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When refineries produce petrol, the product is a very specific blend of hydrocarbons. When refining petroleum products from crude oil, a key element – hydrogen – plays a key role as a feed-stock used in the various processes. The challenge for process engineers working in oil refineries is to monitor and control the levels of hydrogen in refining processes - particularly the monitoring of hydrogen used in catalytic ‘cracking’, and also in the recycle gas stream.

Ian Fraser Hydrogen monitoring“Too much hydrogen is not good because you have too much energy and it starts to damage the catalyst; and too little hydrogen is bad because it slows down the process,” explains Managing Director of RTS Africa Engineering, Ian Fraser.

Currently, the traditional methods used by refineries to measure hydrogen involve the use of gas chromatographs, thermal conductivity meters and density analysers. However, traditional hydrogen analysers are costly to install and maintain. With these analysers, the sampling times are long which bars process engineers from making decisions based on real-time information.

Fraser says that RTS Africa offers a purpose-designed solution to this challenge in the Hy-Optima 2700 process analyser. These explosion-proof instruments can be installed at strategic points in a refinery’s process streams to provide analogue and serial outputs to communicate with an existing SCADA-type control system.

“The Hy-Optima 2700 is the only instrument that can withstand the hydrocarbon background typically found refineries; where gases such as hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide, chlorides and other corrosive gases damage most other measuring instruments,” Fraser says.

The Hy-Optima 2700 uses a solid-state, non-consumable sensor that is configured to operate in process gas streams. Its thin film technology makes for an instrument that is not in any way affected or cross-sensitive to other gases in the process stream. The 2700 has been designed to continuously measure only hydrogen - which it does with great and reliable accuracy,” Fraser adds.

The Hy-Optima 2700 is rated ‘Zone 2’ explosion-proof. Should hydrogen get into the instrument and ignite, the 2700’s robust, cast-iron casing will safely contain the event. In addition, the need for calibration is greatly reduced, with an annual calibration using standard calibration gases being all that is needed in most cases.

The HY-Optima 2700 is ideal for applications where real-time, hydrogen-specific measurements can enhance process plant efficiencies, diagnostics and maintenance management. “Ultimately, with the improved measurement capability provided by this solution, refineries and other process industries will be able to produce a safer and better product, more time-and-cost-effectively,” concludes Fraser.

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