Refinery Pipeline Flow Reversal Cost-Effective Solution

August 17, 2012

Refinery Efficiencies Achieved through Seamless Automation of Pipeline Flow Reversal for Petro-Canada

The Project

Petro-Canada announced it would shut down its Oakville refining operations. Faced with having to meet new environmental standards for low-sulphur fuel set by the federal government, the company made the decision to supply its Ontario customers from its Montreal refinery instead – a more cost-effective solution than undergoing costly upgrades at the Oakville refinery. As a result, Trans-Northern Pipelines would need to reverse the direction of flow along its Ontario-to-Quebec pipeline.

The Opportunity – Build and Automate Refinery Stations for Cost Efficiencies

One of the unique challenges in the flow reversal undertaking was a purely physical one. The flow of petroleum from Toronto to Montreal had generally moved downhill. A reversal of flow would mean that petroleum would need to be pumped uphill.

That would require the building of three new booster stations and a complete rebuild of four existing stations along the route. A 28,000 m3 tank farm would also need to be built at the Farran’s Point station near Cornwall, Ontario for additional storage capacity.

Prior to the reversal, the pipeline had been monitored at individual stations along the route. Onsite personnel could detect alarms and convey the information to an emergency response team. With the near doubling of the number of stations along the pipeline, a more efficient and cost-effective solution was needed.

The system would need to be fully simulated prior to installation, as the cut-over to the new automated system would have to be seamless to Trans-Northern’s clients.

Grantek’s Solution to Achieve Operational Excellence

Grantek developed an automated system that linked the previously independent monitoring and alarming systems to a central database in Toronto where the stations could be monitored online. As a result, the company is able to monitor almost twice as many stations with the same number or fewer employees.

Grantek electrical and programming engineers, armed with expertise in this highly regulated industry, went about automating the pipeline’s valving system, which switches the petroleum from one path to another using fieldbus technology. This technology allows Trans-Northern to transmit multiple signals to and from the valves from a remote location, enabling real-time self-diagnostics and proactive maintenance to reduce the costs of operating the system.

Given the highly explosive environment, Trans-Northern entrusted their partner Grantek with ensuring that all safety standards and regulatory conditions were met.

Grantek managed the electrical installation, the software design, simulation of the entire flow reversal process, electrical design, PLC and HMI programming, PLC panel enclosure design and fabrication and instrumentation procurement.

The installation was extremely successful and Trans-Northern has since praised Grantek for their knowledge and professionalism.

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