Friday, December 16, 2016

BCE PCB Mounted Epoxy Vacuum Feedthroughs

BCE is a leading manufacturer of printed circuit board mounted vacuum feedthroughs.

New epoxy compounds have been developed that rival glass and ceramic in performance. BCE is at the forefront of this development and leverages modern epoxy's unique properties to solve your feedthrough challenges.

  • Custom shapes, angles and conductors no problem.
  • Run wires (and shielding), pneumatic tubing, or fiber-optic cables.
  • Cost effective compared to glass and ceramic.
  • Short runs and prototypes available quickly.
  • Meets NASA specs on outgassing.
  • Clear epoxy allows for visual inspection.
  • Mounting directly to printed circuit boards and flex-circuits.
  • Eliminates voltage drop or contact resistance.
Visit for more information.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

BCE Flanged Gas Heater (Custom Electric Heating Element)

Here is an example of BCE's custom heating element design and manufacturing capabilities. This is their flanged gas heater.

Some of the design features are:

  • Heat gasses to 400°C - 450°
  • Body welded to pass 10⁻⁸ vacuum
  • All 304 SST materials (other available).
  • RoHS compliant parts and components.
  • Embedded thermocouple probe.
  • Can be used in gas chromatography and other applications.
  • Wire length/type are customer specified.

For more information visit or call (510) 274-1990.

Doser Purging System Heating Element

Doser Purging System Heating Element
Doser Purging System
Heating Element
Gaseous nitrogen is used in the food and beverage industry to remove oxygen from products, thus increasing shelf life. The handling of liquid nitrogen through the piping and the injection systems that deliver the "nitrogen dose" into food and beverage containers presents unique challenges.

For food & beverage producers, lost production is calculated in downtime. Moisture and freeze-ups are the main contributor to downtime with production line gas dosing systems.  It takes only a very small amount of moisture to freeze up and stop equipment. It’s imperative maintaining reliable and productive dosing process and overcome moisture and frost contamination. The start-up and shut-down times for the dosing systems are another critical area for production efficiency when you consider many dosing systems requiring thaw periods of up to 24 hours.

BCE is pioneering the design of an electric heating element used in purging systems for nitrogen dosers. Heated purging systems remove moisture that migrates into the dosing system and cause freeze-ups, leading to poor operation or complete shut downs of the dosing system.

The purge heater is designed to heat a dry nitrogen gas supply to approximately 125 degrees F., which in turn, is piped to the doser system as an accelerant to thaw and dry the unit very rapidly. Depending on the dosing system, the net effect of using a purge heater is dramatic, with thawing and drying times reduced by 75%.

Key Benefits of Using an Electric Purge Heater
  • Better, more efficient control over moisture. 
  • 75% reduction in purge time. 
  • 66% reduction in start-up time. 
  • Cost savings from using less gas due to shorter purge times.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Compact Heater for Clean Liquids and Gases

The BCE Mini Clean Flow Heater operates in a liquid or gas stream providing very fast response times and accurate control capability.

The heating elements in the Mini Clean Flow Heater are isolated electrically from the process media, protecting them from contaminants and providing long life.
  • Designed for heating of clean gases or liquids 
  • Gas flow passes over an enclosed heated body; not exposed to resistive elements (ni-chrome) 
  • All parts exposed to gas flow are constructed of 304 stainless (other material available) 
  • High temperatures 
  • Custom wattages, voltages, inlet and outlet fittings are available. 
  • Made in U.S.A.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Maintaining Close Temperature Control of a Fluid Process Flow

Temperature control is a common operation in the industrial arena. Its application can range across solids, liquids, and gases. The dynamics of a particular operation will influence the selection of instruments and equipment to meet the project requirements. In addition to general performance requirements, safety should always be a consideration in the design of a temperature control system involving enough energy to damage the system or create a hazardous condition.

Let's narrow the application range to non-flammable flowing fluids that require elevated temperatures. In the interest of clarity, this illustration is presented without any complicating factors that may be encountered in actual practice. Much of what is presented here, however, will apply universally to other scenarios.
What are the considerations for specifying the right equipment?

Know your flow. 

First and foremost, you must have complete understanding of certain characteristics of the fluid.
  • Specific Heat - The amount of heat input required to increase the temperature of a mass unit of the media by one degree.
  • Minimum Inlet Temperature - The lowest media temperature entering the process and requiring heating to a setpoint. Use the worst (coldest) case anticipated.
  • Mass Flow Rate - An element in the calculation for total heat requirement. If the flow rate will vary, use the maximum anticipated flow.
  • Maximum Required Outlet Temperature - Used with minimum inlet temperature in the calculation of the maximum heat input required.

Select system components with performance to match the project.

  • Heat Source - If temperature control with little deviation from a setpoint is your goal, electric heat will likely be your heating source of choice. It responds quickly to changes in a control signal and the output can be adjusted in very small increments to achieve a close balance between process heat requirement and actual heat input. 
  • Sensor - Sensor selection is critical to attaining close temperature control. There are many factors to consider, well beyond the scope of this article, but the ability of the sensor to rapidly detect small changes in media temperature is a key element of a successful project. Attention should be given to the sensor containment, or sheath, the mass of the materials surrounding the sensor that are part of the assembly, along with the accuracy of the sensor.

    The location of the temperature sensor will be a key factor in control system performance. The sensing element should be placed where it will be exposed to the genuine process condition, avoiding effects of recently heated fluid that may have not completely mixed with the balance of the media. Locate too close to the heater and there may be anomalies caused by the heater. A sensor installed too distant from the heater may respond too slowly. Remember that the heating assembly, in whatever form it may take, is a source of disturbance to the process. It is important to detect the impact of the disturbance as early and accurately as possible.
  • Controller - The controller should provide an output that is compatible with the heater power controller and have the capability to provide a continuously varying signal or one that can be very rapidly cycled. There are many other features that can be incorporated into the controller for alarms, display, and other useful functions. These have little bearing on the actual control of the process, but can provide useful information to the opeartor. 
  • Power Controller - A great advantage of electric heaters is their compatibility with very rapid cycling or other adjustments to their input power. A power controller that varies the total power to the heater in very small increments will allow for fine tuning the heat input to the process.
  • Performance Monitoring - Depending upon the critical nature of the heating activity to overall process performance, it may be useful to monitor not only the media temperature, but aspects of heater or controller performance that indicate the devices are working. Knowing something is not working sooner, rather than later, is generally beneficial. Controllers usually have some sort of sensor failure notification built in. Heater operation can be monitored my measurement of the circuit current. 

