Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Level Measurement Using Isolating Air Flow

illustrated diagram of instruments used for bubbler liquid level measurement
Bubbler method of liquid level
measurement is simple and reliable
Courtesy Yokogawa
Remotely utilized measurements of tank liquid level are common throughout the fluid processing industries. Various means of inferential or direct measurement are available, each with its own set of performance, maintenance, and cost attributes that may make it the preferred choice for a particular application.

Inferring liquid level using a hydrostatic pressure measurement is a simple, easy to implement strategy for delivering a continuous level signal to the process operating and control system. There can be situations where mounting the measuring gear near the bottom of a tank or other vessel may be impractical or undesirable. A pressure transmitter mounted low on a tank may expose it to damage from plant traffic or other physical hazards. It is also possible that the tank may not have a suitable fitting located low enough to provide the needed measuring range. Having a potential leakage point at a fitting low on the tank may also be undesirable. Another, and certainly not final, scenario would be an application involving a corrosive liquid which must not come in contact with the pressure sensor.

The bubbler method of liquid level measurement employs an arrangement that overcomes all of the previously mentioned impediments. It can utilize connections at the top of the tank, above the liquid level. The way in which the method works will keep the pressure sensor out of contact with the process liquid, providing isolation from potential corrosive effects.

The apparatus for level measurement using the bubbler method employs a simple dip tube that extends from the pressure sensor or transmitter to nearly the bottom of the tank or vessel. A small amount of purge air or gas continually flows through the dip tube and will bubble out the bottom of the tube. This dip tube arrangement essentially transfers the hydrostatic pressure at the bottom opening of the tube to the pressure transmitter, while the purge gas keeps the liquid from advancing up into the pipe. The bubbler can be used on atmospheric or pressurized tanks with a properly configured pressure or differential pressure transmitter.

Probably the most significant application point of the bubbler method that will distinguish its use from many other level measurement methods is the importance of maintaining air or gas flow in the dip tube. The flow provides isolation of the sensor, but the flow must also be set to a level that will not impact the pressure measurement in the tube itself. If the flow is excessive, backpressure in the tube can be offset from the level imparted by the tank contents, with the result being an incorrect measurement.

Below is an application note from Yokogawa, showing how their pressure transmitters and rotameters can be used to create the setup. Share your process measurement challenges and requirements with instrumentation experts, combining your own process knowledge with their product application expertise to produce effective solutions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Case Study From CSB: Industrial Plant Heat Exchanger Explosion

Two large shell and tube heat exchangers at industrial site
Shell and tube heat exchangers
Industrial accidents, whether minor or catastrophic, can serve as sources of learning when analyzed and studied. Operators, owners, and technicians involved with industrial chemical operations have a degree of moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to conduct work in a reasonably and predictably safe manner without endangering personnel, property, or the environment. Part of  a diligent safety culture should include reviewing industrial accidents at other facilities. There is much to learn from these unfortunate events, even when they happen in an industry that may seem somewhat removed from our own.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, or CSB, is an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents. Below, find one of their video reenactments and analysis of an explosion that occurred at a Louisiana chemical processing plant in 2013. A portion of the reenactment shows how a few seemingly innocuous oversights can combine with other unrecognized conditions that result in a major conflagration.

Check out the video and sharpen your senses to evaluate potential trouble spots in your own operation.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Accurate Level Measurement Contributes to Heat Rate Reduction

industrial stream turbine in workshop open
Industrial steam turbine
Steam production is a costly operation in any facility, but is of paramount importance in power generation plants. The bottom line of a combustion based power generation facility is sensitive to the cost of input fuel. Measures that can be taken to reduce fuel input for a unit of power output (called heat rate) can translate directly into profitability. An additional benefit of reducing heat rate is a commensurate reduction in emissions.

A major contributor to heat rate reduction is the recovery of heat from the process and transference of that heat into the boiler feedwater. A sizable feedwater preheater of the shell and tube type is used to recover the heat. Shell and tube heat exchanger efficiency can be maximized with accurate control of liquid level.

Magnetrol, globally recognized leader in level measurement technology, makes the case for using guided wave radar level measurement technology as the most advantageous means for this application. The video below describes the process and how the guided wave radar level transmitter can provide the best performance.

Magnetrol has an information kit devoted to heat rate reduction. Share your steam system and level measurement challenges with a product specialist, and ask how you can get the Heat Rate Reduction Kit. Combining your facility and process knowledge with the product application expertise of a specialist will result in effective solutions.