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Petrochemical & refining recovery: How to improve efficiency through strategic hire projects

In a bid to avoid use of a certain word starting in ‘un’ and ending in ‘precedented’, it is undeniably extraordinary times for the oil, gas and chemicals industries right now. Understandably the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns has forced many companies to seek cash preservation but, at the same time, maintain a level of business that serves their own company and customers best. 

What’s more, businesses are still having to balance meeting sustainability targets alongside improving efficiency and productivity levels. I’m “virtually” meeting many people across the sector who simply feel like they’re caught in a catch-22 right now.

While many are experiencing a temporary decline in demand for fossil fuels, in particular jet fuel, demand for new renewable alternatives like HVO is on the up. Also, LPG residential demand appears to be helping a number of firms recover from COVID-19 losses as more people stay at home. No matter which side of the coin you are, companies need to diversify and come at the challenge from a new angle. What’s for sure is, whatever the product, it’s undeniable that the industry needs to do more with less.

Time to stop tolerating

I see many process, production and operations managers tolerate plant inefficiencies due to perceived limitations around “what solutions are out there”. Whether it be lack of capital to upgrade, inefficient equipment, maintenance and repair costs or simply a lack of time, there are many barriers that make it easier to continue without intervention. But that needn’t be the case.

Taking a strategic outcome-based project approach to process efficiency can have dramatic effects on the long-term goals. Let’s take a look at the challenges companies in our sector have faced, and how a new approach has helped the operations teams to overcome challenges they once thought demanded much more time, effort and money.

1. Improving throughput

Old infrastructure is a problem in most industries and the pace of change in today’s technological society means that the ageing of equipment is exacerbated. This means that resident cooling or heat rejection equipment is often outmoded, under capacity or generally inefficient. Paying to replace such items is going to be harder to justify than ever going forward. And, as the pace of life goes back to pre-COVID-19 levels, improving throughput rates is going to be more important than ever. 

One typical application for this sector is to consider temporary supplementary cooling during production to remove excess heat. Under-performance of cooling equipment can often be intensified in the summer months which can push the production temperatures up. 

By providing localised cooling and heat exchangers at the run-down cooling stage, the additional cooling kW will help bring the temperatures down & stay down more quickly. Ultimately this means the process can stay on track, as well an ensuring there are less losses. 

By carrying out a strategic hire project in this instance, there is no client asset depreciation or amortisation and no ongoing maintenance, repair or ownership costs.

2. Speed up turnaround

There are a number of keywords that come to mind when we think of turnaround – downtime, labour intensive, costly, challenging. Whether that’s in terms of lost production while the process is offline, or the direct costs associated with equipment, tools, materials & labour. Being the most significant share of a plant’s planned maintenance budget means that should a turnaround run over there can be an impact on the client’s bottom-line.

When planning ahead to turnaround, localised power solutions can help keep things moving in order to reduce downtime. Whether it’s heating and cooling equipment required for testing, or ventilation for people inspecting & working inside vessels, temporary power is essential. However, taking a more strategic approach through load-on-demand and remote monitoring means plants can control how much temporary power they are using more effectively – providing both environmental and cost benefits.

One of the latest developments in turnaround is the emergence of new temporary welfare facilities. With sometimes 1,000+ people working on a refinery turnaround, reducing time wastage is a growing priority. Temporary power & HVAC solutions are essential for such structures and without it, plants could be adding hundreds of hours per day for people to travel repeatedly on & off site. Again, strategically assessing this issue early on will enable plants to put the necessary measures in place to improve efficiency of the whole turnaround.

Carry out an efficiency audit

With all of the above, & in this current climate, more process, production and operations managers will be wanting to think differently about their efficiency needs. There are many more processes in this sector that could be addressed head-on and I’m more than happy to discuss these further with any interested party? directly.

To request an efficiency audit from one of our team, get in touch: