New sulfur specs will challenge US pipeline system

Warren R. True
Chief Technology Editor—Pipelines/Gas Processing

HOUSTON, Nov. 21 -- US oil pipelines may have difficulty adjusting operations to the new federal 15 ppm sulfur rule for ultralow-sulfur diesel, according to two experts making presentations to a workshop on the subject in Houston.

On the first day of the 2-day workshop held by the US Environmental Protection Agency and jointly sponsored by several industry associations, Wes Neff, retired from but on consultancy for Marathon Ashland Pipe Line LLC, and Buster Brown of Colonial Pipeline Co., reported on pipeline tests on their systems in 2001 and 2002.

Uncharted territory
Neff said that MAPL's distribution system has no experience handling an ultralow-sulfur specification product in a batching system. At 15 ppm sulfur, he said, ULSD would be the lowest-sulfur product in the system.

Assuming that the specification in pipelines will need to be about 10 ppm and comparing it with a heating oil specification of 5,000 ppm, he said the product specification ratio would be 500:1. "The system has only dealt with sulfur specifications in the 10:1 range," he said.

The example he gave was that a 0.1% contamination—10 bbl in 10,000 bbl—of 5,000 ppm sulfur heating oil into ULSD would raise the sulfur content in the ULSD by 5 ppm.

The MAPL tests revealed, said Neff, how easily ULSD moving through a distribution system can be contaminated, not only from residual but small amounts of higher-sulfur product isolated in a refinery's piping system but also from the higher-sulfur head end of the batch.

Once contamination occurs from the head end, however, MAPL's tests showed, it does not trail back further into the main batch of ULSD.

In the end, however, Neff said the MAPL tests suggest that pipelines should be able to transport ULSD and "maintain the sulfur specifications."

"We saw that gravity changes corresponded closely to the sulfur changes and that protective gravity cuts might be acceptable," he said. The loss to interface in MAPL's tests should be about the same as its current critical cuts for gasoline and distillates.

The tests revealed no migration of sulfur at the head or the tail ends of the batch interfaces beyond the normal gravity-interface zone, no sulfur degradation due to the pipeline and its associated facilities, and no sulfur degradation at the delivery piping of the receiving terminal.

"Keep in mind, however, that our tests were done from refinery tank to a terminal tank (at Zachary, La.) with no stops in between," he said. "We did our tests under ideal conditions."

Neff emphasized the need for inline testing equipment to find any contamination that happens during transit and to help define cut points; "there just isn't any test equipment. . .available to do this," he said.

Neff concluded that the pipeline ULSD specification might need to vary batch by batch, depending on the origin and the destination. Complex pipeline systems involving several breakout tanks and multiple pipeline segments "could result in several ppm sulfur degradation."

'It's the preseason'
Colonial Pipeline's experiences were less sanguine. "Our results were bad," said Brown, beginning his presentation.

Colonial moved two sample batches of ULSD on its 36-in. line from Baton Rouge to Greensboro, NC, with sampling at Atlanta Junction in Georgia.

Movement 1 did not show sulfur levels leveling out until long after gravity change, said Brown. "Our initial results indicated sulfur and gravity results were not tracking as well as" those from the MAPL tests, he said. "We saw sulfur changes before we saw changes in gravity," and Brown admitted Colonial could not explain why.

The other observation from Movement 1 was that sulfur levels between Louisiana and North Carolina rose significantly and inexplicably.

In short, said Brown, "We were not successful at delivering that product into our intermediate tank at an acceptable level."

But, he said, the Movement 1 tests on the Colonial system were like the preseason in US professional football: "How we do in preseason is not necessarily how we're going to perform in the regular season—at least, that's what we hope," he said.

A more recent test, however, which he called "Movement 2," suggested that sulfur levels and gravity are more closely related.

When "we reached 100% gravity, we also were very close to the correct sulfur levels, whereas with the (Movement 1) test, sulfur levels were changing well before gravity changes," said Brown.

