In an age of escalating economic and environmental considerations tank owners are feeling the pressure, and as such an analysis of terminal operations and a review of available technology is desperately needed.
In a maze of tanks holding various liquid fuels sometimes trying to identify what was in the tank before and what is going in can leave operators lost. Metering is nothing without traceability to references. The knowledge can eliminate contamination and the expense to rectify it, FMC Technologies Oliver Joachim pointed out. A cross over protection system (COP) can prevent this. The problem is worse during truck loading where occasionally entire loads can disappear. A loss of (Euro)50,000 per truck must raise some attention.
Talking to trucks is one thing, but communicating to tanks articulately is another obstacle. Buncefield highlighted the sectors strong dependency on tank gauging systems. Uprooting aged cables under the terminal floor can burn a (Euro)2 million hole in the wallet. The most cost-effective choice would be wireless tank gauging with companies such as Rosemount Tank Gauging providing this option reaching tanks further away in a self-configurating mesh network. Rosemount applied wireless tank gauging at a 3.5 million tonne a year refinery in Sweden, making 25-70% cost-savings compared to a wired solution.
A central theme on day two was how terminals can save money. This will be more difficult given market forecasts show a decline in fuel consumption. What is the solution? IT may be the answer. Business will be tougher with more competitors, so terminals need to make themselves more attractive with greater transparency, data quality and pricing, Implico notes. One way of dong this is by joining an international file exchange programme. Implico counts Shell, BP and Total as some of its community members.
One thing that cannot be compromised in this industry of explosive fuels and noxious fumes is safety. Eight out of 10 liquid fuel tanks are cleaned manually. This exposes human workforces to high temperatures, poor visibility and serious risk to respiration. Non-man entry cleaning systems are the solution to this.
Denmark-based Oreco recently provided its Blabo tank cleaning system to three refineries in Italy. At the Milazzo refinery after 50 days cleaning, 25% oil was recovered and 45% solids were separated in August 2009. In February 2010 Oreco along with Giovanni Aprile launched a pilot project to demonstrate its technology at the 100,000m3 ISAB refinery. After 35 days cleaning time 1,350m3 of oil were recovered, with 7% solids separated, and 3% water recovered.
The message on day two was clear: processes need to be clearer in order achieve operational excellence. In a tough competitive market optimising existing technology and introducing cost-effective and safe practices can steer the industry in the right direction.