Safety Considerations

Any industrial heater assembly is capable of producing surface temperatures hot enough to cause trouble. Monitoring process and heater performance and operation, providing backup safety controls, is necessary to reduce the probability of damage or catastrophe.
  • High Fluid Temperature - An independent sensor can monitor process fluid temperature, with instrumentation providing an alert and limit controllers taking action if unexpected limits are reached.
  • Heater Temperature - Monitoring the heater sheath temperature can provide warning of a number of failure conditions, such as low fluid flow, no fluid present, or power controller failure. A proper response activity should be automatically executed when unsafe or unanticipated conditions occur.
  • Media Present - There are a number of ways to directly or indirectly determine whether media is present. The media, whether gaseous or liquid, is necessary to maintain an operational connection between the heater assembly and the sensor. 
  • Flow Present - Whether gaseous or liquid media, flow is necessary to keep most industrial heaters from burning out. Understand the limitations and operating requirements of the heating assembly employed and make sure those conditions are maintained. 
  • Heater Immersion - Heaters intended for immersion in liquid may have watt density ratings that will produce excessive or damaging element temperatures if operated in air. Strategic location of a temperature sensor may be sufficient to detect whether a portion of the heater assembly is operating in air. An automatic protective response should be provided in the control scheme for this condition.
Each of the items mentioned above is due careful consideration for an industrial fluid heating application. Your particular process will present its own set of specific challenges with respect to performance and safety. Share your requirements with process heat experts, combining your process knowledge with their expertise to develop safe and effective solutions.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Heaters for Process Air and Gases

electric heaters for process air or gas streams
Examples of process air heaters
Courtesy Hotwatt
Many process applications require heating of an air or gas stream. There is a wide variety of electric heating units specifically designed for processing flowing streams of air or non-flammable gas.

The primay selection criteria for a process air heating unit should be the heating capacity or wattage. Determine the maximum flow rate, inlet and outlet temperatures, then apply a simple formula from the document included below to find the minimum watt rating for a heating unit. Outlet temperatures can range to 1000°F (540°C) and flow rates to 200 scfm. Custom units can accommodate applications beyond those limits.

The outlet temperature can be controlled in a number of ways. One is to regulate the power applied to the heater. This would be applicable to a process that required a constant or minimum air flow rate. If the flow rate can be varied, another method of temperature control is available. Maintaining constant power to the heater and varying the air flow rate can serve as a means of controlling the output temperature.

Various connection sizes and fittings can be included in the heater assembly design to accommodate its incorporation into a process equipment train. Share your process heating requirements and challenges with experienced application engineers, combining your own process knowledge with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Industrial Process Temperature Sensor Comparison

industrial thermocouples
Array of thermoucouple assemblies
Courtesy Durex
It's always useful to have quick references for things. Durex, a globally recognized manufacturer of electric heating solutions, published the Temperature Sensor Element Selection Guide included below in a recent blog posting. It provides a consolidated comparison of the four primary temperature sensing devices used for industrial process control. Many will find it useful, so we share it with you here.

All the technical expertise needed for your process heating challenges is readily accessible at BCE. Share your heating challenges with experts, combining your process and application knowledge with their expertise to develop effective solutions.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Flanged and Screw Plug Electric Heating Assemblies for Industrial Applications

flanged tubular electric heater assembly
Flanged Tubular Electric Heater Assembly
Electric heating, though not the most energy efficient means of delivering heat, provides some distinct advantages as a means of controlling the temperature or thermal component of fluids and solids throughout commercial and industrial settings.

Tubular elements are a common form of electric heater. Essentially a metal tube with resistance wire and electrical insulation inside, tubular elements can be configured into almost uncountable shapes and sizes. Manufacturers typically offer a range of standard sizes and ratings, but that should never deter you from making contact to discuss your ideas for a custom arrangement.

Two mounting schemes that are readily used on tanks or other vessels are the screw plug and flanged heater assemblies. In each case, tubular heaters are bent in a "U" shape and fitted into either a pipe flange or a threaded plug. A junction box encloses the electrical terminations for the heating elements, providing a single ended assembly that can be easily mounted to an industrial standard mechanical connection. These assemblies are useful for tank or vessel OEMs that wish to provide a fluid heating option to their customers.
tubular electric heaters screw plug mounting
Examples of Screw Plug Electric Heaters

Electric heat enables a properly configured controller to proportion heat into a subject fluid across a wide range, from very small packets that could be fractional percentages of full capacity to the fully available output of the heater. The units are compact, rugged, and can be configured to accommodate a broad array of industrial environments and applications.

Selecting or specifying a unit is uncomplicated. Determine the amount of heating capacity needed, then select the assembly mounting type (flange, screw plug, or other). Select an element sheath material that is compatible with the process media and a termination enclosure that suits the surrounding environment. Application assistance is available from product specialists who are well versed in the available options and can help you specify an assembly that provides excellent performance and an extended service life.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

BCE Epoxy Vacuum Feedthroughs: When You Need to Pass a Signal Through A Vacuum Chamber Wall

Equipment manufacturers and scientific researchers are continually challenged with supplying power, fiber-optic, control, and monitoring cables into (and out of) sealed vacuum vessels. Whether due to space restrictions, special geometries, or number and type of conductors, standard glass-to-metal or ceramic feedthroughs never quite fit the bill. Unfortunately, because of limited options, many designers are forced to compromise and go for an off-the-shelf solution.

You don't have to compromise anymore.  EPOXY TO THE RESCUE. 

During the past decade, new epoxy compounds have been developed that rival glass and ceramic in performance. BCE is at the forefront of this development and leverages modern epoxy's unique properties to solve your feedthrough challenges.

With modern epoxy feedthroughs, any kind of standard or custom connector is sealed in a completely potted, high-performance, clear epoxy compound. Epoxy seals offer countless design options, and most amazingly, performance equal to or better than glass or ceramic. Better yet, pricing is very competitive and quick turn-around for prototypes and short production runs are not a problem.

BCE custom epoxy vacuum feedthroughs offer the best choice in application flexibility, cost, and high performance. Epoxy feedthroughs are the right product for today’s fast moving markets. If you have to pass an electrical, pneumatic, or fiber-optic signal through a vacuum chamber wall, THINK OF BCE!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Use Electronic Pressure Controllers in Your Research Process Loop to Eliminate Droop, Boost, and Hysteresis

(re-blogged with permission from Brooks Instrument)
Gas pressure control is critical in many applications like life sciences and chemical/petrochemical research where flow is an integral part of the process. Brooks Instrument electronic pressure controllers can be used as they require flow to function. Compared to using a mechanical pressure regulator, electronic pressure controllers eliminate droop, boost and hysteresis, offering stable pressure control.