He also said the batch in Movement 2 did not show the sharp rise in sulfur levels between lifting into the system in Louisiana and delivery at Greensboro, but sulfur levels still rose.

On both movements of ULSD test batches, Colonial saw the volume of interface—the total interface from first change to 100%—to be "quite large, twice what we would expect from a typical movement.

"We're very concerned about the amount of interface (and are) trying to understand that."

One possible explanation, said Brown, lies in the differing make ups of the two product batches: Movement 1 was wrapped completely in high-sulfur product: aviation kerosine on one side and high-sulfur fuel on the other; Movement 2, on the other hand, was completely wrapped in 500 ppm product, Colonial's current low-sulfur diesel.

"Even though they were wrapped in different products," said Brown, "we still saw roughly the same interface size."

Brown said Colonial's tests reveal that the "real issues" center on movements into and out of tankage. "The greatest risk and greatest possibility of contamination (occur) any time you go in and out of tankage," he said.

"Overdisplacement into tankage is the only way we now see to protect the product." But, he said, "it's more art than science" with several operational parameters dictating the size of displacement.

Both of Colonial's tests led to the same conclusion: The sulfur level at lifting must be lower because handling of the product along the system will, for whatever reason, elevate sulfur levels at delivery.

Related Articles

TGP advances Northeast Energy Direct gas line to New England

07/17/2015 Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. (TGP), a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Inc. (KMI), Houston, has been cleared by KMI’s board to proceed with plans to build...

BHI: US rig count falls 6 units to 857

07/17/2015 The US drilling rig count fell 6 units to reach 857 during the week ended July 17, essentially cancelling out the last 3 weeks’ worth of gains, acc...

Aussie, Timor-Leste regulators terminate Timor Gap permit

07/17/2015 Regulators in Australia and Timor-Leste have now formally terminated Timor Gap production-sharing contract JPDA 06-103, which leaves Australian com...

Nexen pipeline leaks 5,000 cu m of emulsion in Alberta

07/17/2015 Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) reported that a Nexen Energy ULC pipeline has leaked 5,000 cu m of emulsion—a mixture of bitumen, produced water, an...

DOE official: LNG exports could be limited by silt-clogged waterways, ports

07/16/2015 Silt, which is increasingly filling US waterways and ports, potentially could limit US LNG exports if it is not dredged soon, a top US Department o...

S-Oil lets contracts for Onsan refinery, olefins projects

07/16/2015 S-Oil Corp., Seoul, has let a series of contracts to Axens to supply technology for a residue upgrading and capacity expansion project at its 669,0...

ENOC trims Turkmen plan in Dragon takeover

07/16/2015 Emirates National Oil Co. Ltd. (ENOC), Dubai, will lower target oil production from the Cheleken area offshore Turkmenistan after acquiring full co...

KMI to buy Shell’s stake in Elba LNG project for $630 million

07/16/2015 Kinder Morgan Inc., Houston, has reached a deal with Royal Dutch Shell PLC to purchase 100% of Shell’s equity interest in Elba Liquefaction Co. LLC...

Genesis to buy Enterprise offshore pipelines

07/16/2015 Genesis Energy LP has agreed to buy the Gulf of Mexico pipelines and services business of Enterprise Products Partners LP for $1.5 billion cash.
White Papers

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

When Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors

register:WEBCAST


Driving Growth and Efficiency with Deep Insights into Operational Data

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Capitalizing on today’s momentum in Oil & Gas requires operational excellence based on a clear view of what your business data is telling you. Which is why nearly half* of oil and gas companies have deployed SAP HANA or have it on their roadmap.

Join SAP and Red Hat to learn more about using data to drive process improvements and identify new opportunities with the SAP HANA platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This webinar will also show how your choice of infrastructure impacts the performance of core business applications and your ability to achieve data-driven insights quickly and reliably.

*48% use SAP, http://go.sap.com/solution/industry/oil-gas.html

register:WEBCAST


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected