Repair vs. Replace: Managing Your Refinery's Sampling Equipment

Many industrial plants in the United States were built decades ago and were not expected to still be in operation. Yet many are still running today, well past their expected life span.

Within these plants, hydrocarbon sampling systems and equipment are often overlooked, even as new technology and regulations demand more from them.

With aging equipment and facilities, operators face increasing challenges in maintaining equipment’s reliability and integrity, as well as safety. One of the biggest hidden threats to your plant’s efficient and safe operation is deteriorating sampling equipment.

However, it can be difficult to know when to continue maintaining or repairing sampling equipment, and when to replace it.


These are some of the signs you might encounter if your hydrocarbon sampling equipment needs to be repaired or replaced:

  • Maintenance data is coming back with recurring issues
  • Lab data is indicating sampling errors or contaminated samples
  • Location and/or tie-in points no longer meet your sampling needs
  • Systems aren’t installed in the right locations to execute your plant’s processes
  • Changes have been made to the sample requirements (conditioning, quantity, etc.) or formula since equipment was installed
  • New technology has been developed – improving method or components for safety, accuracy and/or reliability
  • Equipment has been degraded due to corrosion, erosion, wear or fatigue
  • Equipment is now obsolete and lacks spare parts
  • Changes to regulations have occurred - such as new requirements in the Clean Air Act

These factors put a strain on aging sampling equipment, especially in the case of sensitive components like quick disconnects, regulators and check valves. These components, along with others, often result in unacceptable performance if not serviced regularly.


Choosing the right upgrade or replacement based on key considerations can give hydrocarbon plants a second life and help avoid downtime or even a devastating shutdown.

When deciding whether to hang on to a piece of equipment through regular maintenance or spend the funds to upgrade or replace it, asset managers must consider a number of factors, including:

  • Cost of the repair, upgrade or replacement 
  • Age of the equipment 
  • Process condition exposure
  • Harsh environmental condition exposure
  • Expected life cycle with or without repairs/upgrade 

Cost is often the biggest factor when considering upgrading or replacing hydrocarbon equipment. When assessing this major consideration, it is important to ask yourself:

  • How much would it be to upgrade the equipment?
  • How much to replace it altogether?
  • How much would it be to retrofit the existing equipment with updated technology?

Understanding these questions can help determine how long equipment can operate to specifications before the cost of general maintenance and repair exceeds the cost of replacing the equipment.


  • Keep good maintenance program records – These will help you track past incidents and repairs so you can determine if future repairs or replacement is a better decision.
  • Stay up-to-date on industry trends and sampling methods – This will ensure your equipment is never obsolete and has the latest functionality to deliver the precise measurements you need.
  • Maintain a strong sampling plan – Retrofits or replacements aren’t always necessary if you have a sampling plan that makes it easy to identify needs.
  • Pay attention to your sampling systems – Sampling equipment and systems should be treated with the same importance as every other piece of equipment in the plant.

Whether you are repairing or upgrading your equipment, keeping your sampling equipment running with confidence is the goal. Don’t leave it to chance with equipment you can’t trust.  

Headshot of author Randy Cruse

Written by Randy Cruse

As Senior Service Manager, Randy dedicates his lengthy career to developing and delivering service programs designed specifically for refineries and their sampling programs. He understands the risk and safety requirements that come along with being a service provider in the Oil & Gas industry and brings that expertise to each and every call.

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