Plant Visitation to Assist Process Technology Selection

By Jerry Lacatena

Frequently when a refining company decides to pursue installation of a new or unfamiliar process technology in their facilities, they go through technology screening, bid solicitation, and rigorous technical and commercial evaluations to arrive at the best choice. Part of the evaluation may be to visit existing plants that are of similar design, style, and capacity to the target design of interest. Sometimes the visit may follow shortly after selection, if the client is more aware of the licensor design specialties, issues, etc. In other cases, the visit may occur before selection to assist in the decision process. The licensor or contractor usually arranges visitation meetings and a unit walk-thru at the sites.

This article is only intended to provide general insights for potential topics to include in a plant visitation, and can vary based on how sophisticated/informed the visitors are. The expectation is that a site visit agenda/questionnaire would be tailored to a specific technology, licensor or contractor offering in advance, and be useful to capture information gathered in a systematic way, particularly where more than one site is involved.

Generally, the objectives of a visit are to better understand the unit visited, how that may increase confidence in the licensor’s proposed design for the client, and focus attention on potential considerations/issues/desired provisions for potential investigation, during engineering.

The visit agenda/questionnaire may also consider topics such as the following, recognizing that these are illustrative rather than considered comprehensive:

Operations

Start-up

Unit Reliability

Maintenance

Sparing

Instrumentation

Environmental

Feed and Product Quality

Plant Capacity

Licensor Service

Documentation

Specific Technical Questions

Clearly, the extent of information obtained during a site visit depends on the openness of the site, confidentiality requirements, etc. But plant visits are a useful approach that many refining companies take at the appropriate stage of a project.