Back to top

The Role of Interface Measurement in Preventing Loss of Primary Containment at a Petrochemical Facility

Loss of primary containment, also known as LOPC, can be a serious issue in the process industries. LOPC occurs when a material escapes from the primary space where it is being contained in an uncontrolled and unplanned manner. This is a problem even when the material is non-toxic or non-flammable, as it often leads to increased costs, inefficiency and disruption of production.

When it comes to hazardous, flammable and toxic materials, the consequences are even more serious. LOPC can result in environmental contamination, significant damage to the plant, and even personnel injury or death. Facilities that work extensively with these types of materials, such as oil and gas refineries or chemical processing plants, need to take great care to avoid a loss of primary containment throughout their operations.

This blog post, part of a Magnetrol® series on interface measurement based on our new white paper, discusses how one company was able to solve their problems surrounding LOPC through the use of more reliable interface measurement devices.

The Situation

One of the world’s largest oil & gas and petrochemical companies headquartered in Europe was having issues with multiphase level measurement involving a hydrocarbon with water bottoms and a gas vapor space. Guided wave radar (GWR) was being utilized, but the existing device did not produce a reliable signal throughout the length of the probe and the interface made it difficult to distinguish between the upper level and water bottom.

The Cost

Because of the error induced from the water bottom, the GWR in service threatened to cause a loss of primary containment. Stringent environmental, health and safety practices did not allow this type of hazard to continue, knowing the impact of overfill in terms of personnel safety, cleanup, fines and reputation. According to the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts” via Chemical Processing Magazine, direct cost of a work-related death is $1M USD and indirect costs are approximately four times greater.

The Solution

In this case the company was interested in continuing to use GWR due to the many applications throughout the facility currently utilizing it. Therefore, different manufacturers’ devices were tested side-by-side. The Eclipse® Model 706 GWR transmitter, with its family of overfill-capable probes, was found to be best-in-class. It tracked top level up to the device’s flanged process connection (above 100% level point) even with water bottoms present. The ECLIPSE Model 706 eliminates any dead zones or blind spots at the top of the probe, allowing direct measurement to be made and preventing LOPC. The superior signal strength also allowed for measurement through the hydrocarbon to reliably detect the water level below.

It was determined that one ECLIPSE Model 706 GWR transmitter could be used regardless of whether the chamber had a gas phase, was completely flooded with liquid, had one level on the probe, two levels on the probe or no level present. This provided a significant degree of flexibility and cost savings.

More Information

For more information on level measurement solutions for interface applications and preventing loss of primary containment, download the interface white paper.