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The Fluid Systems Engineering and Management Blog

by Swagelok Northern California

Fundamentals of Fast Loop Pump Skid Selection for Bay Area Refineries

by Morgan Zealear, on 6/9/20 8:45 AM

roller coaster loop

The oil industry is constantly changing. With the recent chaos in international crude oil markets, many refineries will be finding new sources of crude oil. Even Northern California refineries are gaining access to both new heavy oil supplies and, more slowly, new light tight oils (LTOs) from the various shale basins. Day-to-day, it’s easy to not think about the wide variety of crude oils and distillates that may be entering your facility or the variety of products that may be leaving.

Although they don’t always receive a lot of attention, fast loop pump skids are an important piece of equipment for maintaining quality assurance during custody transfers. But one question should be at the forefront of your mind right now: Can the old custody transfer systems keep up with recent changes?

If the answer is “no,” you should be in the market for a fast loop pump skid upgrade sooner than later.

As with so many systems in the refinery that you haven’t looked very closely at before, there are a wide variety of styles of grab sampling systems and vendors. Don’t be intimidated, though—with the right information and Design Build partner, the selection of an upgrade can be straightforward. Let’s explore your opportunities and options. 

It’s Time to Upgrade the Fast Loop Pump Skids

With low refinery run rates right now, the volume of crude oil coming in and products going out are unusually low. Most Bay Area refineries have taken a long-term view and kept their employees on. Now is the right time to get ready for changes in crude supply or product mixes so your facility can remain agile and compliant when the current production slowdown ends.

Old, marginal, custody transfer systems may have been able to limp along with extra maintenance expenses, but at some point, you need better features to handle different processes. And ever-tightening California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) requirements and stricter Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) environmental regulations almost require you to get ahead of compliance. 

You have the time now to identify fast loop pump skid upgrade opportunities without causing additional downtime later down the road.

What to Look for When Selecting a Fast Loop Pump Skid System 

Modernizing custody transfer systems to suit current and upcoming processes can not only improve sampling accuracy, reduce sample time, and lower overall maintenance costs, but it also may increase safety and compliance with several optional features. Before you get into all the available features of newer fast loop pump skid systems, however, the first step is to gather some information. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Process conditions What are the current and future fluids to be sampled? Normal operating temperature and pressure?
Application Is this for a custody transfer on a major transmission line with contractual conditions that must be met?
Analyzer system requirements What pressure and flow do your analyzers need from the pump skid?  Do they have any other special requirements?
Operation Some systems are operated continuously, others start and stop frequently and/or are switched between several product services.
Location Are there any design/layout restrictions? Should you be improving ergonomics?

Once you get the basic information nailed down and select the correct pump and seal for the process, you’ll want to consider other features to enhance safety and efficiency. Here are just a few available: 

Magnet-driven pumps

Older fast loop pump skids used shaft seal pumps which are prone to fluid loss from vibration and just plain aging. But when you upgrade to newer magnet-driven pumps for lighter product lines or services that stop and start frequently, you will reduce the chance of leakage. 

Silicon carbide bearings

Starting and stopping the pump frequently creates heat and wear, decreasing asset reliability. Upgrading to silicon carbide bearings can offer higher thermal and pressure tolerance, resistance to wear, and more efficient revolutions. 

Connections for cleanout

For some services, you’ll need to be careful not to contaminate the next process fluid with  previous process fluid. Or, you might just want the flexibility to clean out for service changes. Installing tee and valve connections is helpful in both of these cases. 

Manifold for switching between multiple services

For more flexibility, you have the option of including a piping manifold. This can pull from different pipes in various locations and parts of the process through a single analyzer or grab sample station. 

Even with all the information at your fingertips and options known, you may still have questions. That brings me to the most important step in selecting a fast loop pump skid system. 

Connect with a local Design Build partner

Why local? Bay Area refineries need fast turnaround and responsiveness—and a local vendor can provide that best. Waiting in the production queue with a Gulf Coast shop doesn’t always meet the business demands of a refinery responding to crack spreads and the unique challenges of the California carb fuel market. 

Why Design Build? This gives you one vendor to deliver a design and high-quality fabrication that will not only meet the technical process requirements, but it will also meet your facility’s standards and specific needs.  Often, off the shelf solutions are not suitable for a complex modern refinery making carb products. 

Swagelok: Your Local  Fast Loop Sample Pump Skid Partner

With potential crude and product mix changes coming soon, you need to be ready. Swagelock understands both the business and technical needs of Bay Area refineries. We have the technical expertise and our local Design Build team is ready to see your fast loop pump skid projects through from consulting, design, and fabrication. The best part: we are right here in Concord so you won’t wait on delivery.  

Swagelok Northern California can help you with all of your fast loop pump skid upgrades—with end-to-end project service and beyond. Contact our team today by calling 510-933-6200!


Morgan Zealear-1About Morgan Zealear | Product Engineer, Assembly Services

Morgan holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from University of California at Santa Barbara. He is certified in Section IX, Grab Sample Panel Configuration and Mechanical Efficiency Program Specification (API 682), and he is well versed in B31.3 Process Piping Code. Before joining Swagelok Northern, he was a manufacturing engineer at Sierra Instruments, primarily focused on capillary thermal meters for the semiconductor industry (ASML).

Topics:Assembly ServicesGrab Sample SystemsMission Critical

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