There are two configurations available for pressure control – upstream and downstream. This terminology is somewhat unique to Brooks Instrument electronic pressure controllers.

Downstream vs. Upstream Pressure Control

downstream vs upstream pressure control diagram
Downstream pressure controllers maintain the pressure downstream of the device itself, increasing flow to increase the pressure and decreasing flow to decrease the pressure. For this reason, this is called direct acting. This configuration is commonly called a standard pressure regulator. A downstream pressure controller acts very similar to a typical mass flow controller because they are both direct acting.
Upstream pressure controllers maintain the pressure upstream of the device itself, increasing flow to reduce the pressure and decreasing flow to increase the pressure. For this reason, this is called reverse acting. This configuration is commonly called a back pressure regulator in the industry.

Selecting and Sizing an Electronic Pressure Controller

The following information is required to select and size a Brooks Instrument electronic pressure controller:
  • Process gas
  • Maximum flow rate being used to maintain pressure -The “sweet spot” for pressure control is between 100 SCCM and 5 SLPM.
  • Calibration pressure (maximum pressure to be controlled)
  • Reference pressure (for upstream controllers the reference pressure is the downstream pressure and for downstream controllers the reference pressure is the upstream pressure)
As long as flow is present in a process you will typically find the need for some type of pressure control. Vessel sizes up to 30 liters commonly use flow rates up to 3 SLPM during their process steps. Brooks Instrument pressure controllers are a perfect fit for these services, offering stable pressure control with no droop, boost or hysteresis, which are commonly experienced when using a mechanical pressure regulator.

Typical Bioreactor Process Using an Upstream Pressure Controller

Monday, October 17, 2016

Applying Precision Turbine Flow Meters

high precision turbine flow meter
Precision Turbine Flow Meter
Cameron Measurement Systems
Precision turbine flow meters are specially designed to accommodate a broad range of precise fluid measurement applications. They accommodate greater flow rates with lower pressure drops than other meters in their class. Some have a self-flushing design for longer sustained accuracy. The turbine's high-frequency digital output is suitable for interfacing with an assortment of readout and recording equipment. Some turbine flow meters have a symmetrical bi-directional design that supports reverse flow applications without a reduction in accuracy or capacity.

Operating Principle

(The following is excerpted from Model 700 Series Turbine Flowmeter User Manual, from Cameron Measurement Systems....with some editing)

Fluid flows over a diffuser section and is accelerated onto a multi-blade hydro-dynamically balanced turbine rotor. The rotor speed is proportional to the volumetric flow rate. As the rotor turns, a reluctance type pickup coil (mounted on the meter) senses the passage of each blade tip and generates a sine wave output with a frequency that is directly proportional to the flow rate.

The rotor is the only moving part of the turbine flow meter. The small lightweight rotor hubs ensure fast response to process flow changes. The rotor is hydro-dynamically balanced during operation, eliminating the need for mechanical thrust leveling. This low-friction design improves metering linearity and reduces wear and maintenance.

A variable reluctance generating pickup coil contains a permanent magnet and a wire winding. In some cases, the rotor blade of the turbine meter is made of a ferritic stainless steel such as grade 430. The movement of the rotor blade in proximity to the magnetic field of the coil tip produces an AC type voltage pulse within the coil winding. An alternate arrangement finds the ferritic bars embedded in the rotor shroud, where they can interact with the pickup coil. Increasing the quantity of bars on the shroud to outnumber the rotor blades provides more pulses per unit volume (resolution). This feature can be valuable when proving large-capacity meters with a small-volume prover. Shielded wire cable conveys the output of the pickup coil to compatible electronic instruments to indicate flow rate, record, and/or totalize the volumetric flow. The coil itself does not require electrical power to operate.

The meter may be factory-fitted with multiple coils for redundancy, indication of flow direction or pulse train verification. The pickup coil type and magnetic strength vary with application requirements.

The turbine flow meters are calibrated in a horizontal position. Therefore, the best correlation of calibration occurs when the meter is operated in this plane. However, the meter will operate satisfactorily in any position.

System Pressure

The maximum and minimum system pressures must be considered when applying the turbine meter. To obtain proper response, a back pressure should be applied to the meter. This back pressure should be at least twice the pressure drop of the meter at maximum flow. For liquid meters, the back pressure should be twice the pressure drop of the meter at maximum flow, plus twice the fluid vapor pressure.


Turbine flow meters, with their simple, durable construction and wide operating range, may be the right choice for a number of applications. As with all instrumentation, there are a number of factors to consider when making a selection. Share your flow measurement challenges and requirements with instrumentation specialists, combining your process knowledge with their product application expertise to develop the most effective solutions.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Process Alarm Annunciators as Part of Cyber Security

industrial control alarm annunciator panel
Annunicator Panel
Courtesy Ronan Engineering
There are numerous applications for annunciator panels, stations, and equipment throughout the various industrial markets. One such application, arising and growing with the connectivity of industrial control systems to the internet, is in the cyber defense arena.

Industrial control systems are increasingly internet connected, making them vulnerable to cyber attack. There was a time when all that was necessary for plant or operation security was installing a perimeter fence around the property and posting a guard at the gate. Our industrial control systems are now subject to mischief or malicious attack from locations and parties unknowable and worldwide.

Do you know of ICS-CERT? If involved in industrial control, you should. It is the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, a part of the Department of Homeland Security that provides operational capabilities to defend control systems against cyber threats. You can follow them on Twitter, @ICS-CERT, and monitor the vulnerabilities and threats that they discover in the industrial control sphere. New items are added almost daily, naming specific vulnerabilities uncovered in named systems and equipment. Chances are that you will discover some of the equipment in your plant listed.
Annunicator systems and equipment can be employed as an isolated"watcher", monitoring process performance and providing alerts when conditions exceed specified limits.
A major impact of a potential cyber attack scenario is that, as operator, you can no longer fully trust what your software based internet connected control system is telling you, or whether it is doing everything it should and only those things that it should. An annunciator system, isolated from the primary control system and the internet, monitoring critical process conditions, incorporates a substantial level of safety against cyber attack.

