Matching Manual Sample Panels to the Application for Safety and Reliability

When it comes to manual process sampling, few applications are as demanding as hydrocarbon processing.

Not only are sample panels (and operators if panels aren’t configured properly) exposed to high-temperatures and corrosive materials, hydrocarbon processes can require the ability to sample a diverse range of materials, including liquids, gases, solids, and steam.

For example, the desulfurization process, in which amines, catalysts, caustic condensate, fuel gas, recovered oil, and sour water may all be sampled for various reasons, requires sampling panels designed for liquids, solids, and steam. The same is true for other key processes, such as cracking, coking, reforming and hydrotreating.

And there are a variety of material characteristics that must be considered within each of those broad categories. Just the liquids that are sampled represent a range of temperatures, pressures, and viscosities. A sample panel that operates reliably with low viscosity liquids may be subject to frequent clogging and breakdowns when used for high-viscosity fluids.

So, a one-size-fits-all approach certainly doesn't apply in hydrocarbon process sampling. Process characteristics and conditions, along with the specific sample type, must be considered when determining the sample panel type, configuration, materials, and options.

A strategic sampling supplier, with a complete portfolio of sample panels for solids, liquids, gases, and steam, should be consulted to ensure panels operate reliably in the intended application. Nevertheless, there are some best practices to keep in mind as you work with your sampling supplier.

Start at the End

When selecting a sampling panel, it’s always a good idea to first consider how the sample will be used. Considering how and where samples will be analyzed helps ensure sample panels collect the appropriate volume in the appropriate container. Then, the specific characteristics of the application, such as temperature, pressure and pipe specifications, can be evaluated to ensure flange and material specifications meet the application requirements.

Panel Design Matters

For most applications where liquids and gases are being sampled, consider a closed-loop panel design which keeps liquids and gases fully contained throughout the process. This isolates operators from contact with high pressures, temperatures and volatile gases while also preventing the sample from being accidentally tainted. By contrast, open sampling panels can expose operators to high-temperature or hazardous materials and emissions and can compromise sample integrity.

The design of the valve within the panel should also be considered. Some panels block process flow through the bypass when closed.  When the operator opens the valve, they end up collecting “stale” process material. A sample panel with a flow-through valve design allows process material to move through the bypass continuously so that the material diverted into the sample container represents what is actually moving through the process at the time the sample is taken.

Options Add Value

Finally, sampling panels are available with a variety of options and choosing the right options can make all the difference in how well a panel performs. Here are two examples. For panels sampling hot or corrosive materials, enclosing the collection bottle or container can help protect the operator from spills and emissions. It’s a simple addition to the panel that can pay big dividends in terms of operator and environmental safety.

For panels collecting highly viscous materials, such as asphalt, the “stinger” or tube through which the material flows into the collection container can be steam-jacketed to prevent plugging and cold spots. Again, a relatively simple option that can reduce sampling issues in tough applications.

There is a lot to consider when configuring a sample panel to the application. Work with a sampling expert to evaluate application requirements and propose configurations and materials that will deliver consistent, reliable performance in virtually any application. For more information on the key applications for manual sampling in hydrocarbon processing, view the Sentry infographic on sampling in hydrocarbon processing. 


About Sentry Equipment

At Sentry Equipment, we tailor our equipment, expertise and services to create solutions that enhance workplace safety and improve operations. We are the only sampling partner to the hydrocarbon processing industry to offer a complete range of sampling solutions supported by a full complement of lifecycle services. Our application and service experts have decades of experience in the hydrocarbon processing industry and our new Process Monitoring Tech Center (PMTC) ensures that expertise is easily accessible by our customers. We don’t stop at delivering well-engineered samplers for every application. We are committed to providing the solutions and support that create a better sampling experience for everyone from process engineers to operators to HSE and maintenance personnel. For more information visit


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