Major Emerson Cat Cracker project at BP Whiting Refinery

1426688718697

A view of the BP Whiting Refinery, photo courtesy of BP

Emerson Process Management is providing process automation technologies and services to help British Petroleum (BP) further enhance the safety, reliability, and performance of its Whiting refinery in Northwest Indiana, USA – without the costly downtime often required for such projects.

The project to upgrade the process control system of two fluid catalytic cracking units is part of a strategic BP-Emerson automation upgrade programme. It follows BP’s earlier multi-billion-dollar Whiting Refinery Modernisation Project, which was one of the largest investments in BP history. Emerson also provided process automation for that massive upgrade, which helped BP boost its heavy-crude capacity more than four-fold.

The Whiting refinery is BP’s largest and a major supplier to the Midwest and other parts of the United States. One of the key benefits that Emerson brings is its experience managing “hot cutover” projects – upgrading units while the operation continues running, which helps BP maintain a secure supply of fuel for its customers. Catalytic crackers are primarily used to produce high octane gasoline in the refining process.

Emerson has already provided upgraded automation technologies for one of the cat crackers, implementing a new DeltaV distributed control system. Diagnostics available in the DeltaV system can help BP detect problems well before an unintended loss of operation, saving money and improving efficiency.

For the second cat cracker, Emerson will provide a DeltaV control system and integrated DeltaV SIS safety system. The integrated control and safety system will provide a common operations and engineering environment and access to extensive diagnostics across the unit. The complete automation upgrade also includes Emerson’s Fisher control valves and Rosemount measurement instruments.

“The ability to use our resources and experience from one stage of the upgrade programme on another stage helps BP manage project cost and schedule risks,” said Steve Sonnenberg, president of Emerson Process Management. “Our commissioning and start-up expertise developed in previous projects also helps BP safely and reliably improve performance without unexpected downtime, providing significant benefits to its customers that rely on a predictable supply of gasoline.”

Advertisements

Fines for oil and gas accidents, in the US and Scotland

There is a commonly held belief that US Courts award larger monetary fines and penalties than European Courts. This perhaps can be tested by some recent comparisons. BP paid $18.7Bn in fines to the US Government after the Macondo blowout in 2010, after already having paid $42Bn in the settlement of criminal and civil suits, and trust fund payments. The blast killed 11 people and discharged 686,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.

The Total Elgin blow-out

In the UK, Total E+P experienced a blow-out on the Elgin offshore platform in 2012, which caused considerable inconvenience to neighbouring offshore operators, where production and other drilling work had to be suspended. The high pressure natural gas leak continued for 51 days. The accident led to a total discharge of 6000 tonnes of gas and condensate into the atmosphere. Closing the well down cost Total around $127m, but also they lost production output from the Elgin-Franklin project for around a year.

Last year the Scottish Courts fined Total E+P $1.67million for the mistakes that led to the discharge and pollution. This makes the Scottish fine per tonne of gas discharge on Total around 1% of the US fine imposed on BP, per tonne of oil discharge. Is this factor a measure of the difference between oil and gas, or the difference between the Courts?

What does this mean for SoCalGas?

Southern California Gas has currently a problem with a major gas leak from the Aliso Canyon gas storage well, which is an abandoned oil well used to store natural gas. This blew in October last year, and is on schedule to be stopped by the end of March. The Californian Air Resources Board has monitored the leak rates, which have now reduced significantly, as the reservoir empties. They suggest the discharge to date has been 83,000 tonnes of methane, also suggesting this is 2.1m metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

On the basis of a Scottish Court fine, pro-rata for the discharge of 83,000 tonnes, SoCalGas would face a fine of $23m, if it were based in Scotland. If the US Courts treat a gas discharge in the same way as an oil discharge, then following the BP example, the fine will be 100x greater, or around $2Bn. I think it is more likely that US Courts, even with their normal high value fines, will view air pollution and global warming as far less significant than oil pollution and damage to their local sea environment and beaches. We will wait for some years to see what the fine will be.

Feb 10: UK Courts fine ConocoPhillips

February 10th: Another UK Court ruling relates to ConocoPhillips, who have been fined GBP3m ($4.5m approx) over three dangerous gas releases on the Lincolnshire Offshore Gas Gathering System (LOGGS) between 30 November and 1 December 2012. In the first incident 603Kg of hydrocarbon gas was released.

The fine was related more to the lack of proper procedures and danger posed by the release, to the offshore workers, than the environmental damage.

References

For the SoCalGas leak information website, see www.AlisoUpdates.com.

For the Californian ARB website: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/aliso_canyon_natural_gas_leak.htm

For the original INSIDER comment on this topic, see https://nickdenbow.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/us-climate-change-contribution/

(c) Nick Denbow – Processingtalk.info