10 Oct 2018

How Do You Efficiently Preheat Prior To a Turnaround Using a Super Heater?

Refinery plant

Plant turnarounds are an essential part of business. In fact, they might even be the most crucial event on the calendar for a refinery, but what happens if they aren’t carried out properly? Because they’re so important, turnarounds have the ability to really affect a plant’s bottom line, whether that’s in a good way or a bad way.

So how do you prepare well in advance to avoid losing out on revenue or dragging a turnaround on for too long? How do you make sure you have everything in place? And what would be the consequences if your turnaround didn’t run smoothly? 

Having everything in place to make sure the turnaround runs efficiently means your plant will be in a stronger position for success in the future. 

Preparing for a turnaround means different things at different times of the year. In the colder winter months, the equipment needs to be heated and thawed to ensure frost doesn’t slow down the necessary processes.

In these instances, you can employ a Super Heater to preheat the plant before the turnaround begins. 

What is a Super Heater?

A Super Heater turns wet steam into dry steam, which can then be used in steam turbines to generate electricity or engines. There are three different types of Super Heater: radiant Super Heaters, convection Super Heaters, and separately fired Super Heaters. 

The device is an important part of any boiler system and helps increase the running efficiency of a thermal power plant. By turning wet steam into dry steam, a Super Heater helps a refinery produce more thermal energy and reduces the chance of the steam condensing with the engine cylinders. 

The size of the plant will determine how big the Super Heater is, and they can range from just a few meters to more than a few hundred meters in length. 

How We Preheated One Refinery With a Super Heater

By implementing a Super Heater for the turnaround of a large Midwestern refinery, we helped them carry out the process quickly and efficiently.

In the first instance, the plant found a valve that had been damaged by more than 10 inches of solid ice in the harsh winter months as they tried to move butane from the sphere to a designated gasoline blending area. 

One option was to wait for spring to come to thaw the ice, but the delay would almost certainly have meant huge operational failures and a serious drop in revenue. Instead, the plant needed a powerful but delicate heat blower. Too much direct heat on the valve would cause the metal to quickly expand which, in the long term, would cause a whole host of other problems.

After the plant called us for help, we quickly put our team of engineers to work on designing an action plan that would thaw the valve and save the equipment from long-term damage. The aim was to keep processes running as smoothly as possible during the turnaround so the plant wouldn’t see a major drop in revenue. 

Three days of planning later, and our team had met with the onsite management team and put forward their solution. When the permit and certification were all good to go, we moved in with the needed equipment so we could start right away. 

The Solution

To thaw the valve, we brought in a series of generators and heaters, including an 8,000 cubic feet per minute blower, which was turned down to 100 F to avoid the possibility of rapid metal expansion. 

We made sure the whole system was running as it should be via our remote monitoring service that kept an eye on the equipment round the clock. As a result, the Super Heater managed to thaw the ice on the valve safely, quickly, and efficiently, ensuring the butane could easily flow into the gasoline blending area. 

Our solution worked so well that the plant manager came back and asked us to do the same process for the rest of their frozen equipment. The cold winter months had caused a similar issue for much of their equipment which, if left unfixed, could have led to serious operational and financial problems. 

Turnarounds continue to be a necessity for plants, but if they’re not done right they can cause more hassle than they’re worth for site managers. To avoid major losses in revenue and operational deficiencies, it’s vital that plants prepare in advance for their turnarounds so they can run smoothly and efficiently. 

For the Midwestern refinery, deploying a Super Heater to efficiently thaw ice on a vital valve was the key to a successful turnaround - so much so, that they continued to use the solution for the rest of the plant.