Bulk Loading Technology

The Changing Face of Loading Technology

By: John Edwards, Business Unit Leader, SafeRack

 

 This day and age, everyone wants to do more with less. It’s the only way to keep afloat in an industry as competitive as crude oil transfer. You’re only as good as your inbound and outbound lanes, and if you can’t efficiently get your raw material in and out, your business will be dead in the water.

So what can you do? What are these new technologies and how are they helping businesses like yours?

Failure prevention is where I think we’ll see much of our industry’s innovations moving forward — that is, technologies that are proactive, rather than reactive. Some exist already: Automated detection for vibration and heat on a pump, for instance, which alerts staff (now via mobile device) before a leak or malfunction occurs.

Moving to more machine-to-machine, automated technologies can make all the difference to worker safety and your company’s bottom line. And sometimes all it takes are simple equipment tweaks.

Keep Competitive by Preventing Failures

How does your loading facility currently monitor gas levels in the air? Many use portable sensors that attach to workers’ clothing. When a certain amount of gas is present, it sounds an alarm, signaling a potential leak. For decades this approach has worked just fine. But it’s not 100 percent reliable.

The inherent problem with this type of approach is that the alert is reactive. Once it sounds, the leak has presumably already occurred. It’s also completely reliant on the operator — their location, their condition and their ability to do something about it.

Instead, why not have the gas sensors on the loading equipment itself, alerting workers before they walk through toxic air? These sensors can signal a maintenance issue before an accident ever occurs, saving valuable time and resources.

And isn’t that what matters? Upgrading your facility on the outside without making your loading applications smarter, safer and more efficient on the inside won’t get you far. It’s often easy to get swept up in how the newest technologies look and feel on the surface level, but at the end of the day, the result of new innovations should be to make us safer and more productive.

Add a New Level of Intelligence

Across our industry, we’ve seen new technology to help better manage leak detection, movement control, vapor recovery, and now spill protection and grounding solutions.

Today, what’s possible with terminal grounding systems is mind-blowing. You can now get an all-in-one grounding system that monitors everything from static electricity to product fill levels and loading arm position. And it’s all in one control box about the size of tool box. Doing what was once the job of three control boxes, the SmartTech LOGIC controller utilizes fewer wires and less space. (You can learn more about its features by reaching out to your local SafeRack rep.)

But what’s really great about this system is that everything happens in real time. The LOGIC control box talks to each individual system in your operation, centralizes the data from each, and then wirelessly transmits each transaction to the control room in real time. This means you can see everything you need to know about your current loading operation in one single read. It can truly add an unparalleled level of intelligence to your loading terminal.

Proactive innovations like these prevent mishaps small and large from even beginning to occur, which saves the plant from lost time. It also prevents against larger disasters, such as product leaks and dangerous explosions.

Make Less Mistakes, Sustain Your Business 

Integrating new technologies in our industry is nothing new. But the level and type of innovative measures available to businesses today are more advanced than ever.

And this is great news, because we need these innovations to sustain our industry. In order to move from unloading 20 rail cars a day to 220 (I know refineries who have), you need to ask yourself what you have control over at your terminal. It’s not the material you’re moving; it’s not environmental factors like weather; and it’s not the price of oil. Focus instead on what you can change: your loading and unloading times, and putting safety first for your team.

How do you do this? By continually make process or equipment shifts that allow machines to talk to each other more and eliminate the chance of human error. The less mistakes made, the less time lost, and the better your chances of running a successful loading application.

Many people ask where I think our industry will go next. Luckily, I work for a company I feel is leading that charge. SafeRack is the first company to create an all-in-one grounding solution like the SmartTech LOGIC, for example. But though incredibly intelligent, it’s just one solution in a line of new intelligent technologies to come.

Lockdown safety devices for gangways. Radio frequency identification tags within personnel safety gear. Real-time alerts sent straight to manager iPhones (SmartTech has this capability). The list goes on. Choosing just the right technologies for your business will be an ongoing challenge. But I hope we can help with that. Tune into our ongoing innovation series, where we not only share the newest and greatest of SafeRack’s technologies, but how our industry at large is shifting and advancing.

 

 

As a Business Unit Leader at SafeRack Technologies, John Edwards has been working in varied areas of the petro-chemical industry, from the wellhead to the final consumer, for the past 24 years. He enjoys implementing the new products and technology that transform the industry.