6 Benefits of Remote Tank Monitoring for Refinery Turnarounds

A tank monitoring system can reduce costs and improve safety, efficiency and compliance.

Looking for ways to increase the safety and efficiency of your next turnaround? Remote storage tank monitoring should be near the top of your list of considerations. Here’s why.

1. Reduced stand-by personnel costs

Monitoring fluid levels in frac tanks is laborious. How many times a day does one of your workers climb up a tank staircase to check whether the tank is nearing capacity or, at the other end of the process, is about to run out of cleaning solution? After making a fluid level guesstimate, the worker goes down the staircase again, only to repeat the process a few hours or even minutes later.

In some cases, regulations require two employees for this task, one to do the work, the other to keep an eye on the person inspecting the tank level. If you’re monitoring multiple tanks, that’s a lot of man hours, which shrink significantly with a tank monitoring system in place.

A good tank monitoring system lets you view liquid levels, volumes and flow rate on a single tank or as many tanks as your project requires.

2. Increased safety

It takes just a moment of distraction to miss a step and take a fall. A worker climbing a tank staircase could end up in the hospital with serious injuries, and you could waste hours dealing with OSHA paperwork.

A tank monitoring system all but eliminates these scenarios. Workers no longer have to look inside the tank to assess the fluid levels. You or a designated employee can check them in real time from anywhere — your office, your truck or a hotel halfway across the country — at any time, day or night, via an app on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

3. Increased compliance

Overfilling can cause costly spills that lead to expensive cleanups, not to mention steep fines and countless hours of reporting. As any refinery manager knows, a spill is a major ordeal. With a tank monitoring system in place, you can set alerts to let you or a designated employee know when a discharge tank is nearing capacity so spills don’t happen.

United Rentals’ proprietary tank monitoring system features customizable high and low liquid level warnings so you choose at what point you want to be alerted, and customizable readouts so you can view gallons, barrels or percent full.

4. Reduced waste

People who eyeball tank levels tend to miss the mark. If a discharge tank is 70% full, they might think it’s 80% or 90% full.

“Workers taking a visual level reading often overestimate how full the tank is, and that can interrupt the process unnecessarily,” said Colin Linn, region product development manager for United Rentals.

A tank monitoring system removes the guesswork. When you know exactly how full a tank is, you can make the switch at the optimal time. In addition, you can often reduce the total number of tanks needed.

5. Runout prevention

If your supply tanks run low or run out, your process stops. “Meanwhile, the money clock is running hard,” said Linn. Alerts on supply tanks help you avoid running empty at critical times in your process. And, instead of switching over to a new tank of cleaning fluid too soon, you can use every last gallon in that tank.

6. Data for future planning

Another benefit tank monitoring delivers is actionable project data. During and after the turnaround, you can use the data collected by the system to check total flows in and out of the tanks and assess how well the tank capacities were utilized. Understanding your tank usage and total material processed through the system can help you find ways to make improvements on future projects.

Choosing a tank monitoring system

When considering a tank monitoring system, look for one that has a fast and easy setup. United Rentals’ system, for example, uses flexible Class 1, Div 1 and 2 wiring and connections that don’t require electricians for installation. Connect a main panel that controls up to eight tanks using a simple, 110V cable connection. Concerned about sparks? The United Rentals system is API 500 compliant and guaranteed to produce no sparks.

Look for a company that can provide the storage tanks as well as the tank monitoring system. You’ll potentially reduce your spend by dealing with just one vendor, and you’ll have only one set of invoices for all the equipment you’re renting.

Successful turnarounds require knowledge and experience. You should always consult with an expert regarding the specific circumstances and applicable rules and regulations related to your site and situation.

To get support from United Rentals on your next turnaround, call us at 833.426.1188.

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