The petrochemical industry remains significantly influenced by the globalization of the world economy. Rising demand for energy has translated to declines in supply and skyrocketing costs. In keeping pace with these changes, the petrochemical industry continues to adjust through divestitures, joint ventures and other forms of partnership leading to fewer and larger producers of commodity petrochemicals with broader geographical reach.

The petrochemical industry has come under some scrutiny lately as world leaders debate the role that fossil fuels have on the global climate and climate change. What is often overlooked in this debate is the economic contributions of the petrochemical industry and the many different products beyond oil and gas that have petrochemicals as a primary building block.

Primary petrochemicals are divided into three groups depending on their chemical structure:

  1. Olefins include ethylene, propylene, and butadiene. Ethylene and propylene are important sources of industrial chemicals and plastics products. Butadiene is used in making synthetic rubber.

  2. Aromatics include benzene, toluene, and xylenes. Benzene is a raw material for dyes and synthetic detergents. Manufacturers use xylenes to produce plastics and synthetic fibers.

  3. Synthesis gas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen used to make ammonia and methanol. Ammonia is used to make fertilizer and methanol are used as a solvent and chemical intermediate.

A Petrochemical Industry's Unplanned Downtime Is Costly

When equipment in the manufacturing line fails, production halts. Repair or replacement is required which may take days or even weeks and expedited work is more costly. An increase in expenses and loss in output capacity, affects the bottom line of the plant.

Studies have found that unplanned downtime is causing 2-5% production loss in the Petrochemical Industry. Of the Petrochemical Plants that experienced unplanned downtime, 46% couldn’t deliver services to customers and 37% lost production time on critical assets.

Aberdeen Research 2016

82% of companies experienced unplanned downtime from 2013 to 2016, costing as much as $260,000 an hour!

Preventive Maintenance Is Important

Systems breakdown due to a number or mixture of factors, rarely just one. This makes it difficult to identify the root cause of failure. 

Poor or inconsistent maintenance procedures also increase the probability of equipment failure or human error. Pairing this with inconsistent processing situations, the impact can be significant with unscheduled downtimes.

Unplanned downtimes negatively affect production capacity and increase operating expenses. The damaged equipment must be thoroughly inspected and quickly repaired before beginning operation 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 shcedules, 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 Petrochemical Industry

Heat Exchangers can both cool and heat water, steam, gases, and hydrocarbons within a Petrochemical Plant. For example, a plant producing volatile hydrocarbons exceeding tempreatures of 260°C (500°F) need cooling, while other fuels such as diesel, may need to be heated before being sent to a diesel generator. 

Within a Petrochemical Plant, liquids generally do not need to be heated as heating may undesirably change the physical properties of a liquid. However, many liquids and gases/vapours, such as various glycols, olefins, and isomers – need to be cooled. 

With the right Heat Exchanger, any liquid or vapour can be heated or cooled effectively. Preventive maintenance should be done to minimise tube failures and ensure optimal performance.

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

  • Air Cooler 

  • Export Compressor Interstage Cooler

  • Fire Tube Boiler

  • Steam Generator

  • Waste Heat 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

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