On-Line Process GC
On-line process GC (PGC) systems are permanently installed instruments used to analyze complex mixtures in real time. Like all GC systems, including laboratory and portable systems, a PGC instrument is comprised of three functional components: a sample-handling system, a chromatograph oven and controller electronics. One of the largest application areas for PGC systems is the hydrocarbon-processing industry (e.g., petrochemicals and natural gas).
There are two types of on-line PGC systems: traditional and field- mounted. A traditional PGC system is comprised of a rugged GC system placed in an enclosure at a site in a stable environment. A field-mounted system is significantly smaller than a traditional PGC system and does not require an enclosure. Field-mounted GC instruments are thus ideal for mounting in areas where space is limited. Although the performance of field-mounted systems is not as robust as that of traditional PGC systems, the field-mounted instruments are capable of measuring light hydrocarbons and monitoring fuel gases such as natural gas, synthetic gas and methane.
The traditional PGC market is somewhat mature and has not recently experienced significant technical innovation. Most of the top companies have designed application-specific instruments. Falcon Analytical recently introduced its CALIDUS process GC system, an ultrafast GC instrument with a form factor that is about one-tenth the size of a conventional GC system and up to fifty times faster, according to the company. The ultrafast speeds are accomplished by directly heating the column to the specified temperatures. By heating the columns this way, there is no longer a need for the column oven, thus decreasing the size of the overall system. The CALIDUS GC system offers columns up to 8 m and is available with flame-ionization, thermal-conductivity, dielectric-barrier and flame-photometric detectors.
Field-mounted GC systems are relatively new to the on-line process–GC market and serve a small but growing market segment. Field-mounted systems typically offer a lower cost of ownership and efficient operation. ABB’s field-mounted PGC1000 system is 16 in and weighs less than 30 lb, and Siemens’s MicroSAM is about 12 in in length.
The market for process GC is somewhat fragmented with a total size of more than $300 million in 2014. The leading companies are Rosemount Analytical (Emerson) and ABB, which offer a comprehensive line of GC systems for specific applications, including high-temperature, refining, petrochemical, power and environmental applications. Other key players include AMETEK, Siemens and Xylem. Siemens has significant instillations in refineries and the petrochemical industry, while AMETEK’s and Xylem’s systems are primarily focused on environmental applications.
On-Line Process GC at a Glance:
• Rosemont Analytical (Emerson)
• Power Generation
• Oil and Gas