According to a 2021 report from Insight Partners, the market for liquified natural gas (LNG) storage tanks is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 7.9% from 2022 to 2028. This uptick follows directly from the increasing popularity of natural gas as an energy source. Not only is natural gas considered to be the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel, the ability of power plants fueled by natural gas to ramp up and down quickly has allowed for the peaks and troughs in energy generated by wind and solar to be smoothed over with minimal waste. As such, natural gas is often considered an intermediary step between fossil fuels and renewable energy.
However, even as the market for natural gas expands, attaining a return on investment (ROI) on newly built LNG tanks can be difficult. A typical LNG tank has a capacity of up to 200,000 cubic meters, and includes both an interior steel tank to contain liquid gas and an exterior concrete tank that serves as a secondary containment measure. The scale and complexity of these structures means that upfront costs are extremely high.
That’s why many companies look to achieve a faster ROI through the use of tank gauging systems that allow operators to optimize tank usage, increase safety, and minimize operating and maintenance costs. One such system is Emerson’s Rosemount TankMaster, which serves as both an inventory management system and a tank gauging system capable of predicting roll-overs. A roll-over is a rapid release of LNG vapors from a storage tank that occurs when two separate layers of different densities exist in the tank, leading to a volatile and hazardous reaction. Roll-overs can result in added financial costs due to a loss of valuable product, safety risks, and a failure to meet environmental compliance requirements.
According to Emerson, inventory management and roll-over prediction are typically performed by separate pieces of software, but by combining the two functions into a unified package, Rosemount TankMaster offers end-users several benefits, including lowered costs, improved ease-of-use, and a minimization of training requirements. Moreover, the software offers monitoring and alarm functionalities, cool-down and leak detection, temperature measurement overview, and remote proof-testing support.
“Many industrial accidents are traceable to human factors, so vendors are increasingly required to provide software and instrumentation that reduce the risk of human error by being easier to use,” said AnnCharlott Enberg, global functional safety manager at Emerson. “The fact that Rosemount TankMaster now provides a single software for inventory management and roll-over prediction not only increases ease-of-use but also accelerates operator training and increases safety by reducing the potential for human error.”
In particular, Rosemount Tankmaster’s remote proof-testing capabilities can result in significant cost reductions, says Victoria Lund Mattsson, solutions engineer at Emerson. When level gauges are deployed in a safety instrumented environment, they are required to be periodically proof-tested in compliance with IEC 61511 and the American Petroleum Institute’s API 2350 standards. This can be performed either as a comprehensive or a partial proof-test. In the case of a comprehensive proof-test, technicians must climb inside the tanks themselves, mandating downtime that could affect profitability.
In contrast, partial proof-testing can be performed remotely using Rosemount TankMaster. While a partial proof-test only detects a certain percentage of possible failures and cannot be considered a substitute for a comprehensive proof-test indefinitely, it can be used to extend the amount of time between comprehensive proof-tests, thereby reducing shutdown costs.