There is more to be learned. Browse the document included below for a detailed visual demonstrating the set up of annunciators that can be isolated from your network. Share your process control challenges with specialists, and combine your process and facility knowledge with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions. And start following @ICS-CERT on Twitter and build your awareness and knowledge of industrial control cyber threats.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Selecting the Right Magnetic Level Indicator (MLI)

magnetic level indicator
Magnetic level indicator
(courtesy of Orion Instruments)
The magnetic level indicator (MLI), also called a magnetically coupled liquid level indicator or a magnetic level gauge, is in widespread use throughout the process industries. Originally designed as an alternative to glass sight gauges, MLIs are now commonly used in new construction and plant expansions.

Companies in the process industry need the ability to visually monitor liquid levels in vessels (boilers, storage tanks, processing units, etc.). Traditionally, armored glass sight gauges have been used. However, many companies want an alternative to sight gauges to avoid problems such as breakage, leaks, or bursting at high pressures and extreme temperatures. In addition, the visibility of the sight glass can be poor and often affected by moisture, corrosion, or oxidation.

Magnetic level indicators (MLIs) do not have the shortcomings of glass sight gauges and are suitable for a wide variety of installations.

In an MLI, the magnets within a float and an indicator are magnetically coupled. The float, located inside a chamber, tracks the surface of the liquid. A magnet or magnet assembly inside the float creates a magnetic field, which penetrates the chamber wall to couple with the magnetic field created by the magnets in the indicator flags that display the fluid level.

Please read the following document for a complete understanding in the operation and selection of magnetic level gauges in process applications. For more information on MLI's, or any process level application, call BCE at (510) 274-1990 or visit

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What is an Atmospheric-pressure Chemical Ionization (APCI) Heater?

APCI heater
Diagram of APCI highlighting heating element.
For more information
on APCI heaters call BCE
at (510) 274-1990 or visit

Mass spectrometers work by removing target components as ions in a gas phase, and then detect them as ions under high vacuum. In the development of liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry (LC-MS) a significant problem arises from the vaporization from liquid mobile phase when large amounts of gas can be introduced into the mass spectrometer (MS), and thus decreasing the level of vacuum and impinging the ability of ions to reach the detector.

Dealing with the mobile phase and preventing the introduction of the smallest amounts of gas is critical in LC-MS.

Atmospheric-pressure Chemical Ionization (APCI)

One solution is to use Atmospheric-pressure Chemical Ionizationa specific type of chemical ionization. Atmospheric-pressure Chemical Ionization vaporizes solvent and sample molecules by spraying the sample solution into a heater (approx. 400 °C) using a carrier gas, such as Nitrogen. The solvent molecules become ionized via corona discharge and generate stable reaction ions in the mass spectrometer.

An APCI heater is a specialty electric heating element that has a resistance temperature detector (RTD) built-in for accurate temperature control, a .016” ID capillary tube in the center of the heater axis and a maximum operating temperature is up to 400°C.  This assembly also comes complete with the connector plug.

For more information on APCI heaters contact BCE at (510) 274-1990 or visit

Monday, September 26, 2016

Advantage of Thermal Dispersion Switches for Pump Protection

Reprinted with permission by Magnetrol

Thermal dispersion switches use similar principles as thermal mass flow meters. Fluid carries heat away from the probe tip reducing the temperature difference between a heated resistance temperature detector (RTD) and a reference RTD. As the temperature difference increases or decreases due to heat transfer, the set point is reached and the relay de-energizes. Manufacturers will refer to the switch being in “alarm” at set point. How the relay is wired (NC-CO or NO-CO) depends on the needs of the application.


High or low flows can both be detected by thermal dispersion switches. For the purpose of this paper, it will be liquid flows as opposed to gas, and low flow detection that is desired. Running pumps in a dry state can damage parts or cause cavitation in centrifugal pumps. Replacement parts can add up to thousands of dollars. These costs do not include inefficiencies in pump operation or downtime that affects production or operation.


There are many technologies that can perform the function of pump protection. Flow meters can be used, but a continuous flow measurement is not always needed and flow meters typically cost more than switches.

Mechanical flow switches use a mechanical operation to actuate a relay. Typically, a vane or paddle is in the flow stream that swings in the direction of the flow. When the vane moves a specific distance, a magnetic sleeve rises to draw the magnet in to actuate the switch. Moving parts can be subject to wear and increased maintenance over time. If it is a viscous liquid or build-up is present this can decrease reliability of the switch. A mechanical flow switch may be desirable if there is limited on-site power. In terms of the installation, the pipeline must be horizontal.

Tuning forks and ultrasonic gap switches are a few other technologies that are used for pump protection. It is inherent in the technologies that the fork or gap must be wet or dry for detection. Therefore, they cannot detect decreasing flow rates and the opening creates room for possible plugging. Common applications for these switches are sumps or wet wells. Dual ultrasonic gap switches have pump control modes where the unit performs auto-fill or auto-empty as needed.

With thermal dispersion, the user gets the most robust feature set and flexibility. This would include:
  • No moving parts means less maintenance 
  • Many probe types for water or more viscous liquids 
  • Installation in horizontal or vertical lines and does not need to be installed top dead center 
  • Optional remote mount electronics 
  • Hot tap options available 
  • Low flow detection as opposed to dry pipe 
  • Current output for trending and fault indication 
  • Temperature compensation to reduce set point drift under varying operating temperatures 
Probe Types

The standard probe design offered by thermal dispersion switch manufacturers is a twin tip construction to house the sensors. The twin tip is essentially two tubes welded to the end of the probe that are in the process liquid.

Twin tip probes can be beneficial as multiple manufacturers have similar designs. It has a very high pressure rating and is available in many different materials of construction. While this probe is suitable in liquid applications, it is typically recommended it in gas applications unless the specifications require the use of this design.

A unique design that is preferred for liquid applications is the spherical tip probe. The lack of pins at the end of the probe eliminates plugging in viscous applications while the thin wall allows increased sensitivity with the process liquid. With pressure ratings up to 600 psig (41 barg) and standard 316 stainless steel material of construction it is suitable for most pump applications.



The electronics are offered integral or remote to the probe and are enclosed in an explosion proof housing. Wiring is simplified with the terminals easily accessible without removal of the bezel or any circuit boards. Along with the ease of installation come many diagnostic features due to the microprocessor based electronics.

A useful diagnostic feature in the electronics is the current output. It is not a linear 4-20 mA output, similar to a flow meter, but the current will act as a live signal that varies with heat transfer. For example, in a low flow condition the current may be 8 mA and at normal flows 12 mA (output varies for each application). The current will be repeatable for a given low flow set point. If there is turbulence in the line, possibly being caused by a closed valve with the pump still running, the sensor will see this turbulence as a higher flow rate than what is actually occurring. Knowing this live signal allows the user to monitor what the sensor is seeing inside of the pipe.

