Saudi Aramco develops safer way to measure oil purity

The oil giant has developed a way to assess the make-up of crude oil, avoiding the dangers and time associated with traditional techniques.

The method is called ground level optical water cut (GLOW) and allows operators to assess the water content of crude oil without exposing them to toxic gasses or hazardous conditions at the top of oil tanks.

“The main reason for this technology is safety for the operator,” said Shaker M. Al Mahrous, manager of Saudi Aramco’s Terminal Operations. “The GLOW device will disrupt the conventional way of performing water cut activity and will reset the industrial standards. This solution eliminates the main cause of incidents in the industry, which is falling from heights.”

GLOW uses an optical glass and a series of pipes in a closed looping system extended into the tank to examine the product. Seven pipes are installed at different heights from the bottom of the tank. When the operator needs to know the water content, they open a valve to let the fluid from a certain pipe flow into the header where the contents can be viewed.

“I wanted to make the innovation as simple as possible because the cost is cheap,” said Fahad S. Alnamasi, the Saudi Aramco engineer that developed the solution. “The sight glass is $1,000. If you include the pipes, the total cost is about $5,000. This compares with millions for higher technology solutions.”

The company hopes to reduce the amount of man-hours required to conduct purity tests by over 80% when compared to other methods.

Techniques currently used by the industry involve sending the operator to the top of a crude oil tank to lower a depth gauge coated with chemicals that identify the water content. Strong winds and rain preventing personnel from making the climb can delay assessments like this, costing the company and its customers hours or sometimes days.

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