Cut costs in oil and gas downstream operations with VSDs

Even relatively small investments with a fast payback time can give big boost in operating profitability. Especially in older facilities.

Let’s face it, with energy prices today at their lowest level in many years and no signs of any rebound yet appearing, oil and gas operations are not seeing a lot of large-scale capital investment. But that doesn’t mean that there is no room for improvement in existing operations.

Well-targeted upgrade opportunities, which many smart companies, engineers and operators are now working to find and take advantage of, allow costs to be squeezed out of their operations.

In fact, difficult times like today can be good for plants that have previously not had to address cost issues. When energy prices were so high there was little need or interest to do so.

Now, with enormous downward price pressure building on almost all players in the industry, it turns out there are lots of places where plant operators can look to achieve cost savings without major spending.

Specifically, the use of variable speed drives (VSDs) can help bring enormous improvements and benefits to the process. ABB has extensive experience using VSDs in oil and gas operations, to give cost savings and operational efficiencies. This can be wherever you’re working throughout the chemical, oil and gas industry: From upstream applications through to refining and processing of chemicals, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Especially in downstream operations, where the refining and value-adding steps are more complex and demanding, there is a lot of room to take out costs and raise product yields with fairly simple steps.

Achieving “Bang for the buck” is a term commonly used when searching for process situations where small investments can give big boosts in operating profitability. These improvements can come in many forms, including direct energy savings from operations by reducing power input to motors that run pumps, fans, compressors and other equipment.

Other ways in which profitability can be boosted are via higher product yield and quality, as well as improved safety, reliability and uptime that smart AC drives are providing to many downstream oil and gas refining stages.

Especially in older facilities, VSDs can give you very good ‘bang-for-the-buck’ with quick payback time due to savings in all three key areas:

  • Lower energy use;
  • Higher-quality production & output; and
  • Better reliability & uptime.

Older plants in some regions of the world have not been upgraded for many years or even decades. If you are working with such facilities, ABB’s broad line of variable speed drives can certainly help increase your profits.

Better speed control on motors for many benefits on pumps, fans and compressors

You’re probably well aware that oil and gas outputs can vary widely in composition, density, volume, flow rates and pressure levels. But perhaps you’re less conscious of the fact that this variability means pumps, fans and compressors are often not being operated at their optimum design point. The precise and accurate level of control is simply not achievable with the older methods of motor speed regulating. This, in turn, reduces your overall process efficiency.

With ABB’s expertise and analysis tools we can work with you to look a little deeper into your plant and equipment to identify units and areas where these cost benefits are easy to achieve. The highest targets on the radar are pumps, fans and compressors driven by AC motors. Traditionally, flow control on these has been fairly crudely done by a valve or damper on the outgoing side, which only regulates the output of the process, not the speed of the motor.

In an analogy with a car, it is like pressing the accelerator and the brake pedal at the same time to control speed: You get horrible energy efficiency, questionable process control, and unnecessary wear and tear.

There are much better ways to do this. ABB has worked with drives for over 40 years to provide precise speed control on motor-driven applications, thus enabling the optimum process and equipment design points to be reached. On pumps and fans in oil and gas operations this tighter control allows you to:

  1. Maintain accurate flow rates, which are critical for reaction efficiencies and product quality and yield
  2. Reduce energy consumption dramatically, compared to mechanical control methods like throttling, which is very energy inefficient
  3. Use soft startup-and-stop cycles, which eliminates mechanical stresses on pumps, pipes, valves and joints
  4. Avoid all mechanical resonances by jumping over the critical resonance frequencies.

Compressors, too, can benefit considerably with VSDs, giving precise pressure and control with high energy efficiency. While compressors are very similar to pumps and fans, they face their own specific challenges. These include maintaining air pressure at desired level, avoiding air leaks, bursting pipes and other inefficiencies in operation.

Helping you relieve today’s high cost pressures on oil and gas downstream operations, fitting motors with AC drives is quick and easy. Thus it is a smart way to respond to those pressures, giving you precise and accurate process control to reduce costs, with fast payback. ABB is perfectly positioned to help you, based on the broad product line and experience we have with variable speed drives.

The energy efficiency analysis tool called EnergySave Calculator is a great way of identifying where you’ll get the best return on investment in drives, and what that return will be. This simplifies the entire process of requesting and justifying investments for modernizing plant and equipment, and documenting the anticipated return.

The global sales and service network of ABB reaches from pre-engineering through implementation, application and start up, all the way to recycling of legacy equipment. Using a predictive maintenance philosophy, instead of just a reactive strategy, our service teams will help you optimize your maintenance downtime and reduce unplanned failures in oil and gas plants.

In addition because our product line is so broad we can offer you pre-certified packages of motors and drives. These are approved to work together without the necessity of any further certification.

Act today to get real savings already tomorrow. At ABB we are externally willing to share our knowledge and ideas about ways that you can boost profitability whether via direct energy savings or improved product quality or higher plant uptime. Or all three! Get in touch with us today to learn more about how easy it is to improve plant operations and get a fast payback on your investment with variable speed drives.


Related links:
Drives and PLCs for oil and gas industry

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About the author

Markus Eklund

I joined ABB in 2000 and since then I have worked in various sales positions. A big part of these years I have worked with our customers in chemical, oil and gas industries and have focused on finding the optimal solutions for them. I’m excited about the energy saving potential and performance increase the VFDs bring to many industrial applications.
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