Along with the trending capabilities of using the current output, this output will also go low or high when a fault condition occurs according to NAMUR NE 43. For pump applications where a low flow alarm is desirable, the current will fall to less than or equal to 3.6 mA during the fault. The microprocessor-based electronics is essential for monitoring any open wires or if the flow goes out of range. Without a microprocessor, the flow switch could be subject to more noise, have drift issues and need more frequent calibration to maintain the set point.

The user also has the option to select a window in the housing of the electronics. This window allows viewing of the LEDs to show normal operation (relay energized), alarm/set point (relay de-energized) and fault conditions (relay de-energized). It is very beneficial to confirm switch and process operation at a glance by viewing the LEDs.


Because the principal of operation of thermal dispersion switches is temperature dependent, manufacturers should provide temperature compensation in the electronics circuitry. The purpose of temperature compensation is to reduce set point drift under varying operating temperatures. The THERMATEL Model TD2 with spherical tip probe was tested in water for a set point of 15 GPM in a 2” pipe and showed minimal set point drift over a 75-185°F (24-85°C) temperature swing. 


Pump Installations

Both positive displacement and centrifugal pumps have performance curves to maximize efficiency. There is an ideal combination of differential head and flow rate that will provide the best results. If monitoring the differential head, a thermal switch can be set up to shut the pump down when it is operating below the ideal flow rates. Worst case scenario, the thermal switch is installed to verify there is liquid flow to prevent wear, eventual replacements and downtime.

Installing the thermal switch in the suction or discharge piping is acceptable. It is important to install in a location where the sensor tip will see liquid movement (in case of a partially filled pipe). When field calibrated, which is most often the case for thermal switches, it is not necessary to install at the centerline of the pipe. As long as the probe is far enough into the pipe to see liquid movement then it will provide repeatability at the given flow rate.  A quarter to half way into the pipe is common.

Installing a few diameters away from the pump will reduce excess turbulence. Turbulence may cause the switch to see higher flow rates than what is actually occurring inside of the pipe. Movement of liquid due to turbulence can theoretically create as much heat transfer as the liquid flow itself. The aforementioned current output is a helpful diagnostic feature in more difficult installations.


Magnetrol-BCE-Pump-ProtectionThermal dispersion switches are used in pump protection applications ranging from standard water to high viscosity liquids. There are unique sensor designs for each individual application, including the popular spherical tip, low flow bodies and high temperature/pressure probes. The multitude of probes in conjunction with the advanced electronics make thermal dispersion switches the most competitive technology on the market for pump protection.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Using Brooks MFCs with LabVIEW™ Process Control Software

Brooks Instrument is the manufacturer of highly accurate and repeatable mass flow controllers. LabVIEW™ develops integrated software for building measurement and control systems used in laboratories, universities, and pilot manufacturing plants. The combination of Brooks MFCs and LabVIEW software provides users a great option for the measuring, controlling, data acquisition and data storage for mass flow in a process. 

Listed below are some of the more convenient communication methods to tie Brooks MFCs and LabVIEW™ software together.

Analog Signal Interface

In many situations LabVIEW™ software users also use analog to digital
I/O cards. With analog input cards, users can run their mass flow controllers utilizing a standard 0-5 volt or 4-20 mA analog signaling via LabVIEW™. This is a time-tested, traditional approach and is recommended for applications without the availability of digital control systems.

RS485 Digital Interface

Brooks Instrument mass flow devices configured with RS485 communications (must have the ‘S’ communications option) provide RS485 digital communications via a 15-pin D connector. The RS485 digital signal is passed directly to a computer running LabVIEW™ through a serial RS485 converter. Brooks models GF40, GF80 and SLA Series mass flow controllers are available with the ‘S’ communications option.

Its valuable to note that there is also a free set of VI file for use with LabVIEW from Brooks. These can be loaded directly into the LabVIEW™ application and provide the basics required to create a LabVIEW control interface using the S-Protocol digital command structure. The VI files are available for download from the Brooks Instrument website.

Another communications alternative is using Brook’s Smart DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange) software tool to create links between the LabVIEW™ application and the GF40, GF80 or SLA Series flow, control, and configuration parameters. Additionally, the user can leverage Windows applications (Excel, Word, Access) and programming languages ( C++, C#, Visual Basic) and SCADA programs from suppliers such as Allesco and Millennium Systems International. No knowledge of the mass flow device S-Protocol command structure is required. With Smart DDE, the user gets direct access to the required data fields. While not a complete turnkey option, it greatly reduces the amount of code required to communicate between LabVIEW and the mass flow controller.

DeviceNet Digital Signal Interface

Brooks models GF40, GF80 and SLA, configured for DeviceNet digital communications, can also be controlled via the LabVIEW™ application provided a National Instruments DeviceNet interface card, associated drivers, and software are used. These additional items support the development of application interfaces using LabVIEW™ software for Windows and LabVIEW™ Real-Time.

According to the National Instruments website:

National Instruments DeviceNet for Control interfaces are for applications that manage and control other DeviceNet devices on the network. These interfaces, offered in one-port versions for PCI and PXI, provide full master (scanner) functionality to DeviceNet networks. All NI DeviceNet interfaces include the NI-Industrial Communications for DeviceNet driver software, which features easy access to device data and streamlined explicit messaging. Use a real-time controller such as PXI and NI industrial controllers to create deterministic control applications with the NI LabVIEW Real-Time Module.

When in doubt, always talk to an authorized applications expert for any mass flow application. For more information on applying mass flow controllers successfully contact:

BCE (Belilove Company-Engineers)
21060 Corsair Blvd
Hayward, CA 94545
Phone: (510) 274-1990
Fax: (510) 274-1999

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hotwatt Electric Heating Elements for OEM, Laboratory, and Industrial Applications

Hotwatt Electric Heating Elements
Hotwatt is a leader in manufacturing resistance heating elements. They have an extensive product line that includes cartridge heaters, immersion heaters ideally suited for heating various liquids, air process heaters for providing hot air and gas up to fourteen hundred degrees, stainless steel strip and finned strip heaters in various sizes, self-contained one piece assembly oil in rope heaters; tubular and finned tubular heaters which have been specially built to resist impact, vibration, corrosion, and temperature extremes; extremely versatile band heaters for a multitude of applications; and ceramic and crankcase heaters for custom solutions. Hotwatt's technical information and accessory items ensure that hard what has everything you need for complete thermal system.

