Business: Husky Lima Refinery
Owner: Husky Energy
Key asset: (FLIR) Forward Looking Infrared camera
Key quote: “It’s kind of like if you’re looking through those night-vision goggles. I can look at something in the plant and it’s basically in black and white. You’re looking at contrast.” — Gary Vonderembse
LIMA — Whenever there’s a leak of some sort at the Husky Lima Refinery, whether it’s on a line, a seal, to a tank or a valve, it has to be fixed.
The sooner, the better, preferably.
Husky has speeded up the process of locating leaks by using a thermal-imaging camera that often can pinpoint the location of a leak in a given area tht could be as large as six acres, said Gary Vonderembse, the environmental manager at the refinery.
Husky employees discover a lot of leaks just by the smell in the air. Sometimes someone in a nearby neighborhood reports a smell. Regardless, all are checked out, located and fixed, Vonderembse said.
That process used to be trying to locate an area of the smell followed by using a meter around to all potential points of a leak until the leak was located.
The thermal-imaging camera allows them to use technology to spot changes in temperatures of the air, for example, as well as many other things including product in a tank, he said.
“It’s kind of like if you’re looking through those night-vision goggles. I can look at something in the plant and it’s basically in black and white. You’re looking at contrast,” Vonderembse said.
The $100,000 camera, the size of a handheld camera, also can record video that can be downloaded and analyzed, he said.
While the camera helps locate leaks, workers still use a meter to find the exact location and can get an actual reading of the size of the leak, he said.
“It allows us to find the leaks sooner,” Vonderembse said. “It helps cut down the process significantly.”
The camera is a valuable tool especially since leaks can be tricky to find, he said.
“You can walk around the plant and smell it but you can’t see it with the naked eye,” Vonderembse said.
The refinery has about 45,000 points it has to check on a quarterly basis to make sure the equipment is not leaking above a certain rate.
“We have to check it each quarter to see if it’s leaking above a certain level and if it’s leaking we have to fix it,” Vonderembse said.
Refinery employees are using the camera for new tasks all the time. For example, it can be used to see different layers of material in a tank, he said.
“Everybody is pretty excited about it,” he said. “I’m not sure we have been able to utilize it for all the possibilities but we have kept learning."