How to improve energy efficiency, reliability and asset integrity

A global inventory of carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions recently published by One Earth suggests that global cumulative emissions could be reduced by up to 10% between 2020-2030 if refineries adopted low-carbon measures.

Integrated Global Services

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Article Summary

The list of measures includes refineries improving their efficiency and upgrading heavy oil processing technologies. Here are three key ways in which refinery and petrochemical plants can improve energy efficiency, reliability, and asset integrity.

1. Reduce fuel, emissions, or increase production
Fuel combustion accounts for almost 80% of refinery carbon emissions. Furthermore, fired heaters are the largest consumers of fuel in a refinery emitting an estimated 400 to 500 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) every year, so even minor improvements in the efficiency of fired heaters can lead to significant savings. To put it into perspective, if any fired heater is 1% or 2% inefficient it can consume an additional $1m in fuel over a year.

There are several solutions available to reduce fired heater fuel consumption and emissions. Integrated Global Services (IGS) offers Cetek ceramic coating applications to improve radiant section efficiency and Tube Tech fouling removal services to restore convection section heat transfer efficiency. The combined benefits include:
• Up to 15% reduction in CO₂ emissions and fuel consumption
• Up to 30% reduction in NOx emissions

2. Stop internal corrosion/erosion
Internal corrosion/erosion refers to corrosion or erosion occurring on the inside of a process vessel, tower, column, or heat exchanger. Internal corrosion can lead to:
• Reduced asset life: corrosion/erosion weakens the structural integrity of mission-critical equipment.
• Loss of efficiency: Corrosion and erosion cause friction which can lead to increased wear, reduced efficiency of assets, and potential equipment failure.
• Contamination: Degradation of base metals can contaminate feedstock as metal particles and other debris accumulate in process fluids ultimately inhibiting product quality.
• Reduced flow: Corrosion and erosion reduce the internal diameter of tubes, leading to reduced flow rates and increased pressure drop.
• Safety hazards: as structural components are weakened, there is an increased risk of catastrophic failure in pressure vessels, for example.
• Environmental: Corrosion and erosion can cause leaks which can be harmful to the environment and those working with the equipment.

It is crucial to prevent internal corrosion/erosion through appropriate coatings, materials, and maintenance programmes.

IGS High Velocity Thermal Spray (HVTS) is a robust solution that extends the life of existing equipment by acting as a corrosion/erosion barrier in mission-critical equipment. It works as a cladding which upgrades existing metallurgy to higher alloys.

3. Maintain fired heaters between turnarounds
Maintaining fired heaters between turnarounds can be challenging, but there are general steps which can be taken to reduce the risk of unplanned shutdowns and emergency maintenance procedures. These steps include:
• Regular inspections: Identifying issues early can prevent equipment failure. Inspections can be performed visually, by non-destructive testing, or other techniques to assess the condition of fired heaters. Cetek’s Lancescope heater inspection tool has been developed for online fired heater inspection.  
• Fouling removal: Removing deposits from heater components will increase heat transfer efficiency and the overall performance of the heater. During planned turnarounds, Tube Tech removes 90%+ fouling from convection sections using engineered robotic methods. Hot-tek’s Hot Convection Cleaning is used between turnarounds to improve convection section performance when fouling would otherwise affect production.
• Fouling of radiant section tubes from oxidation/scale formation is eliminated by an application of Cetek’s tube coating, which extends tube life, if oxidation losses are a limiting factor.
• Monitoring fuel quality: Ensuring fuel supplies meet the required standards will help to prevent issues such as corrosion, erosion, and fouling-related instabilities.
• Ongoing monitoring: Keeping records of operating conditions such as stack temperatures, pressure readings, and other key information can help to identify areas of concern by comparing them to design parameters.

A wide range of online (while the heater is operating) services from Hot-tek have been offered for more than 20 years which prevent unplanned outages and fix issues in emergency situations until long-term maintenance solutions can be performed at the next turnaround.

If refineries are to reduce emissions by up to 10% between 2020-2030, process optimisations will be critical to ensure that the most appropriate technologies are applied to improve energy efficiency, reliability, and asset integrity.

Partnering with a reliable maintenance provider is often the first step to realising fuel and efficiency-saving potential. IGS is pleased to offer free fired heater technical evaluations to determine efficiency improvements (%) and the payback period as well as projected (%) improvement based on plant objectives (fuel/emissions reduction, capacity increase, or a combination of both).

λ Since 2019, IGS has scored 4.85 out of 5 for quality commitment. (Surveying 226 customers.)

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