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Photonics sensing platform for process optimisation in the oil industry

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Hydroptics (Photonics sensing platform for process optimisation in the oil industry)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-05-31

The EU is the second largest producer of petroleum products in the world after the United States, with a crude refining capacity of about 15 million barrels per day, representing 16% of total global capacity. Technology for oil production needs to be constantly refined and improved for competitive oil production in Europe as well as by European companies overseas. In both up- and downstream processing, water is of crucial importance. Often, it is the process water quality in terms of residual oil and particle load as well as other trace contaminants such as corrosion inhibitors, that has a decisive effect on the overall process efficiencies. Therefore, having a reliable, cost-effective, and high-accuracy monitoring of process water quality and ways to use this information for process optimisation is of utmost importance for the oil industry.

Hydroptics aims to:
1. Advance photonic sensor technology in the vis - IR range.
2. Develop a high-accuracy analyser for automated, on-line measurement of residual oil and particle content in process water of the oil industry.
3. Combining on-line data with process simulations for process optimisation.
We are approaching to the end of the first project year, and we are happy to announce that everything in general is advancing as planned. The first year of the project was concentrated to the following aspects:

1. Administrative work
2. Dissemination and exploitation
3. Definition of all the parameters for the final prototype
4. Regulatory and standardization aspects
5. First generation of QCL lasers


1. During the first few months of the project significant amount of time was devoted on legal aspects of the project, various contracts have been reviewed, finalized and confirmed by the consortium. Internal regulations have been set for the work execution and submission. A dedicated secure data sharing platform is created to share data between the Consortium members.

2. A dedicated dissemination and exploitation plan is created for the project, and the execution of the last has started since the beginning of the project. In particular, we have created a project website, project profiles in various social media platforms, and we regularly publish press releases related to the various aspects of the project, recent achievements of the project (not only scientific). We have also performed some interviews with international press related to the project. Preliminary identification of the stakeholders of the prototype is performed. A dedicated dissemination kit is developed and available online free access (brochures, banners, project logo).

3. A clear definition of the all parameters of the prototype is defined and finalised, including the physical dimensions, the interface with which the prototype will run, data protocols for the prototype. Numerous spectroscopic and microscopic measurements have been performed in order to determine the requirements of the measurements and, based on this, prototype parameters are defined. These works will be the basis of the developed prototype.

4. Addresses regulatory and standardisation aspects during the project’s lifetime. The Conformité Européene (CE) marking was identified as the crucial certification to bring a product to the market in any European country or in Turkey. A list comprising relevant EU directives that a product must comply to obtain the CE mark, was devised. To comply with the EU directives, a list of harmonised standards by the 3 European Standardisation Organisations was created. By adhering to these standards, one should in practice automatically also fulfill the EU directives. At this point the list includes only potentially relevant standards for a future prototype.

5. We have already developed and delivered the first generation Quantum Cascase Laser (QCL) frequency combs and Distrubuted Feedback Lasers (DFB). These lasers are the heart of the spectrometers to be used in the prototype, the first generation of the lasers should be the platform for first laboratory tests of the spectrometers. The second and final generation of the lasers will be delivered by the month 18 of the project, those will be improved versions of the first generation taking into account the inputs from the partners.
HYDROPTICS will develop and apply advanced photonic components as key enabling technologies for optimising most critical steps in oil production as well as to control downstream processing routines for final mineral oil product development. Advanced mid-IR laser sources and frequency combs will be employed for monitoring trace contaminants such as oil and corrosion inhibitors in process water. Ultrasound based particle manipulation will be combined with imaging technology in the vis-NIR range for particle sensing. Computational fluid dynamic simulations will provide detailed insight in crucial unit operations. Hydroptics will also elaborate how data provided by these advanced sensors can be combined with readily available process data and a digital twin of the process apparatus to gain in-depth process understanding. Digitalisation of process data, data fusion, machine learning, and artificial intelligence shall enable a new level of process optimisation yielding high and constant product quality despite fluctuating process conditions.

The developments in HYDROPTICS will cover the entire value chain from laser source R&D towards a laser based spectrometer towards online and inline subsystems for oil in water monitoring. All of these modules and sub-systems and systems are exploitable separately. For the partners this will lead to leadership positions in the supply of fast QCL frequency comb lasers and spectrometers, online and inline oil in water analysers. The generic technology will widen the scope to numerous online and inline water monitoring applications (e.g. problems of eutrophication). Furthermore, via the adoption data-assimilation and digital twins, HYDROPTICS aims to drive the EU oil industry towards a new, more advanced and digitised era.

Environmental impact of industrial activity remains one of the biggest structural challenges facing the EU today. A key inhibitor in further expanding oil extraction and processing in the EU, is the social pressure by citizens that oppose the construction of new oil extraction & refinery plants. Water purification can be seen as environmental water monitoring on the upstream side. The water monitoring there includes all measures to avoid or early detect serious contamination of water resources. This encloses spill tracking (e.g. Deepwater Horizon, hydraulic fracturing), surface water control and monitoring of transportation induced contamination. The current standard for checking of hazardous contaminants is based on manual sampling and subsequently off-line analysis by a certified analytical laboratory. Thus, the capability to be delivered by HYDROPTICS to carry out frequent online or continuous inline measurements constitutes a substantially improved sensing solution. Furthermore, the HYDROPTICS system can be part of an early-warning system for accidental or deliberate contaminations. Hydroptics aims to put the sustainable oil production & processing on the EU agenda and for this we will consider in our impact plan the role standardisation can play and also to show that healthy HYDROPTICS could improve environmental sustainability.
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