In Line Blending
In-line blending is defined as the continuous mixing together, in real-time, of a number of feedstocks to produce a homogenous and consistent product of defined quality. Recent developments in blend measurement, control and controller technology have made it cost effective for a typical bunker operator to capitalise on the type of blending technology previously only available in refineries. Modern in-line blending (ratio control or quality trim) can deliver savings of $3-$10 a tonne and has significant advantages and better return on investment when compared with in-tank blending. As a result, in-line blending has become a vital component of the bunker supplier's toolbox to optimise profitability. Its importance to the industry was recognised in 2011 with the publication of the IBIA (International Bunker Industry Association) “Guide to in-line blending” which is written to provide impartial technical guidance for those considering the use of in-line blending for bunker fuels.
In-line blending is often comparable in cost and provides the following advantages over blending in tanks:
Reduced production time – Blends are produced on demand with blending, loading, mixing and measurement all in a single operation.
Reduction in giveaway - High blend accuracy and continuous control of blend parameters ensures less wastage of expensive components.
Improvement in quality – Extremely high accuracy can be achieved, and on-line analysers can be used, to ensure the cost and specification of the blend are optimised.
Improved production flexibility - Schedule changes and new blend specifications can be instantly configured for a different recipe.
Reduced operating cost – In-line blending is self-supervisory once started, producing both the fuel and the billing unsupervised if necessary.
Reduced tank requirements – Blend tanks are not required and there is no need to hold any stocks of blended product which reduces capital lockup costs.
Traditional mechanical in-line blenders have been in existence for many years but because they do not accurately measure or control the volume or the quality of the bunkers at reference conditions they do produce highly accurate blends. It is only in the last 5-10 years that high performance in-line blending systems have been able to repeatedly and reliably deliver to smaller terminals, barges and bunker facility operators the performance levels previously reserved for refineries. The increasing availability of modern in-line blending systems has resulted in an increase in the use of this technology in the bunker market. These new designs can flexibly deliver products on specification at the lowest cost, whilst improving operational flexibility. They can be configured to provide high quality blends with an auditable verification of quality using analysers or samples.
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