Contact BCE for more information at (510) 274-1990 or visit

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Installation and Operation Manual for Brooks GF100 Series

Brooks GF100 Series
Brooks GF100 Series
The Brooks GF100 Series thermal mass flow controllers and meters provide fast responding, repeatable delivery of process gases with high and ultra-high levels of purity. Designed for semiconductor, MOCVD and other gas flow control applications, the GF100 series exceeds the semiconductor industry standard for reliability, ensuring repeatable, highly stable performance over time. Standard MultiFlo technology enables one MFC to support thousands of gas types and range combinations without removing it from the gas line or compromising on accuracy resulting in increased process flexibility and efficiency combined with the industry’s highest levels of process gas purity to help maximize yields and productivity.

Applications include:
  1. Semiconductor etch tools
  2. Thin-film chemical vapor deposition systems (CVD, MOCVD, PECVD, ALD)
  3. Physical vapor deposition (PVD) systems
  4. Epitaxial process systems
Below is the installation and operation manual for the GF100 Series. The entire document can also be downloaded from the BCE site here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rupture Discs - Failure is Definitely an Option

rupture disc
Rupture disc diagram
(courtesy of ContinentalDisc Corp
and Jens Huckauf)
Rupture discs are designed to fail. That's their job. 

These sacrificial parts are designed to burst when pressure within production equipment exceeds a certain threshold by breaking down, stopping the process to prevent or mitigate hazardous events. Rupture discs are critical instruments utilized so that companies can ensure process safety as set forth by the International Safety Standards (IEC 61508/61511). These devices prove most effective when they fail according to pre-established specifications. Inferior rupture discs often cause unnecessary and expensive production shutdowns due to the lack of quality testing and expertise in manufacturing.

A rupture disc (pressure safety disc, burst disc, bursting disc) is a “one and done” pressure relief device most often used to protect a vessel, pipe, or container from over pressurization. As opposed to pressure relief valves, rupture discs are designed to function only one time by providing an instantaneous response to an over-pressure condition.

Rupture discs are commonly used in chemical, petrochemical, nuclear, aerospace, medical, railroad, pharmaceutical, food processing and gas & oil applications. They provide primary or backup protection. Very often rupture discs are used in tandem with safety relief valves, protecting them from the process media and extending the life of the relief valve.

For more information on rupture discs visit this link, or contact BCE at (510) 274-1990.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Three Tips to Optimize Cooling Water Management for Lower Plant Operating Costs

Evaporative cooling towers
Evaporative cooling towers

Evaporative cooling towers are key components in the effective operation of plants in the electric power, industrial process and manufacturing industries. They also are essential in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that provide climate control in large facility complexes, such as educational and corporate campuses; casinos, hotels and convention facilities; data centers, and government, research and medical buildings.

The proper control and treatment of cooling water is essential for efficient, safe and economical operations. Chemicals are fed to these systems that protect against fouling, corrosion and microbiological contamination. The proper dosage of these key chemicals is determined by having accurate information on the system make-up and blowdown water.

To achieve effective cooling through the cooling tower, it is necessary to maintain proper design flow through the cooling tower and thus provide adequate cooling of the system. Insufficient cooling water can affect critical equipment or building climate control. Accurate flow meters are the most effective tool to achieve reliable flow results and control system costs.

Here are three ways to optimize cooling water management with flow meters:

Tip 1: Install a flow meter at the plant water intake source, which can turn the meters sub-meters. Comparing the flow data on all three lines helps identify potential water leaks and determine the system water balance plus other system issues.

Tip 2: Install flow meters upstream from pumps to provide flow data alerting the system to low flow situations leading to potential pump problems caused by low flow conditions. Otherwise, the result can be expensive pump repairs or even system shutdowns.

Tip 3: Accurate flow information collected from both the blowdown and make- up water lines can be used to calculate rates for evaporation, cycles of concentration and cooling water chemical treatment rates.

Tracking these related factors is important to the assessment and improvement of a system's water treatment program. For example, maintaining the highest cycles of concentration can offer significant savings on cooling water treatment costs. Having accurate blowdown and make-up flow rate data is essential in achieving this goal. The flow data translates into savings on chemicals, sewage fees and associated energy costs related to cooling water usage.

Flow Meter Technologies

Different flow meter technologies have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the fluid
McCrometer's FPI Mag
McCrometer's FPI Mag
and application. Cooling tower and HVAC systems require the ability to measure flow to +0.5% accuracy in high instrumentation is tight, and low maintenance and long life are essential.

McCrometer's FPI Mag® Electromagnetic Flow Meter meets the accuracy requirement in water for cooling tower service with its accurate sensing across the full diameter of the pipe. The meter installs without cutting pipe, welding flanges, de-watering lines or interrupting service. This reduces installation time and costs by up to 45 percent over traditional full pipe flow meter installations.

When choosing a new or replacement flow meter for service in cooling tower systems, be sure to consider the meter's accuracy, ease of installation, maintenance requirements and life of the instrument. Flow measurement at multiple points in cooling tower and HVAC systems is a best industry practice to minimize: water consumption, energy expenses, the cost of water treatment consumables and repairs to pumps and other equipment.

21060 Corsair Blvd
Hayward, CA 94545
Phone: (510) 274-1990
Fax: (510) 274-1999

Monday, August 29, 2016

Capillary Source Heater Assembly

APCI heater
APCI heater from BCE (Belilove Company-Engineers)
Atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) a widely used ionization technique in mass spectrometry, is the ability to easily ionize and detect non-polar or slightly polar species.

The APCI heater has a Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) built into it. The heater assembly has a .016” ID capillary tube in the center of the heater axis. The maximum operating temperature is up to 400°C. This assembly comes complete with the connector plug.

The APCI sample is typically dissolved in a solvent and pumped through a heated capillary. Nitrogen gas is introduced the gaseous solvent is heated up to 400°C the sample is then ionized by corona discharge.

For more information on capillary source heaters, or any custom electric heating element, contact:

21060 Corsair Blvd
Hayward, CA 94545
(510) 274-1990) 274-1990

Sunday, August 21, 2016

How Industrial Magnetic Level Indicators (MLIs) Work in Process Control Applications

Magnetically coupled liquid level indicators
Magnetically coupled liquid level indicators
with "flippers" (visual indication)
Courtesy of Orion Instruments.
Magnetically coupled liquid level indicators (MLIs) are in widespread use throughout today's process industries.

Originally designed as an alternative to site and gage glass devices, MLI’s are now commonly utilized in both new construction and plant expansions. Orion Instruments magnetic level indicators are precision engineered and manufactured to indicate liquid level accurately, reliably, and continuously.

