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Jul-2014

Compressor review leads upgrade

A thorough performance review of 40 reciprocating compressors at the Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery in Kuwait will form the basis for future upgrades to improve energy efficiency and environmental performance, according to compressor specialist Hoerbiger.

Paul Peyer
Hoerbiger Compression Technology

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Article Summary

The refinery, which dates back to 1949, uses reciprocating compressors primarily to handle hydrogen for hydrocracking and hydrotreating.
Hoerbiger used a proprietary process known as REE auditing to assess the operation of each compressor and show how its performance could be improved through measures ranging from new valves and packings to a complete overhaul.

REE stands for Reliability, Efficiency and Environmental soundness. The audit process and subsequent report by field technicians and engineers, builds on know-how covering compressors from every major manufacturer. The audit is rigorous and detailed, yet the follow-up report sets out its conclusions in a straightforward way that makes it easy for plant managers to act on the information.

Mina Al-Ahmadi, with a 730 000 b/d throughput capacity, is one of three refineries operated by Kuwait National Petroleum Corporation (KNPC), the others being Mina Abdulla and Shuaiba. KNPC is Kuwait’s biggest refinery operator and has the largest refining capacity in the Middle East.
Hoerbiger has worked with KNPC for more than 15 years and supplies the company with reciprocating compressor spares and services through its offices in Kuwait and the UAE.

The state-owned company supports current government programmes to reduce emissions, conserve energy and use environmentally friendly processes, and new initiatives at KNPC sites must adhere to an established change management process. KNPC managers had previously considered whether to optimise the compressors but were not clear whether this would contribute to the company’s overall goals.

KNPC has to pay world market prices for the energy it consumes in the production of diesel fuel and gasoline, which is incentive enough to produce as efficiently as possible.

Once Hoerbiger developed the concept of a REE audit, even before the actual audit had been carried out, it was obvious that the process would provide a structured way to assess the potential to support KNPC’s business objectives through selective compressor upgrades.

So in February 2013 the Austrian REE team went to work at Mina Al-Ahmadi, spending four days on site. After analysing the results, the team returned a month later to present their findings.

The REE audit showed that the 40 motor-driven reciprocating compressors consume 55 MW of electric power under current operating conditions, with a 20% margin to cover production variations and future expansion. The study also showed that continuous stepless reverse flow control could cut power consumption by 10%.

The audit team demonstrated how much more knowledge could be extracted from the operating data and inspection of every machine. Now the refinery has 40 detailed analyses indicating numerous ideas for sustainable improvements.

Over the next few years KNPC will work with Hoerbiger to choose and prioritise upgrade options for the site’s 40 reciprocating compressors, based on the information from the REE audit. The resulting energy savings and performance improvements will help KNPC meet its energy and environmental goals, while potentially bringing process improvements too.

For more information: paul.peyer@hoerbiger.com


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