Top Ways a Refinery Can Use to Help Weather Current Market Conditions
By David Dean
As far as reliability and hence availability for production is concerned,
this can be achieved by operating the plant within its design parameters
and in part through the implementation of a well-managed inspection
program. There are many reference tools available to the refinery
industry, which include several well written API standards and recommended
practices. The experience and professional knowledge of refinery
inspection and engineering personnel is paramount to the successful and
cost effective implementation of refinery programs. Training of such
personnel has to be structured and complete.
The following lists several approaches and programs which I know have had
beneficial and positive financial impacts:
- Steam Trap Program – If implemented refinery wide, this will
produce significant energy and associated cost savings. As winter
approaches, for example, the performance of steam tracing on equipment
is very important. A single leaking steam trap can cost a lot. Failure
of a steam trap to operate can cause line blockage, etc.
- External Insulation Program – The efficient consumption and
recovery of energy related to maintaining hot and cold process
temperatures, apart from the need for personnel protection, is
essential. Maintenance of external insulation systems is essential to
achieve this. It is also important that insulation outer weather
protection systems are maintained to a high standard so as to prevent
external corrosion under insulation (CUI), which can be manifested in
many forms and be hidden for quite some time.
- Equipment Design and Construction Quality Assurance Program –
Design it right, build it right, and maintain it right. These are
essential components which contribute to equipment integrity and
reliability. Design codes are a minimum, and relying on the authorized
inspector to act in the best interests of a refinery during the
construction of a pressure vessel, for example, is naïve. A refinery
can positively influence the design, construction, and maintenance
standards of its equipment through supplemental engineering standards
and practices, and by involving experienced in-house or third party
engineering, construction, and inspection personnel early enough in
the process such that their recommendations can be implemented in a
- Equipment Inspection Program for Major Plant Items and Piping
Systems – Know the process, know the design, know the degradation
processes, know the rates of degradation, and use this information to
manage availability and planned and scheduled inspections,
replacement, and/or maintenance.
- Equipment Failure Root Cause Analysis and Corrective Action
Program – There are various approaches which can be taken to
facilitate an investigation and derive a solution to an equipment
problem. There are pertinent industry codes and standards which can be
referenced. The involvement of a team comprising representatives from
Operations, Engineering, Inspection, Maintenance, and personnel with
specialized knowledge when required is recommended.
- Personnel – Cultivate personnel ownership and loyalty. This I
consider to be essential if the best interests of any company are to
be served. Institute structured training programs to suit the needs of
individuals within functional groups. Consider the collective
capabilities of functional groups.
©2010 Carmagen Engineering, Inc.