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Where Should You Be Sampling in Your Hydrocarbon Processing Plant?

Posted by Rod Lunceford on 11/11/19 8:00 AM
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In a hydrocarbon processing plant, crude oil must be processed into more refined products. Establishing a sampling program for all types of refining processes in hydrocarbon processing plants requires special considerations for successful and safe operations.

It is critical to ensure quality control and to determine product properties and composition. This will ensure accurate fiscal calculations, allocations and loss control. What’s more, a properly designed sampling system ensures representative process samples are repeatable and reliable, every time.

Why representative sampling?

Sampling allows refineries to identify what and how each unit is performing accurately. Traditional grab sampling methods – such as bucket and spigot collection – can be unreliable, dangerous and prone to human errors. This can create uncertainty in the sample analysis results.

Representative sampling combines safety, simplicity and accuracy to deliver benefits unmatched by other sampling methods.

1. Safeguarding your equipment helps your plant avoid Lock-out, Tag-out of poorly designed sample panels, and helps ensure uninterrupted monitoring of processes.

2. Maintain sample integrity - Avoid contamination by collecting samples with reliable sample panels engineered specifically for each application. This ensures you can achieve reliable and accurate analytical results. 

3. Ensure operator and environmental safety - A low-emission, closed-loop sampling approach protects the operator from volatile and/or toxic exposure while protecting the environment.

4. Protect product quality - Trust your product quality testing results with samples collected by sample panels engineered specifically to handle the temperatures, pressures and corrosiveness found in Hydrocarbon processing.

5. Support regulatory compliance - Sampling equipment made by suppliers with an ISO 9001 certification and designed to meet industry standard and regulations, such as API MPMS CHAPTER 8.2ASTM D4177 and ISO 3171.


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where representative sampling matters  most 

1. Crude Distillation 

Crude distillation distills and separates valuable distillates such as naphtha, kerosene and diesel, as well as atmospheric gas oil (AGO) from the crude feedstock.

2. Vacuum Distillation 

Vacuum Distillation Unit (VDU) is a vacuum distillation tower that accepts “reduced” crude processed by the crude distillation units (CDUs), then distills them into primary products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha, kerosene, light gas oil and refined crude. Plants can recover valuable gas oils from reduced crude via vacuum distillation.

3. Coker Unit 

A coker unit converts low-value residuals to valuable products, such as naphtha and diesel, and coker gas oil. Thermocracking increases the H/C ratio by carbon rejection in a semi batch process.

4. Fluidized Catalytic Cracking (FCC) 

FCC converts low-value gas oils to valuable products, such as naphtha and diesel, and slurry oil. Catalytic cracking increases H/C ratio by carbon rejection in a continuous process.

5. FCC Unit Products 

Petroleum naphtha is an intermediate hydrocarbon liquid stream derived from the refining of crude oil. It is most usually desulfurized and then catalytically reformed, which re-arranges or re-structures the hydrocarbon molecules in the naphtha as well as breaking some of the molecules into smaller molecules to produce a high-octane component of gasoline.

Key Considerations: establishing a sampling program 

  1. Install the right equipment for your processes. Each product within a hydrocarbon plant requires different approaches to producing high-quality end products. It’s important to choose sampling solutions that are made for your specific processes.
  2. Maintain sampling equipment. Keep sample panels in peak performance with regular inspections and replacement of worn parts. Proactive maintenance schedules ensure this performance. 


No matter the location and process, a representative sampling program helps you prove the quality and consistency of your outputs and drives your plants customer satisfaction goals. 

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Topics: Downstream, Liquid & Slurry, Gas

Written by Rod Lunceford

Picture of Rod Lunceford
Rod Lunceford is the Hydrocarbon Business Development Manager at Sentry Equipment. During his 43-year career, Mr. Lunceford was past President of Cobra Sampling Inc. and held a variety of business leadership roles at process technology companies. Mr. Lunceford has been involved in process piping and instrumentation applications for many years and has held active officer roles in several industry associations. Mr. Lunceford graduated from West Texas A&M University and holds a BBA in Business Management. In his free time, Mr. Lunceford enjoys being a grandfather of two, fishing and playing golf.