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How a Burner Management System Works

Reigniting Burner Management Systems – An Oilfield Tale

Imagine this scenario. You are a pumper making routine visits to your assigned well sites. While on location, you discover that the pilot flame on a heater treater is not lit. The tried-and-true technique for reigniting a pilot flame is to tie a fuel-soaked rag to a stick or pole, light it on fire, stick it into the fire tube, and light the pilot.

The problem is there is no way for you to know how long supply gas has been flowing into the fire tube. The one thing that you do know, however, is that the pilot needs to be reignited, to get the separator back online and stop the venting of fugitive methane emissions.

To fix the problem, you take a pole from the back of your pickup, tie an oily rag around it, and light it. Just you before you push the burning rag into the tube, you pause to consider how long the pilot has been out and how much gas may have accumulated in the fire tube. Did it go out just as you approached the well site, or has fuel gas been flowing into the fire tube for several hours creating a significant combustion source? A valve upstream of the heater treater may have been left open by someone else earlier in the day, or you may have been distracted by a phone call. You wince at the risk of a flash back explosion and the potential for injury, or worse.

Fortunately, you do not have to make that choice if your fuel-fired equipment uses an automatic Burner Management System. An automatic Burner Management System uses electronic technology to detect the absence of a flame in combustion equipment and quickly reignites the burner flame, automatically and safely, without putting an operator in harm’s way. No oily rag needed!

What Is a Burner Management System?

In the Oil & Gas industry, heated vessels are commonly used in a variety of applications and production systems. Separators, heater-treaters, line heaters, downhole steam injectors, sulfur recovery units, tank heaters and other equipment work with heat created by a burner, typically supplied by fuel gas produced on the well site. A reliable flame is required to ensure uptime, efficient production flow, and well site safety.

A Burner Management System (BMS) unit is a complete system of components that:

  • Monitor and control the temperature of a heated vessel.

  • Ensure safe startup and shutdown of process burners.

  • Operate fuel trains.

If a pilot flame is extinguished, without a BMS unit the burner gas will continue to flow, creating a potentially dangerous situation like the one described at the beginning of this article.

Accumulated gas in a fire tube or vented on the well site presents the risk of a flash explosion.

A BMS unit prevents this situation by automatically detecting the absence of a flame and safely reigniting it, unattended.

Mechanical versus Automated Burner Management Systems

A mechanical, or manual, BMS unit uses supply gas to control pneumatic components while an automated BMS uses low-voltage power for its electronic components.

A manual BMS must be manually started by the operator. At startup, the pilot light must be lit manually by someone, creating a potential safety risk. Remember the scenario of the fuel-soaked rag on a stick?

Although manual systems, like those using the Kimray T-12 thermostat, have been in use for several decades, their precision is limited, and they do not automatically reignite the burner. If a manual pilot guard detects that the pilot flame has gone out for any reason, it shuts down all supply gas to the rest of the system, preventing natural gas from going to the burner and being vented to the atmosphere or otherwise accumulating on the well site. The pilot flame, of course, will eventually need to be manually reignited, creating a potential safety risk for the operator.

Manual systems are also equipped with other safety measures, including low liquid level switches, high temperature shutdown monitor. Once either of these shutdowns are actuated, they must be manually restarted, again potentially placing an operator at risk.

Benefits of Automated Burner Management Systems

Automated Burner Management Systems are just that – they work automatically without the need for human intervention.

An electronic, or automatic, BMS unit uses sophisticated sensors to detect the presence of both the pilot flame and the main burner. If an automatic BMS unit senses the lack of flame, it automatically generates a spark from an ignition rod in a carefully timed sequence to reignite it.

This process happens quickly, typically in seconds, before too much supply gas is vented to create a safety hazard.

Benefits of automated Burner Management Systems include:

  • Operator Safety. The electronic ignition system means the operator does not need to manually light the pilot flame, keeping the operator away from a potentially dangerous situation even in the event of a backflash.

  • Lower Emissions. Automatic reignition of pilot flames and burners result in a significant reduction in emissions by eliminating the inadvertent venting of supply gas to the atmosphere.

