The chemical industry comprises of companies that produce industrial chemicals. Central to the modern world economy, it converts raw materials (oil, natural gas, air, water, metals, and minerals) into a variety of different products.

“Polymers and plastics, especially polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene and polycarbonate comprise about 80% of the industry’s output worldwide”. These materials are often converted to fluoropolymer tubing products and used by the industry to transport highly corrosive materials.

Chemicals are used in a lot of different consumer goods, but they are also used in a lot of different other sectors; including agriculture manufacturing, construction, and service industries. Major industrial customers include rubber and plastic products, textiles, apparel, petroleum refining, pulp and paper, and primary metals. Chemicals are nearly a $3 trillion global enterprise, and the EU and U.S. chemical companies are the world’s largest producers.

A Chemical Industry's Unplanned Downtime Is Costly

When a piece of equipment in the manufacturing line fails, production ceases. It may take days or even weeks to repair or replace the faulty equipment. The workflow is interrupted, output capacity drops below optimal, and bottom lines are affected.

An Aberdeen study found the top pressures driving asset management are:

  1. aging assets, asset decommissioning, asset disposal; and
  2. reduced budgets and/or rising material cost. 

Aberdeen Group

In the manufacturing industry alone, over $50 billion is lost annually due to unplanned downtime. With Chemical being a major segment.

Preventive Maintenance Is Important

With increasing material cost and reduced budgets, effective asset management is becoming increasingly important. Part of this involves proper preventive maintenance.  

Systems breakdown due to several or a combination of factors. Rarely is it just one reason. Poor or irregular maintenance also increases the chances of equipment failure or human error. This results in devestating loss of equipment and life in the Chemical Industry. 

Unplanned downtimes reduce production capacity and increase operating expenses. The faulty equipment must be inspected and quickly repaired for operation to begin again.

Preventive maintenance increases the reliability of equipment which is critical to achieve long-term profitable operations and tackle rising materials costs. This entails having detailed site-specific maintenance schedules, procedures, and training.

Maintenance procedures should include five phases:

  1. Initial Survey of Process
  2. On-Site Study
  3. Development of Schedule and Training
  4. Implementation of the Maintenance Plan, and
  5. Follow-Up to Determine Success Rate. 
Heat Exchangers in the Chemical Industry

Heat Exchangers are usually considered an accessory equipment in chemical plants compared to large systems, such as heaters and refrigerators. It pre-heats or cools fluids in stages, instead of doing it in one step. This is more efficient and less demanding on components.

Heat Exchangers are one of the highest investments and most important equipment for a chemical plant. It should require the most engineering attention from the maintenance team.

If the Heat Exchanger does not perform optimally, additional steam is required for heating and additional water is required in the residue cooler. Because there are usually several interrelated Heat Exchangers in a system, it is often difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem to optimise the plant capacity.

Minimise Tube Failures

Three main areas for improvement to minimise future in-service tube failures are: 

  • Tube Testing 
  • Re-Tubing Strategy During Turnarounds
  • Design Improvements in Heat Exchangers
For the first point of tube inspection, we recommend using a suitable tube inspection device. This device needs to have the ability and accuracy to detect the common flaws found in the Heat Exchangers. 
Common Problems
  • Process Corrosion
  • Stress-Corrosion Cracking (SCC) of Tubes
  • Steam or Condensate Corrosion
  • Process Fouling
Heat Exchangers to Inspect with APRIS
  • Ammonia Chiller
  • Ammonia Condenser
  • Cooler Tube
  • Fire Tube Boiler
  • High Pressure Steam Superheater
  • PG Separator Overhead Cooler
  • Post Reactor Heater
  • Propylene Condenser
  • Pyrolysis Gasoline Quench Cooler
  • Reactor Feed Cooler
  • Reboiler
  • Rerun Condenser
  • Second Stage Cooler
  • Steam Surface Condenser
  • Syngas Steam Superheater
  • Waste Heat Boiler
  • Water Tube Boiler
Tube Inspection with APRIS

Technologies for inspecting Heat Exchanger tubes are constantly changing and improving rapidly. With increased sophistication and complexity of today’s Non-Destructive Examination (NDE) techniques, the operator’s skill level is becoming more vital. 

To correctly identify the flaws and tube failures, a reliable technology and technician is needed.

APRIS is a smart tube inspection device that doesn’t compromise the ease-of-use with higher complexity and sophistication. 

A typical tube inspection tool would require a user to have years of experience. But with APRIS, any technician can accurately find flaws with little training.  

Case Study
apris tube inspection equipment