Meeting Archives

1998 Fall: Houston, TX, Oct 1

Refiners Crude Oil Quality
Houston, TX October 1, 1998

The meeting agenda was distributed to those in attendance. There were 46 attendees of which 22 paid the attendance fee.

Legal Review of Anti-Trust - Tish Marshall, COQA Facilitator, reminded all attendees to review the Standard Setting Rules prior to each meeting. The Rules can be found on under "Information".

Drag Reducer and Its Usage - Mr. Clay Goudy of Conoco presented information on Drag Reducing Agents (DRA). DRA is currently in worldwide usage. The Conoco product was developed in 1979 for the Trans Alaska Pipeline. DRA works to reduce frictional pressure loss. It is injected into the crude at very low ppm and does not adversely effect the refining characteristics of the crude oil. DRA works in turbulent flow only and works best in crudes with lower viscosities, but it will work in heavier crudes as long as they are in fully developed turbulent flow.

The effectiveness of DRA in any given system is dependent upon the system and on the pumping curve. The nature of centrifugal pumps with diminishing pump curves means that flow increase with DRA has a diminishing return, after a point, for additional product. The crude oil treated with DRA can be measured through any flow meter. However, since the product does affect the turbulence, turbine meters would have to be reproven with the application of DRA in place.

Several tests have been made at the refinery level to prove that DRA is not detrimental to a refining kit. At maximum concentrations of approximately 200ppm (10 ppm maximum per station), there was found to be no foaming, no exchange fouling and no trace left in the residuals.

DRA is very prevalent in off shore usage as it speeds loading and unloading. TAPS has increased capacity from 1.4MMBD to 2.1MMBD strictly with DRA; it has proven to be a cost effective alternative to capital improvements. Some lines have even found that intermediate pumping stations can be shut down with the use of DRA.

Overview of Express Pipeline Operations – Mr. Brian Blattler, Manager of Operations and Engineering for Express Pipeline, presented an overview of this new line. The line began operation in April of 1997, serving PADS 2 and 4 from Alberta. Current capacity is 172MBD.

Permission for building Express Pipeline was expedited by purchasing the right-of-way from the Altamont system, which had already been approved by FERC. Cost of the pipeline was $450MM. The Express system includes the Platte Pipeline, purchased by Express, and refurbished to a capacity of 150MBD (up from 30MBD) at a total cost of $180MM.

By adding nine pump stations capacity can be increased to 282 total MBD at a time when capacity is required. This could be as soon as the year 2000. Long-term, Express intends to increase volumes into Salt Lake and Denver.

Express has contract volumes of 146MBD. Alberta Energy Company and TransCanada PipeLines equally own the pipeline system. The biggest benefactors of Express are the Canadian producers who have an alternative transportation system to markets for their production. However, US refiners benefit also as they have reliable access to Canadian crude.

In July 1997 the Platte operations were interrupted by a pipeline break and the Office of Pipeline Safety required a reduction in operating pressure to 80% capacity. At these lower flow rates, some laminar flow occurs. Platte is working with OPS to minimize hydrotests of the line by using the latest technology, a Transverse Flux magnetic field tool, which can accurately indicate problem areas. With some digging and ultrasound required to verify the magnetic field findings, Platte should be back at full capacity early in 1999.

Quality management at Express consists of several online analyzers for sulfur, viscosity, density and BS&W. An in-house lab verifies all online analyzers.

Crude Quality Publication – Mr. Jim Healey presented an overview of the article “Managing Crude Oil Quality for Refining and Profitability”. This article was co-authored by Jim Healey and Kevin Waguespack of PricewaterhouseCoopers and was published in the September, 1998 edition of Hydrocarbon Processing magazine.

The premise of the article is that crude oil quality management can increase refinery profitability by at least $0.10/bbl. The critical components of quality management are defining the expected quality, demanding specifications from the seller, monitoring the quality and holding accountable sellers and transporters if you don’t get what you ordered. To start the foreign quality management process, consider requiring specific assays from exporters. If all buyers require the same thing, it will be impossible for sellers to refuse. Banding together to share information, such as through OilMonitor, is also a good first step. Domestic crudes will require detailed specifications in the purchase contracts as well as cooperation among carriers and their shippers to more precisely define common streams. The industry has already made progress in these areas, but efforts need to be continued.

On-line Industry Solution to Quality Monitoring - Mr. Kevin Waguespack of PricewaterhouseCoopers updated the group on OilMonitor. The purpose of OilMonitor is to centralize quality monitoring and intelligence and make the information widely available through an online service. OilMonitor can include information on all types of crude oil and encompasses oil movements from cargoes to pipeline systems.

