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HPIn Brief

08.01.2010  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX


A diamond in the rough

Although problem-free pump operation is the primary goal of all pump operators, achieving that goal is not a simple matter. The key components of a pump—mechanical seals, impellers, couplings, roller bearings and housings—are all subject to wear. Keeping a pump in good working condition is essential for cost-effective and reliable operation of plants and systems. Unplanned downtime can ruin production schedules and adversely affect a facility’s bottom line.

Mechanical seals are recognized to be responsible for most pump failures and consequently represent the highest cost for pump repairs. Therefore, reducing the mean time between failure (MTBF) or the mean time between repair (MTBR) can significantly improve pump operations and save money.

Industry surveys have shown that dry running and inadequate lubrication are responsible for more than 50% of all mechanical seal damages; consequently, it is safe to state that approximately 20% of all pump failures are due to poor lubrication or dry running of the mechanical seal faces.

To combat the problem of dry running, EagleBurgmann has developed a seal face coating based in diamond. Diamond is the hardest natural mineral known and offers excellent chemical and thermal resistance. The new technology is a synthetically manufactured, ultra-pure diamond with the same characteristics as the natural stone. It has a microcrystalline coating of 8-µm thickness on a silicon carbide seal face extends the life of the seal, reducing maintenance costs and minimizing life-cycle costs for pump users.

In an analysis of the service life of pump components, it was found that mechanical seals, with an average service life of only 1.2 years, are the weakest link in terms of pump components, compared to the next weakest component, bearings, with an average service life of three years. It is thought that by using mechanical seals coated with diamond, the average service life of mechanical seals substantially increases.

Curtiss-Wright Corp. has received an order from Petrobras for 12 top and bottom fully-automated coke drum unheading systems. The units are expected to be delivered to the Petrobras Abreu e Lima refinery located in Pernambuco, Brazil. During the opening of a coke drum, known as “unheading,” extreme temperatures can be present. Curtiss-Wright’s system safely opens the top or bottom of a coke drum during the delayed coking process. Unlike traditional unheading systems, this remotely operated device creates a totally enclosed, fully automated coking system, from the top of the coke drum down to the coke pit, minimizing safety risks to personnel.

Total Petrochemicals has successfully demonstrated UOP technology that will enable the use of feedstocks other than petroleum to produce plastics and other petrochemicals. A demonstration unit built by Total Petrochemicals at its complex in Feluy, Belgium, used UOP’s methanol-to-olefins (MTO) technology to convert methanol to ethylene and propylene. The propylene was then successfully converted to polypropylene product. This demonstration proves that propylene produced from methanol at a semi-commercial scale is suitable for plastics production.

The demonstration unit has run consistently for more than 150 days since its start-up last year and has met product yield expectations. The unit has processed up to 10 metric tpd of methanol to produce the light olefins ethylene and propylene. The demonstration plant integrates MTO process technology with Total Petrochemicals’ and UOP’s olefin cracking process (OCP). Use of the OCP could boost the total yield of usable ethylene and propylene while minimizing hydrocarbon byproducts. The OCP unit is scheduled to start up later this year after initial testing of the MTO unit is completed.

The demonstration plant was designed to assess, on a semi-commercial industrial scale, the technical feasibility of the integrated MTO and OCP processes with full product recovery and purification.

ProSep Inc. was awarded a $2 million contract to provide process engineering and specialized internals for crude separation. This contract was awarded through a commercial alliance with the engineering and manufacturing company Thermo Design and will be installed at an oil and gas producer’s steam-assisted gravity drainage facility located in Alberta’s oil sands. The crude separation equipment will be built using ProSep’s vessel designs and internals, allowing for efficient separation of crude, natural gas, water and solids from the production stream.

Refineria de Cartagena SA (REFICAR) has selected Merichem to provide multiple technologies for treatment of hydrocarbons and spent caustic at its refinery in Cartagena, Colombia. Merichem will license its technologies and supply modular equipment to treat coker LPG and saturated LPG at the facility. Merichem will also license other technologies to supply modular equipment, including salt and clay beds for treatment of kerosene/jet fuel. In addition, REFICAR has also selected Merichem’s technology and equipment for the treatment of spent caustic generated by new and existing units.

CPFD Software LLC, which created the Barracuda simulation package for particle-fluid systems, announced the signing of a distribution agreement with Hi-Key Technology to distribute and support Barracuda in China. Barracuda is used by oil and gas, chemical, petrochemical and power equipment manufacturers for simulating, understanding and optimizing the operation of fluidized systems. Common applications are fluidized catalytic cracking (FCC) reactors and regenerators, fluidized bed reactors (FBRs) for chemical manufacturing and circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boilers in coal-fired power plants.  HP

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