Saving Sulfur: Using Trends to Optimize Sulfur Recovery Units

product of the year 2021 - oil engineering

Sulfur is an inevitable byproduct of refining crude oil and processing natural gas. While the focus on sulfur’s effect on the environment often makes it an undesirable product for the Oil & Gas Industry, saving sulfur has practical uses and demand for it is rising.

To comply with local, national, and international environmental regulations while taking advantage of sulfur sales, the Oil & Gas Industry uses sulfur recovery units (SRUs). The units remove the sulfur from the emissions process, but they also capture it as a commodity to be sold.SRU Flow Diagram

According to McKinsey & Company, most refineries and processing plants sell their sulfur to the petrochemical industry to make sulfuric acid. But it also has uses in car batteries, fertilizer, and other mineral extractions.

The Oil & Gas Industry also is pushing for net-zero operations. This means companies are equalizing the amount of carbon they inject into the environment with the amount they are taking out. SRUs are critical in achieving a net-zero production.

These SRUs need to be monitored to ensure they are adhering to environmental laws and are operating at optimal levels. The traditional method of monitoring the SRUs is a time-consuming process, and one that has required help from data scientists.

Sulfur Statistics

Oil and gas companies can face difficulties when it comes to using outside sources to perform data analysis. Data scientists themselves are scarce. Furthermore, not all data scientists are familiar with each company’s processes and operations.oil refinery

With a self-analytics tool, refinery engineers can see issues with SRUs and determine for themselves the root cause of a problem. This empowers them to resolve the problems more quickly.

TrendMiner offers a “production cockpit” that can determine when non-converted Hydrogen Sulfide from the process is higher than expected. Higher levels of hydrogen sulfide signal that the sulfur recovery process is not optimal.

With the monitor in place, engineers and process experts can visualize the production process over time. They can compare time-series data with historical data to look for trends in production that could be causing anomalies.

Use Case

A company in the Oil & Gas Industry had an underperforming SRU train. Engineers were having trouble determining the root cause of the issue. To save the sulfur, they turned to TrendMiner to compare trends in the sulfur recapturing process.

After using the self-analytics software to drill down to the root cause, train performance improved significantly. Utilization of the unit increased by 8%, and sulfur recovery rose from 96.5% to 99.3%.

A significant gain in improving train performance was actually what doing so eliminated. Optimizing the SRUs resulted in a 15% reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions being released into the environment. That brings this company closer to net-zero operations.

Putting advanced analytics in the hands of subject matter experts allows them to handle 80% of energy-related cases that contribute to corporate goals for reducing the carbon footprint.

Distilling Data

Using self-service analytics and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) allows engineers and process experts to remain in compliance, stay energy-efficient, and capture a reusable commodity.

With TrendMiner, the subject matter experts can:

  • View insights at all levels of production, which improves daily decision making,
  • Extract the most value from caputred data, and
  • Reduce emissions that leads to sustainability and complies with environmental regulations.

Read more about other ways TrendMiner benefits the Oil & Gas Industry.