Process Automation and Analytics

Korean Industry Sets Sights on Biotech: How Process Analytics goes Gangnam-Style

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Shipyards to Life-Sciences

Experts estimate that 85 billion barrels of crude still lie buried beneath the seabed, far of the coast of Angola, Western Africa. But digging for buried treasures sometimes proves tricky, especially when they are as secluded as this one. It lies in depths between 600 and 1,200 meters below the South Atlantic.

The efforts to drill for offshore, deep sea oil is significant: As the field lies far off the mainland, first preparation and conversion steps are done at sea. Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Units (FPSO) are huge, swimming process facilities, with sizes that put aircraft carriers to shame. The Pazflor-FPSO measures 325 meters with a displacement of 120.000 tons (for comparison: a fully loaded and equipped US Navy Nimitz-class carrier stands at 97.000 tons) and storage capacities for 1.9 million barrels of oil and petroleum products make it one of the largest ships ever. This mega-scale floating refinery was built at Daewoo Shipbuilding, Korea’s third largest shipyard. But it’s Endress+Hauser technology that keeps an eye on one of the most critical key processes.

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Crude oil, once it is drilled from the reservoir, is mixed with water, sand and natural gas, which are then separated in big separation tanks — but the border layer between oil and water is hardly recognizable from outside the vessel. This is a specialty of the radiometric level measurement Profile Vision by E+H: By measuring the medium density, it enables a three dimensional image of the vessel interior for maximum possible selectivity and accuracy. This is especially important as water could disturb the further downstream steps — or, even worse, crude oil could be disposed off at sea along with the water.

Currently, EPC projects account for 23 % of E+H’s Korean sales. Life Sciences, which are responsible for 3 % of bookings, play a minor role — but this is about to change with the new company strategy 2020+, the E+H believes. To counter the difficulties that petrochemical projects and shipbuilding are facing, Endress+Hauser’s Korean management focus on diversification and a strengthening of domestic sales to decouple from international market developments.

A part of this new strategy is — apart from focusing on seven core industries — the expansion of the process analytics business and the integration laboratory analysis solutions into existing value chains. A major step to this direction was the acquisition of Analytik Jena: The integration of the laboratory supplier allows E+H to provide their expertise also to research and development facilities and institutes while the core brand E+H focuses on production processes.

From process to the lab and back: This move comes in line of a trend started in 2012 with the acquisition of Spectra Systems and the takeover of the Raman-spectroscopy experts Kaiser Optical Systems the following. Now, solutions from a single source shall help users from academics and laboratory research via process development in technical centers or pilot plants down to production processes and quality control. Two sides of the same coin — but all of one piece.