Top Ten Tips for Tower Troubleshooting
By Bernie Slade
Not all towers are the same, but they share some fundamentals. The
troubleshooting tips listed below can be used across a wide variety of
towers to help bring about an efficient resolution to most problems.
- Talk to the process operators. They have a wealth of knowledge
even when expressed in non technical language.
- Verbal descriptions of a problem can be misleading. Often,
selective information is provided unwittingly. You need to dig deep
into the problem and obtain input from multiple sources.
- Gamma scans are a relatively cheap and highly efficient way to
obtain crucial information. “Seeing” into a tower always helps.
- Instruments are not always correct. Heat and material balances
will highlight discrepancies.
- You can never have enough “good” data. Data collected at varying
operating conditions is particularly useful.
- Critical laboratory results should be verified by an external lab.
- A field visit is important to verify the P&ID’s for the tower
piping, etc. Many drawings are not up-to-date.
- Tower internal drawings often do not reflect changes made at
turnarounds and shutdowns. Talk to the tray or packing vendors, but
even this may not be enough.
- Be present at the tower opening for the initial inspection. Trust
your instincts, if something feels wrong, it most likely is wrong.
- Verify personally that the tower internal modifications are
correct at the final inspection. Try to be onsite for the initial
startup phase of the tower.