As shown in the video below, a float designed for the specific gravity of the process liquid travels inside the MLI chamber tracking the rise and fall of the process media.

This float contains an internal magnetic assembly that couples with the external visual indicator. The individual “flags” or “flippers” rotate 180 degrees as the level rises and falls, indicating the position of the liquid inside the MLI, and therefore, indicating the level of the liquid in the vessel.

These units are completely sealed and require little to no periodic maintenance. MLI’s also eliminate fugitive emission and glass breakage concerns common with site and gage glasses.

To complement these products, Orion Instrument produces a complete range of level switches and transmitters to further expand the control and alarm capability of the MLI.

For more information on magnetic level indicators, contact:

21060 Corsair Blvd
Hayward, CA 94545
Phone: (510) 274-1990
Fax: (510) 274-1999

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Belilove Company-Engineers Gains ITAR Registration. So What's ITAR?

BCE (Belilove Company-Engineers) is ITAR registered.
The International Traffic in Arms Regulations, known as ITAR, are export control regulations run by the US Department of State. BCE is now ITAR registered. So what does this mean?

Understanding and complying with The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is necessary for companies in the supply chain to operate efficiently and expand business opportunities world-wide.

The U.S. Government requires all companies who manufacture, export, or broker defense related articles, defense related services, or technical data to be ITAR compliant. In as much, compliance with the continuously evolving export regulations is essential for any company that does business with manufacturers or contractors who compete in the global marketplace.

ITAR is designed to help ensure that defense related technology does not end up in enemy hands. ITAR relates directly to defense-related applications.  Items specifically designed or otherwise intended for military end-use are listed on the United States Munitions List (USML) and are therefore controlled by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The program is administered by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) at the State Department.

Products, services, and information all fall under ITAR regulations, with the most notable items being “Significant Military Equipment (SME)”. These are the most controlled. Examples are tanks, ships, helicopters, and explosives. However, there are many other "not so obvious" items listed on the USML,  or used in the supply chain, and providers of these articles must follow ITAR as well.

To be ITAR COMPLIANT, a company needs to register with the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls and fully understand what is required for compliance. The company must understand and abide by the ITAR as it applies to any of their United States Munitions List related goods or services, and the company certifies that they comply with ITAR when they providing materials or services to a USML prime exporter.

For more information, visit The International Traffic in Arms Regulations website.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Understanding the Magnetic Level Indicator (MLI)

magnetic level indicator
Magnetic Level Indicator
(courtesy of Orion)
The magnetic level indicator (MLI), also called a magnetically coupled liquid level indicator or a magnetic level gauge, is in wide-spread use throughout process industries around the world. Originally designed as an alternative to sight glass gauges, MLIs are now commonly specified in new construction and plant expansions.

Principle of Operation 

Magnetic level indicators use the law of magnetism to provide liquid level information. They can activate a switch or provide continuous level data via a transmitter. Unlike a sight glass, magnetic coupling allows the MLI to measure liquid levels without direct contact between the externally-mounted visual indicator and the fluid in the vessel.

A magnetic field consists of imaginary lines of flux originating from both the north and south poles that completely surrounds the magnet. This field acts on other objects (magnets or ferromagnetic materials) in the form of forces. When a magnetic field acts upon another body with sufficient force to influence it, the pair are said to be magnetically coupled to each other.

In an MLI, the magnets within a float and an indicator are magnetically coupled. The float, located inside the chamber, dynamically tracks the surface of the liquid as it rises and falls. The magnet assembly inside the oat generates a magnetic eld that penetrates through the chamber wall to couple with the visual indicator.

Typical applications include: 
magnetic level indicator
Various options for MLI
  • Alkylation units 
  • Boiler drums
  • Feedwater heaters
  • Industrial boilers
  • Oil / Water separators
  • Process vessels
  • Propane vessels
  • Storage tanks
  • Surge tanks
  • Wastewater tanks
Advantages of the MLI 

A magnetic level indicator is often used in applications where a sight glass (or glass sight gauge) is unsafe, environmentally risky, or difficult to see. 

Typical shortcomings of glass sight gauges include:
  • High pressures, extreme temperatures, deteriorating seals, and toxic or corrosive materials may cause a risk of fugitive emission of dangerous substances. 
  • Some chemical materials within a process vessel or storage tank can attack the glass, causing discoloration of the sight gauge, thus decreasing level visibility. 
  • Liquid/liquid interfaces can be very difficult to read in a sight glass particularly if the liquids are of similar color. Clear liquids can also be difficult to see in a sight glass. 
  • Liquids that tend to coat or build-up on surfaces can hinder visibility by forming an opaque film on the glass. 
  • To cover a large measuring span, sight glass assemblies typically must be staggered using multiple sections. 
The key reasons for selecting an MLI over a sight glass are:
  • Improved safety due to the absence of fragile glass and a substantially reduced number of potential leak points. 
  • Greatly increased visibility 
  • Reduced maintenance. 
  • Easier initial installation and addition of transmitters and switches without interrupting the process 
  • Lower long-term cost of ownership and legitimate return-on-investment benefits. 
  • Single chamber measurement over 20 ft. (6 m) without staggering chambers.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Electric Heaters 101: Get the Heat Out of the Heater

cartridge heater
Internal view of swaged cartridge heater.
Metal-clad electric heating elements share one very common and very important requirement for optimal performance - get the heat away from the resistance wire and into the work as efficiently as possible.

At the heart of most resistance type electric heaters is a nichrome alloy wire, or ribbon, referred to as the heating "element". It acts as a resistor to the electrical current and gives off heat. With sheathed heaters, the heating element is then wrapped in some sort of electric insulating material such as mica or magnesium oxide (MgO), and then encased in a metallic sheath. Unfortunately, both the electric insulator and the metallic sheath act as heat insulators to some degree, which cause the nichrome wire to get very hot. Nichrome wire has a melting point of 1400 deg. C (about 2500 degrees F). While this sounds high, the wires and ribbons can easily exceed these temperatures in normal operation when not allowed to adequately conduct heat.

Very often electric heater failure can be directly attributed to poor conductivity between the heating element and the process medium. Whether it be a cartridge, strip, band, duct or immersion heater the principle is the same - lower resistance wire temperatures equal longer heater life.

When applying cartridge heaters, special care has to be taken to the bore tolerance of the hole where the heater is inserted. The tighter the bore tolerance, the more efficiently the high internal wire temperatures are conducted away.  Tolerances of several thousandths of an inch can change the life expectancy of a cartridge heater significantly.

