulated knowledge from all the experience that Louis has gained and shared with us today.
MH: It’s been very, very good, thank you. Do remember, please, to listen to our other podcasts. We’ve got several now – I think we’ve been on a bit of a roll recently, with podcasts, so please do go back and listen to those. You can find the podcasts, and you can find any information on any of our processes, including this marine vapor control, on our website, at: servomex.com, and we’ll see you next time for another podcast.
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