26 Mar 2018

How can petrochemical and refining plants keep profitability running with temporary heat exchangers?

petrochem plant

Learn how one plant made $64M in profits with temporary heat exchangers 

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An average refinery has between 200 and 350 heat exchangers, most of which are in good condition and face little chance of failure. However, out of those hundreds, there are bound to be a few that let the site down which can lead to a loss of profits and reduced production while the problem is sorted.

Heat exchangers are a vital component of every refinery, but they can leak, foul, and corrode, leading plants to miss out on potential profit and go over environmental limits that can lead to hefty fines. 

The summer months are perhaps the most sensitive time of year for heat exchangers thanks to the soaring temperatures. They can limit a refinery’s operation due to cooling limitations and underperforming fans which means extra work and the potential for missed opportunities. 

While heat exchangers are made to keep things running smoothly, they can have a huge negative effect on the production levels when they go down. 

Optimizing Operations to Keep Production Consistent

It’s likely that at some point heat exchangers may limit the production of a plant. 

As such an important part of a refinery, they take on a lot of responsibility and the effects of them failing are well known. 

More often than not, they tend to be operating beyond their design limits, which causes a bottleneck when it comes to increasing capacity.

So what’s the solution?

Many refineries opt to install temporary heat exchangers to pick up the slack of those that are leaking or corroding. These temporary solutions can quickly streamline catalyst cool downs and can speed up the cooling process to eliminate the chance of any long-term effects. 

For one refinery, integrating a temporary heat exchanger solution not only helped them maintain a high level of production, but it also averted leaking ethylene oxide into the atmosphere - which, if it happened, would have cost the company steep fines. 

On top of this, the effective solution brought in tens of millions of dollars of profit that would have otherwise gone down the metaphorical drain. 

Choosing the Right Solution

Even though heat exchangers are a vital component of refineries, the range of problems that can hit them at a moment’s notice means that plant operators often turn to temporary solutions to essentially “fill in the gaps”. 

These temporary solutions offer a way to keep business running as usual during outages, hotter-than-average summers, and emergencies, but they are only able to do this if they have undergone careful planning and installation - basically, it’s better to have no temporary heat exchanger solution than a bad one. 

That is why partnering with a service provider that has the right experience and extensive expertise in creating heat exchanger solutions specifically for plants and refineries would be the right solution. 

How One Refinery Used a High-Quality Solution to Protect Profits 

Our team of engineers worked with a Gulf Coast refinery that needed to cool a hydrotreater reactor vessel quickly - for them, every second spent cooling meant a cut in profit. In the past, the refinery had used liquid nitrogen as a cooler, but it’s costly and takes a few days to do its job. 

There had to be a better solution.

The refinery came to us to solve this complex problem and, within the space of three days, we had designed a unique cooling process that would work much faster than liquid nitrogen saving the company time and money. 

We tested, shipped, and installed the temporary heat exchangers quickly and supplied a round-the-clock team to work during the cooling process to make sure everything ran smoothly. 

So what happened? 

The new system we designed and put in place sliced two days off the cooling process and eliminated the need to use costly liquid nitrogen. This not only saved the company the extra expense they would have to spend out, but it also saved them the profits they would have lost if the process had gone on any longer. 

How can petrochemical and refining plants keep profitability running with temporary heat exchangers?

Some may think heat exchangers are helping the business carry out the systems and processes it needs to, but in reality, they could be holding back the production rates.

At any moment they could leak, corrode, or foul, requiring a urgent expenditure to fix the process quickly to make sure there is no impact on the plant’s profit. However, if there is a temporary solution in place, the cooling process can be ran right away to eliminate the chance of any income loss due to a longer, more drawn out process. 

In short, temporary heating and cooling solutions protect the plant’s profitability while minimizing environmental impact - it’s a win-win situation.

Download our whitepaper to find out more about how to increase profits and keep production levels consistent in refinery plants.


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