Strip and band heaters require tight, full surface area clamping to maximize life and performance, while duct heaters and immersion heaters require circulation to transfer heat away from the element, and keeping resistance wire temperature within reasonable operating limits.
strip heater
Internal view of band & strip heater.

Any situation where the heater is exposed to a stagnant air gap (or stagnant fluids) will most likely result in over temperature of the wire and failure at that point.  With this in mind, anyone applying traditional resistance type, electric heating elements must be very aware of maintaining very intimate contact between the heating element and the item or process being heated.

Whenever applying electric heating elements, the consultation of an applications expert is always recommended. They will be able to consider many other operational factors such as wire watt density, conduction properties, control scheme and overall thermal system dynamics.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Basics of Industrial pH Measurement

pH and ORP sensors & control
pH sensors & control
(courtesy of ECD)
Analytical measurement and control of pH within a system is necessary for many processes. Common applications include food processing, wastewater treatment, pulp & paper production, HVAC, power generation, and chemical industries.

To maintain the desired pH level in a solution, a sensor is used to measure the pH value. If the pH is not at the desired set point, a reagent is applied to the solution. When a high alkaline level is detected in the solution, an acid is added to decrease the pH level. When a low alkaline level is detected in the solution, a base is added to increase the pH level. In both cases the corrective ingredients are called reagents.

Accurately applying the correct amount of reagent to an acid or base solution can be challenging due to the logarithmic characteristics a pH reaction in a solution. Implementing a closed-loop control system maintains the pH level within a certain range and minimizes the degree to which the solution becomes acidic or alkaline.

An example of an automatic pH level control system is a water treatment process where lime softened water is maintained at a pH of 9, using carbon dioxide as a reagent. As the untreated water (or influent) enters the tank, the pH is continuously monitored by the pH sensor. The sensor is the feedback device to the controller where the set point is compared to the control value. If the values are not equal, the controller sends a signal to the control valve that applies carbon dioxide to the tank. The reagent is applied to the tank at varying rates to precisely control the pH level. With the pH level at 11 detected by the sensor, the controller commands the control valve to open and introduce more carbon dioxide. As the increased carbon dioxide mixes with the influent, the pH is lowered in a controlled manner. Reaching the set point, the carbon dioxide flow is minimized and the process is continually monitored for variation. The effluent is the treated water that is discharged out of the tank. The process continues to provide the lime softened water at the desired pH level.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Industrial Level Control White Paper: How to Minimize Your Insurance Risk with Overfill Protection

Tank Overfill Prevention
Tank Overfill Prevention

The Oil & Gas industry is no stranger to incidents that have resulted in stricter regulations and guidelines for operating safely and responsibly. Since the Buncefield overfill accident in 2005, overfill prevention has had a spotlight on it from global regulatory organizations to make sure this type of accident did not happen again. Both American Petroleum Institute (API) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have instituted new guidelines to help ensure proper overfill prevention through management systems and safety-integrated systems of level measurement in storage tanks. All of these guidelines are targeted at reducing the risk of a Buncefield-type incident occurring at any storage terminal on a global scale. There are benefits to risk reduction that go beyond just incident prevention, including a reduction in liability insurance for storage terminals. Storage terminal operators and insurance providers have different perspectives on liability insurance and how they evaluate and minimize the risk.

Assessing Insurance Risk

Insurance agencies look at how much a storage terminal location has minimized the risk of events deemed catastrophic to the environment and employees. Overfill prevention is one aspect of the risk reduction that is reviewed for liability insurance. The insurance agency will review the local jurisdictional requirements and industry guidelines when determining the insurance rates. During this review, the insurance agent is looking for evidence that the safety measures are properly maintained, as well as having each safety measure functioning properly. It is important for the devices that are used as safety guards to have an ability to be easily tested and maintained. Many insurance agencies will make recommendations based on failure modes they have experienced to ensure safety. These recommendations include processes to maintain operation, but also features of the level transmitters or switches themselves. Level transmitters for tank level should have internal diagnostics that are able to identify issues when they exist. Level alarms (or switches) should be able to be proof tested either electronically or manually to ensure proper functioning. By choosing the appropriate level transmitters and switches with these capabilities, the overall risk of an incident is reduced and the insurance premium is much lower.

Assessing Operation Risk

From the insurance customer’s perspective, the narrative changes. Plant operations staff are concerned with the ability to operate profitably based on expenses and costs. Storage terminals have to deal with both fixed and variable costs that must be managed in order to operate profitably. As it was noted above, this can be managed by making sure that risk has been reduced across the terminal. Operators can receive the recommendations of the insurance agencies and work to make the best selections of their level instrumentation based on those recommendations. Typically, they can expect to be audited by the insurance entity (external or internal) to review their level instrumentation annually, so it is important to stay compliant. Operators take on a large amount of risk by not following the recommendations of the insurance agencies and could face fines for not complying with industry standards if an incident were to occur. They can evaluate the level instrumentation on the market, but it can help to get guidance from suppliers that parallels the insurance agency recommendations.

Level Transmitter and Switch Providers

By selecting the appropriate level instrumentation, a storage terminal site can demonstrate that it has taken measures to reduce the risk of overfill or other hazardous situations. As level instrumentation technology has advanced, continuous level transmitters have become more prevalent in storage terminal level control. There are many transmitters on the market that have self- diagnostics that are constantly running to assess the health of the device. Based on the storage terminal’s assessment of critical tank levels, the transmitter can identify when these levels are reached, allowing ample time to remove product from the tank as part of the overfill prevention system. Beyond previously using point level controls, continuous level measurement devices can provide real time level readings to control rooms while tanks are being filled/emptied. This helps the operator reduce the risk of having a dangerous event by knowing the tank level in real time. A further risk reduction step is to utilize additional point level controls as the failsafe alarms. The continuous level device can have the output set to alarm certain functions, but if those were to fail, then the additional alarms at high and low level can provide emergency shut down or emergency pumping of product to avoid an overfill. These devices can be as simple as a mechanical level switch with manual proof test capability, or they can be as sophisticated as an electronic point level switch using ultrasonic technology with built in self-test diagnostics. Either of these are industry acceptable and provide an added layer of protection to meet industry standards and reduce overfill risk.

Over ll Protection Resources

There are many level instrumentation products on the market that can help an owner/operator reduce the risk of an overfill spill or catastrophic event. They range from simple to complex, but all add to the goal of reducing the possibility of an incident. You can download the Magnetrol Tank Overfill Protection document here.