best kept secret master

Wärtsilä's best-kept secret

While Wärtsilä Tank Control Systems (TCS) is a small part of Wärtsilä Gas Solutions, it is much mightier than many may realise. Find out where they have been hiding and why now is their time to shine.

Text: ANNA AISTRICH Photo: WÄRTSILÄ

Formerly Whessoe, what is now Wärtsilä Tank Control Systems (TCS) became an entity of Wärtsilä in 2010, after being purchased as part of the Total Automation group division in 2006. Now the three facilities that comprise TCS are part of Wärtsilä in France, the UK and Singapore. Even though they are relative newcomers to the Wärtsilä family, they are no rookies on the gas scene.

Whessoe moved into the gauging business during the 1960s from its UK base, further expanding with an office in the gateway to Europe, Calais, France. In the 1970s and 80s, its business expanded into the LNG industry. Now, with more than 40 years experience in the global LNG market, TCS currently has the greatest number of LNG installations within Wärtsilä. That’s more than 450 vessels at sea and on order and a 50% market share of LNG terminals equipped with its gauges. So, although they are a relatively small, little-known business within Wärtsilä, TCS is a leader in its sector of the global market – making it perhaps Wärtsilä’s best-kept secret. 

So what does this little powerhouse do? According to Chris Mais, General Manager of Wärtsilä Tank Control Systems, Gas Solutions, “Since the early days of liquefied gas storage, TCS has been at the cutting edge of developing technologies that increase the safety of LNG and LPG storage.

“The marine side of TCS supplies gauges to LNG and gas carriers, and the land-based business side provides storage tank gauging systems and emergency shut-off valve systems for the LNG and LPG markets,” adds Mais. In other words, TCS has product offerings for many links in the LNG value chain, from the producer to the supplier, and is a dominant supplier in this growing market. To illustrate its synergy with Wärtsilä’s projects, even the LNG terminal in Tornio, Finland, uses tank-gauging systems from TCS, as do additional oil and gas projects within Wärtsilä.

One of the shining stars from TCS is the Whessoe LNG Rollover Predictor software, which enables the LNG terminal operators to monitor all parameters that influence the formation and evolution of LNG stratification. Stratification can occur when storing different grades of LNG in receiving tanks or when the composition changes due to the boil-off of the lighter components of the stored LNG. If proactive measures are not taken, the stratified layers can mix very rapidly and generate a sudden release of pressure, which could damage the storage tank, or a release of gas into the atmosphere. However, by continuously monitoring all data and forecasting a possible development of stratification, the Predictor automatically generates an alarm if any stratification seems likely to evolve into a rollover situation. This allows operators sufficient time to take corrective action, such as pumping out one layered LNG to another tank.

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WITH MORE THAN 40 YEARS EXPERIENCE IN THE GLOBAL LNG MARKET, TCS CURRENTLY HAS THE GREATEST NUMBER OF LNG INSTALLATIONS WITHIN WÄRTSILÄ.

David Clercq, Sales and Product Manager for TCS, points out, “Of course, operators can take the same measurements, but it’s impossible to predict the behaviour of the LNG without access to a prediction model like Predictor. In addition to the fact that it facilitates LNG storage tank operations by accurately displaying tank levels, layer heights, and the average density and temperature of each layer, Predictor warns the operator of a potential risk of rollover in real time.” With this information immediately available, operators can avoid running mixing pumps continuously and/or reliquifying boil-off gas unnecessarily, thereby reducing the terminal’s operational costs.

Now TCS is adapting the predictor for the FLNG (floating liquefied natural gas) market, which is still a relatively new industry surfacing because of the potential environmental, political, financial and lead-time issues related to traditional LNG terminal construction. FLNG extends the possibility to extract stranded gas reserves and to monetise it. In general, FLNG has fewer environmental or political issues, and the project gestation period and financial threshold are lower. So, by adapting the Rollover Predictor to a new market condition and combining pioneering technology for installation, TCS currently has the only product to measure gas density in real time on an FLNG vessel.

Another key product offering and an example of TCS’s ability to design specific products for specific applications is the emergency shut-off valve for LPG underground storage caverns. It was developed in partnership with French company Geostock, an engineering company that designs and builds large underground storage caverns for liquefied gas, hydrocarbons and crude oil. The valve was adapted from an existing application to be able to close in an emergency situation, such as in case of an earthquake, and ensure that a potential release of gas into the atmosphere is avoided. 

“With the caverns excavated approximately 200 metres below ground to create the right storing conditions, monitoring the product level inside the tanks is also difficult, but TCS developed a probe for that application that makes it possible to monitor water and product levels and temperature, which are crucial for cavern safety management,” says Clercq.

In short, instrumentation and safety systems from TCS ensure that all hazardous aspects related to the storage are known and controllable. For nearly any application, TCS adapts current technologies or creates new ones and then extensively tests them for endurance, accuracy and reliability in the harsh environments associated with liquid gas storage. So TCS’s solutions go a long way towards helping protect personnel, the environment, the equipment and the gas itself. And that’s no small job. 

 

Tank control systems

Wärtsilä Oil&Gas

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