Module I of OilMonitor, the gathering of raw assay data, is already underway with a laboratory chosen for the analytical work and discussions with an assay tool vendor in progress. Active marketing will commence in November with limited online capability by year-end. New functions will be phased in dependent on demand.

OilMonitor will offer different levels of service. Refiners will benefit from “Programmed Crude Baskets” where, with an annual subscription, they can have unlimited access to data on a predetermined slate of crudes. Less involved participants may wish to review the entire “Assay Warehouse” and pay only for the assays they choose. All “Visitors” can view, at no charge, a listing of the data available and will have access to those assays designated as free (for example – data provided by a producer). Discussion groups will also be maintained through OilMonitor.

The information in OilMonitor will be provided through four major sources. The “Programmed Crude Basket” data will be established via a testing protocol from a certified laboratory. The “Assay Warehouse” will contain commercially available databases and also data submitted by any participant. Producers and common carriers can also submit data.

The costs for OilMonitor survey will vary dependent on the level of service required, the number of participants and the type of information desired.

Overview of Crude Oil Quality Round Robin No. 4 - Mr. Gerald Lekberg of Williams/MAPCO presented the results of Round Robin No. 4. Forty-one samples were distributed, 33 labs returned results. Crude oil number four was Cusiana. Round Robin No. 5 will include data on pour point. All industry recognized experts on high temperature simulated distillations are now participating in the Round Robin. That should yield credibility for the data which can perhaps be used to establish precision for an official test method. Currently, there is no ASTM procedure for HTSD.

Update on CCQTA Projects - Mr. Bruce Kennedy of PetroCanada presented the status of the CCQTA project work. The emphasis of the group is starting to shift from contamination to consistency. The project groups are considering establishing routine testing programs, similar to those which have had success in the US. The CCQTA is working with the Petroleum Research Environmental forum, an organization in business for 11 years, on developing a project to examine contamination cause and effect.

Capline Common Stream Recommendation Update - Mr. Bob Goodmark of Equilon Pipeline reported that the LLS specifications went into effect the day of the meeting, October 1. He has heard of no negative feedback on the program to date. 

Basin Testing/Analyses Update - Mr. Don Hamilton of Gary-Williams and Mr. Aaron Dillard of Conoco discussed the project. The shipper consortium has spent $268M to date on the West Texas Intermediate and West Texas Sour sampling program. Much information has been generated and, with the new data management system developed by HPI consultants at the behest of Conoco, reasonable ”footprints” of the sweet stream and sour stream should be possible. The parameters to be included in the footprinting process will be not only gravity and sulfur but also other characteristics such as metals and distillation. The next steps for the Basin Subcommittee are 1) prepare a specification proposal for the Basin Pipeline owners (Equilon and Arco), 2) institute random testing on the more consistent locations to cut back on expenditures, 3) incorporate the new software to organize the data and 4) determine if additional Basin Pipeline shippers would be interested in joining the consortium.

Mr. Bob Goodmark of Equilon reported the establishment of Super Sweet and Domestic Sweet common streams on Basin. Gravity and sulfur specifications have been established for each stream. Please note that although the Basin Subcommittee was collecting data as “WTI”, the results should be easily adaptable to the new streams.

COQA Budget Report - Ms. Harry Giles of the COQA presented an expense review for the first eight months of 1998. The group is on budget with a balance of $12M.

Other – Mr. Harry Giles of the US DOE invited interested parties to the SPR’s Customer Outreach Day, October 14, 1998 at the Bryan Mound site in Freeport, Texas. Please call Joann Rochon on (504) 734-4731 if interested. Also, a contract is in place with Ruska Instruments for laboratory measurement of the true vapor pressure (TVP) of crude oil samples collected in the field from tankers and pipelines. Ruska has completed instrument modifications and samples will be collected in the latter part of the year. If anyone is interested in participating with the SPR in these TVP studies, please contact Harry.

Mr. Aaron Dillard of Conoco solicited suggestions on the COQA’s next proactive direction. The next step could be developing a partnership with Arco Pipeline in order to implement additional crude quality specifications at their Cushing terminal. Other next steps could be holding discussions with Express or Amoco pipelines regarding establishing crude oil quality programs or specifications on their systems. Any feedback and/or further suggestions are welcome from all members. Please contact the COQA facilitator.

Next Meeting - The next meeting of the COQA will be held on February 2 in Denver.