Analytical Instrumentation

Of course various other elements will affect the behaviour of an analyser. The challenge is to map out all spent and foreseeable costs in order to obtain a useful working tool that has the capability of telling the instrument user exactly what the analysis will cost. The company is aided in the determination of a correct pricing for the customers and valuable lessons about the cost effectiveness of the used instruments and methods are derived from this information.

For those reasons the Instrument Cost Of Ownership working tool has been developed. The lab user should be aware of the current cost of ownership status of the instruments in order to determine the right actions in case of defects or the purchase of new equipment. Therefore complete and dynamic reports on the instruments’ technical history, certification, cost structure for replacement parts, service engineer working hours, and Service Level Agreements are highly necessary to visualise the health of the lab infrastructure and detect recurring breakdowns.

See Graph 2.

System verification and certification Ensure precision and traceability

Two different elements that may influence the cost effectiveness of an investment for a lab analyser are the traceability and precision of the measured results. All analysers operate according to an international recognised standard (e.g. ASTM, EN, etc.), or at least they should. It’s best to be sure by verifying the instruments’ working method periodically with an accredited organisation. The verification of the instrument consists of the comparison to the technical specifications stated in the standard method and certification of this compliance. Reliable precision and international traceability are guaranteed with some cost- reducing effects.

Without a certificate of compliance to the standard method of a test, any other party, e.g. the customer or governmental auditor, could start a discussion about the reliability of your test results. Consequently a so-called ‘witnessing’ will be performed. In this case all parties will gather and rerun the doubted test, usually in cooperation with an independent testing laboratory charging at least €150 per hour for consulting. This cost is considerable for these witnessing gatherings can take half a day up to multiple days, depending on the test, disregarding the time loss due to needless discussions. A certificate of compliance to the standard method granted by an accredited organisation is sufficient to turn down all charges of doubtful results caused by the analyser and is of immense importance when facing a claim. When a small ship loaded with 5000 tons of diesel fuel has to be held because of doubtful results, a daily cost of 10.000 to 15.000 euros is paid for the delay. It is easy to imagine that evadable claims frequently exceed 1 million euros. Considering this shows that an annual verification is just a small investment compared to the consequences of the opposite.

Additionally, the accuracy of a test has a direct effect on the profitability. Working with a correctly verified analyser ensures operation within the limit of the standard specifications or allows operation that is even more accurate. Performing analysis with an increa sed accuracy allows a refinery to work closer to the required specification and save thousands of euros on additives and other expenses. Above that, working close to the specification allows the company to detect over-quality product that exceeds expectations and will inflict needless costs the customer won’t be willing to pay for.

Example case:

Reducing production cost as result of verified performance of CFPP measurement

An oil refinery handles a daily crude oil input of 320.000 barrels a day or 16 mil ton per year. The diesel fuel production is 350.000m3

diesel fuel per month after blending. The ASTM D6371 or EN116 describes the standard test method for Cold Filter Plugging Point determination. In this method specification a 0,5°C accuracy on the temperature measurement is stated. Though when using a correctly verified CFPP analyser, it is reliable to work with an accuracy of 0,1°C. Higher accuracy allows higher precision in blending and saving costs. Reducing the CFPP value by 1°C in this exemple makes a difference of up to 1.2 mil euros per year. The savings of an accuracy increase helps to obtain that result. See Graph 3

Graph 3 Conclusion

The concepts of Total Cost of Ownership and Total Cost of Analysis go way beyond the instrument itself. Various factors such as service level and result verification directly influence the expends and profit a company gets out of its instruments.

Proactive maintenance from early in the lifespan of an analyser reduces downtime and unforeseeable costs to a minimum level and guarantees continuous accessibility to the instrument.

Verification of the instrument and its results saves a refinery thousands to millions of euros by avoiding expensive claims and needless discussions caused by doubted analysis results.

The TCOA concept won’t save the company any money this year. But on the long run, every company applying this healthy mindset will see the benefit within 1 – 2 years.

Author Details Bram Van Puymbroeck, Optimus Intruments Tel: +32 3 740 33 18 • Fax: +32 3 744 02 37 Email: • Web:


Graph 2


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