In the oil and gas industry, it’s paramount that one pays attention to the accuracy of his level and temperature instrumentation, particularly within processing plants. When being vigilant to ensure this, consider the following:
- Service history
- Current condition
- How often they’re checked and by whom
- Where it’s installed
Not keeping ahead can very well end up being costly to your operation -- and, occasionally, fatal.
In 2005, the BP refinery in Texas City exploded, which goes to show what can become of faulty instruments that provide inaccurate liquid and temperate level measurement. Even worse are when those responsible for ensuring its accuracy neglect their responsibility to do so. The liquid levels and their temperatures are absolutely critical in the oil and gas industry and it hardly needs to be explained why. Combustible substances require extra layers of checks and precautions -- even more than is really required -- to prevent disasters such as these from happening.
The disaster, which led to 15 deaths, cost BP billions of dollars in clean-up funding, compensation, and legal fees. There were numerous reasons as to why this happened, such as a poorly functioning instrument, which led to the splitter tower being overfilled by 40 percent, and the level measurement gauge, which failed thereafter.
Management had implemented this new process by failing to clear the area of nonessential staff before firing up the splitter. The people who died were in an adjacent trailer, which was possibly one of the worst places to be in an event of an explosion. Of course, if the instruments had been functioning properly, the alarm would have sounded when the splitter had exceeded its safe capacity. An investigation revealed that the liquid had in fact overheated and so the alarm would have gone off, requiring the operation to be shut down.
As it happens, inaccurate pressure gauge readings were the reason the Deepwater Horizon explosion happened back in 2010. A fatal decision was made when the two conflicting pressure gauges led to the incorrect reading being chosen.
While this relates to BP, we must remember that other companies experience difficulties as a result of overlooking the accuracy and maintenance of instrumentation. Failing pressure gauges are what caused the spill in 2013 at the Williams Company gas processing plant.
As this isn’t the first occurrence, it shows that instead of relying on internal checks, third-party organizations must be given more power to check out instrumentation and shut down operations. With a government body responsible for the checks, disasters can be prevented as there will be no reason to cut corners if they want to continue operating. A dedicated organization will protect the safety of the workers and the environment.
Nick Murden is a keen writer who helps businesses put thoughts into words. He is currently writing for a number of Engineering firms around the UK, including TC Fluid Control.