Top Ways a Refinery Can Use to Help Weather Current Market Conditions
What are the top ways a refinery can use to help weather current
market conditions is a question we posed to our 160+ engineers. This is
the next article in the series which includes responses from several
- Improve energy efficiency and integration, fix steam leaks, repair
bad insulation, etc.
- Enhance synergies/feedstock transfers between refining and
chemical plants where there are integrated refining and chemical
plants at one site.
- Extend turnarounds as much as practical.
- Optimize unit operations/operating conditions to strive for
maximum yields/qualities of most valuable product(s).
- Exchange intermediate products among sites for better product
upgrade if this is possible with a refiner with multiple sites.
- Avoid upsets and feed cutbacks/outages by enhanced in-house
- Purchase lowest priced crudes available that can be run at your
site without additional/excessive operating costs.
- Practice “opportunistic” crude buying, e.g., lower quality crudes,
assuming that the refinery is designed or is judged to be able, to
handle same, or “discounted” crudes, discounted for whatever reason.
- Revisit and critically review maintenance schedules, extending
maintenance work where justified by past experience.
- Review of past shutdown causes, chronic or acute, and focus on
- Run a “productivity improvement” contest among workers – giving
the winner (based on proven improvements) an extra week vacation or
cash or whatever. (Be sure that workers do not fabricate problems –
and then solve them!)
- It’s tempting in difficult times to cut maintenance costs, but
before you establish arbitrary cuts establish:
- Risk based work justification process to insure high priority
maintenance work is addressed.
- Run length extension studies may allow deferral of scheduled
- Systematic analysis of bad actors could minimize repetitive
- Focus on online inspection activities to forecast future
- Have your technical organization identify energy conservation
procedures which do not require maintenance expenses or capital
- Ensure that your process, maintenance, and technical personnel
are committed to achieving cost reduction target while preserving
safety and reliability objectives.
- Pay attention to safety. Ensure programs in place to cultivate and
maintain a safety mentality from top to bottom of the company chain.
Accidents are expensive.
- Dust off those low cost efficiency and cost reduction projects and
programs which may have been put aside when operations were at
capacity, or were integrated with planned major projects which are now
- Look at refinery processes to develop plans/procedures to improve
yields of most valuable products. This would include catalysts and
crude mix quality changes to better capture seasonality in markets or
to avoid overproduction of one product (naphtha is a problem in parts
of Europe as diesel is in high demand).
- Develop opportunities with competitors to improve product slate
through trading or utilization of spare process capacity to improve
each party’s product mix.
©2010 Carmagen Engineering, Inc.