For the Petrochem industry, periods of shutdown and turnaround are expensive. Not only is there a loss of production while units are offline, there’s also the direct cost of labor, tools, equipment and materials. They are a significant proportion of a plant or refinery’s annual maintenance budget, therefore operators are under increasing pressure to maximize efficiencies during downtime and protect the company's bottom line.
Maximizing Steam System Efficiencies
Steam line maintenance is a key element of an effective turnaround schedule. In refineries worldwide as well as being integral to the process of steam cracking, steam is used to vaporize, preheat and heat materials during production. A large proportion of steam traps therefore are used in the steam distribution network and for trace heating. With this in mind, removing condensate from the system, or steam trapping, is vital for the efficient and safe running of a system. Its role in preventing the seriously damaging effects of water hammer and ensuring processes achieve the correct temperatures means sites can required tens of thousands of steam traps.
Traditional steam traps discharge condensate by mechanically opening and closing. However, as with any mechanism, moving parts are subject to failure, breakdown or wear and tear. In the case of the Petrochem industry – which generally uses higher pressure steam – we’ve seen a major trend of facilities having problems with inverted bucket, float and ball or thermodynamic mechanical steam traps due to their inability to cope with the volatile environment.
When they open, these traps waste valuable energy and pressurize the condensate recovery system. When they fail closed, there is a risk condensate will backup causing disastrous problems to the wider system as well as having health and safety implications. With petrochemicals manufactured on such a large scale, any level of inefficiency has huge implications.
Never-ending cycle, ended.
With turnaround time at a premium it tends to be more cost and time effective for maintenance engineers to replace damaged mechanical steam traps rather than remove, repair and re-install them. Steam traps are all too often viewed as a consumable item which typically results in teams needing to prioritize constantly replacing thousands of mechanical steam traps, over other corrective or predictive maintenance.
The simplest solution is to limit the level of steam trap failure. Going further, an ideal scenario would be one where steam traps could be quickly and efficiently maintained, leaving engineering and maintenance departments enough time and resources to complete other pressing tasks while the system is down. In response, Thermal Energy International (TEI) is helping an increasing number of sites find a permanent solution to the challenge of steam traps and disrupt the usual pattern of; failure; survey; replace.
TEI’s GEM Steam Traps have no moving parts to wear or fail. Instead of opening and closing, the patented orifice and multi-staged venturi throat design uses the differential pressure across the trap to manage condensate flow rate. The orifice is specifically sized for the application by our team of experienced engineers and protected from blockage by an integral multi-stage filtration system. This ensures it can accommodate the variability of industrial loads – all without the need for moving parts, or concerns of blockage.
Precision manufactured from a single piece of high-quality stainless steel the GEM Trap is resistant to wear and tear with the added benefit of no leakage paths. Since there are fewer elements to manage and service, adopting GEM technology reduces the maintenance burden and removes the cost of having to replace failed mechanical traps. Finally, for a sector so closely monitored, this innovative measure increases the overall efficiency by over 10% against even brand new mechanical traps and reduces carbon emissions.
Benefits of GEM Steam Traps
TEI has worked with oil, gas and petrochemical companies across the globe. By using our approach, one refinery experienced significant savings – both in cost and labor outlay. During a recent unplanned shutdown, this refinery was able to run on just two boilers. Prior to the installation of over 1,000 GEM Traps, this would have resulted in a loss of steam pressure to the refinery’s extremities as well as production upsets.
If you’d like more information on how to streamline your steam system make an appointment to talk to us at this years’ Marcus Evans 10th Annual Chem/Petrochem & Refinery Shutdowns & Turnarounds conference in Texas.
Gary Brooks – Regional Account Manager, South Atlantic, USA