The oil and gas industry is one of the largest – and most efficient – sectors worldwide, especially in terms of revenue generation. The industry is estimated to have generated up to $5 trillion in global revenue just in 2022 alone. Despite technological advancements, oil remains crucial to global economic frameworks and impacts everything from industrial manufacturing and production to electricity and heating. But the oil and gas industry would not have existed today as we know it without a process control system.
A process control system is vital to engendering more efficient and accurate activities. Although more and more extreme demands are placed on several pieces of equipment within the oil and gas industry, there is an increasing need for reliability and durability.
This is why support equipment remains critical to ensuring the seamless running of these procedures.
What is Process Control?
Process control systems aim to monitor and adjust a process until it produces a desired or pre-determined input. It helps regulate process variables to accomplish the process automation task. A process control system is generally employed in the oil and gas industry and other manufacturing industries to boost performance and maintain quality.
Within the oil and gas sector, especially downstream, several chemical processes take place as crude oil is refined to produce:
- Kerosene oil
- Heavy gas oil
- Lubricating oil, etc.
This also includes different and residual carbon components from the black gold.
The Responsibility of the Process Control System
The conversion of crude oil into any of the products outlined in the previous section generally requires several chemical processes. These processes require appropriate tech-based control systems, which consist of the following:
- Different sensors
- Control valves
- Different final control elements are designed to help regulate process variables within the desired parameters to execute the operation successfully.
Density, temperature, pressure, and flow are vital processes that are essential to control the oil and gas downstream. A control system is a closed loop when the measured value of the controlled variable is fed right back into the controller and used for control applications and chemical plant processing.
Complex Process Control Systems
An example of a complex process control scenario may involve two fluids mixed in a specific ratio. As the flow of one of the fluids increases, the other increases proportionally. In a typical fashion, actuated valves control the flows of the two fluids. A controller calculates the flow needed from each valve based primarily on the expected total flow.
A PID-type controller controls each valve and varies the valve position based essentially on the significant difference between the desired value – i.e., the set point the controller determines – and the measured flow rate, i.e., process variable.
To put it simply, when the flow measurement is too low, the controller determines how much or the extent to which the valve needs to open in order to increase the flow of fluid to the desired value. The majority of industrial processes are combinations of several smaller processes. Each of these processes must be stable since the instability of a process can rub off on others, causing them to also become unstable. This instability is referred to as ‘variability.’
Essential Things You Need to Know About Process Control
Process Control Facilitates Automation
Process control is typically employed during mass production. Its precise nature facilitates the automation of several industrial processes. A few well-trained individuals with the right equipment and information can efficiently operate several processes in the central control room, irrespective of their complexity.
However, it must be noted that process control does not equate to automation. The two only work conjointly for optimal efficiency. The absence of automation will cause plant operators to manually monitor outputs in order to determine the best settings to utilize with production equipment.
By using automated sensors, adequate data can be collected and stored to make even more effective decisions.
Process Control is Energy Efficient
Process control enables factory leaders or managers to make informed decisions based on data and oversee production while measuring how a plant works since they want their equipment to deliver the highest output with minimum production cost.
Adapting the available information makes it easy to create a strategy that ensures equipment is used at optimal levels. As a result, consistency of quality is maintained, and less energy is wasted manufacturing defective goods.
Process Control Ensures Safety When Utilized Properly
Manipulating several substances to produce a particular product is a potentially hazardous and demanding process. Moreover, minor changes can result in drastic differences in the outcome. For instance, improper boiler pressure can significantly affect the inflow of fresh air as well as the outflow of exhaust gases, which is a considerable threat to the safety of workers.
This is where process control comes in. Turbulence, pressure, flow, temperature, proportions, and several other factors must be consistently and carefully controlled to produce the desired product with minimum energy and raw materials.
Process Control is a Common Process
Several tools fall under the process control umbrella, making it one of the most typical systems practiced across various disciplines. Process control applications cover anything that controls or measures variables, such as:
Benefits in the Oil and Gas Industries
Before the advent of process control automation, many engineers willing to put in hours of human labor had to control nearly all the chemical processes of a refinery. They often measured variables manually via different instruments and controlled chemical processes by manually opening and closing valves and different final control elements.
This manual system was inefficient, with massive chances of mistakes. But the introduction of process control automation enabled the efficient monitoring of every process in a refinery by different sensors. Specialized controllers control each sensor. This significantly reduces the cost of hiring many engineers and paying for hours of manual labor and services.
Process control involves the science of efficient maintenance of the output of a particular process within a clearly-defined or desired range. The proportion of an ingredient to another, how well you mix these ingredients, the temperature of both materials, and the pressure of the ingredients significantly impact the overall quality of a product. This is the primary reason process control solutions are essential.