  • Reliability. Automatic BMS units are typically more reliable than manual systems because they are directly sensing the flame, not inferring it from vessel temperature.

  • Keep More Product in the Pipe. An automated BMS unit does not consume fuel gas, meaning fuel consumption is minimized leaving more product for sale both from the using electricity and reducing fugitive emissions.

  • Increased Uptime. Because an automated BMS unit is continuously monitoring the pilot and burner flames, fired equipment is working all the time, ensuring the production system is working properly and safely.

How an Automated Burner Management System Works

An automated Burner Management System (BMS) from Platinum Control follows this process in operation:

  1. To start up the unit, an operator stands in front of the BMS box on the piece of equipment with the fuel gas solenoids closed.

  2. When the user presses “On” the BMS unit control panel the system begins a 15-second purge delay to ensure all fuel gas is purged from the fire tube.

  3. Once the purge is complete, the BMS begins the ignition sequence: (a) the pilot solenoid turns on to allow gas to flow through the pilot nozzle, (b) the sparking sequence begins, then (c) the BMS will look for a flame for 5 seconds.

  4. If the unit’s sensors detect and verifies a flame, then the BMS unit will automatically open a solenoid valve to kick on the main burner.

  5. If no flame is verified, then the BMS will reinitiate the reignition process. The BMS unit will make three attempts at this process and if no flame can be verified after that, the unit will enter an Emergency Shut Down (ESD) state and close all solenoids to prevent the venting of gas. In an ESD state, the system requires manual reset by an operator to restart, requiring a service visit to diagnose and resolve the problem.

  6. Once fixed, the operator initiates the startup process and the BMS unit follows its programming, keeping the operator out of harm’s way.

In addition to the safety benefits, an automatic BMS unit maintains vessel temperature with greater precision than a manual system. If the desired heater vessel temperature if 135 degrees F, then the operator would set the “On” setpoint to 132 degrees and the “Off” setpoint to 136 degrees. Maintaining a more precise vessel temperature reduces fuel gas use, improves system performance, and reduces costs.

Burner Management Systems from Platinum Control

Platinum Control can help you harness the full potential of your operations with our Burner Management Systems, which provide automated remote burner management, ignition and temperature controls.

Our BMS units enable you to record essential data and safely automate heating processes, decreasing injury risk, maximizing well production and facilitating environmental compliance.


  • Flexible. Work in both direct and indirect fired applications.

  • Versatile. Our one box fits every piece of fired equipment, meaning all of your production equipment can use the same BMS that use the same spare parts, no need to inventory more than one parts kit.

  • Programmable. It is simple and easy to make or change set points with confidence.

  • Productive. Since Platinum BMS units work on all your fired equipment, there is only one system to learn.

  • Quality. Every Platinum Control BMS unit is CSA/UL Certified for its intended use.

  • Low-Risk Warranty. All Platinum components are covered by a 2-year warranty. If a replacement is needed, the part is sent via overnight delivery with a return shipping label.

  • Price Competitive. Our BMS units are price competitive, offering you compelling value with the potential to improve productivity by standardizing systems on all your fired equipment.

  • Customer Focused. Our customers tell us that Platinum is flexible and easy to work with, ensuring that you get the solution you need minus the hassle.


  1. Improved Safety. Platinum automatic BMS units continuously monitor for the presence of pilot and burner flames and are programmed to automatically reignite the burner without human involvement. Keep your operators out of harm’s way and no more oily rags on sticks!

  2. Reduce Emissions. If a Platinum BMS unit is unable to reignite the pilot or burner flame, it is programmed to shut down the flow of supply gas, stopping the venting of methane into the atmosphere and/or accumulating in the fire tube creating a back flash risk.

  3. Productivity/Oversight. Every Platinum BMS unit can be equipped with Modbus communications, so it can be monitored and operated remotely from a control room or by a pumper at home (depending on the end user’s system). Critical data can be downloaded from the SCADA system for analysis.

  4. Easy and Fast Installation. Platinum BMS units ship with our Compact Quick Connect connection, giving you everything you need to get started in one package. This makes installation and operation extremely simple, fast, and saves you money.

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