Analysers and next generation SRU control


The history of on-line process analytics is a relatively short one. Development was driven by the need for process control of high value hydrocarbonbased products. The first on-line analyser applications came during the second war. Rapid development came in the 1970s with the advent of the microprocessor and resultant chemometric techniques. Led by Phillips Petroleum, Union Carbide and Dupont Chemical, amongst others, these initiatives were the antecedents of today’s Siemens Applied Automation, ABB Analytics and AMETEK Process Instruments.

Whether or not sulphur can be considered a high value product, in most cases the driving force for process measurement and control of the SRU is largely environmental. The US EPA Clean Air Act of 1970 and the ground-breaking study by Alberta Environment on the capability of the modified Claus process coincided with the first attempts to control the modified Claus process using an on-line analyser and closed loop control.

The first report of an on-line tail gas analyser was a technical paper based on a gas chromatograph installed at the Dow Chemical Freeport TX (USA) facility in 1970. In 1972 Amoco Oil and Dupont Process Instruments published a paper on an ultraviolet (UV) based tail gas analyser installed at the Amoco Whiting refinery, Indiana, USA. Shortly after this, in 1974 Western Research participated in a pilot study using a prototype UV-based tail gas analyser at the Shell Waterton gas plant in Alberta, Canada.

Subsequent developments by various manufacturers were all based on UV spectroscopy and extractive sampling techniques and that remains the case today.

The life cycle of an analyser is expected to be 15-25 years and some analysers can be in the field for 30 years or more if properly protected and maintained. The product life cycle of an analyser is of the same order, 15 years or more and is mostly subject to the obsolescence of the electronic components.

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