How Can Process Analytical Technology Help in the Petrochemical Industry?
Oct 31 2021
While crude oil is made up of just four main types of hydrocarbons, a single sample can contain thousands of different hydrocarbon compounds. Process Analytical Technology (PAT) plays a fundamental role in characterising crude oil at the molecular level and determining its suitability for a wide range of applications, including use in the petrochemicals industry.
Defining the petrochemicals industry
The term “petrochemicals” is used to describe a group of hydrocarbon-based chemical compounds. These chemical compounds are isolated and extracted from crude oil and natural gas, then used to manufacture a huge variety of raw materials and products, ranging from cosmetics and medicines to solar panels and wind turbines.
Feedstocks used in the petrochemicals industry can be categorised into three major groups – aromatics, olefins and methanol, which includes inorganics and synthetic gas. Aromatics are stable ring-shaped structures connected with pi bonds. Examples include benzene, xylene and toluene. Olefins are unsaturated are feature molecules made up of straight chains, with examples including propylene, ethylene and butadiene.
Manufacturing advanced PAT instruments
Multinational analytical instruments manufacturer Mettler Toledo is a global leader in PAT. The company specialises in technologies designed especially for petrochemical processes, with the following goals front of mind:
Increase operational efficiency
A deep understanding of the chemical composition of petrochemical feedstocks and raw products allows manufacturers to increase operational efficiency across the board.
As well as improving operational efficiency, identifying and quantifying the chemical compounds found in a sample helps to decrease downtime at petrochemical refineries and production facilities.
Minimise corrosion and damage to expensive equipment
“It is estimated that the global costs of refinery corrosion are in the order of 15 billion USD annually,” reads a white paper published by Mettler Toledo. PAT empowers refiners with a complex understanding of the unique chemical compounds found in raw products.
For example, tracking pH levels during petrochemicals refining processes is an important part of minimising corrosion. Mettler Toledo manufactures sophisticated analytical instruments designed to monitor pH levels and protect equipment against corrosion. Staying on top of corrosion also helps to slash operational downtime and reduce the risk of profit loss.
Reduce waste and minimise the use of chemicals and additives
Petrochemicals producers are continually on the search for ways to reduce waste and minimise the use of costly chemicals and additives. Process analytical technology is used to finetune refining and manufacturing processes.
Find out more about how purpose-built products from TE Instruments are used to characterise hydrocarbon samples in ‘Total Sulfur and Total Nitrogen analysis – Horizontal versus Vertical furnace arrangement’.
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