May 2011

Special Report: Maintenance/Reliability

Spiral heat exchanger in desalter service solves fouling issues

Technology offers problem-free operation along with considerable maintenance savings

Wajciechowski, C., Alfa Laval

A major US refinery was experiencing severe fouling and plugging problems in two shell-and-tube (S&T) heat exchangers installed to cool desalter effluent using cooling water. In 2008, the refinery replaced the two S&Ts with a fouling-resistant spiral heat exchanger (SHE). The SHE gives continuous problem-free operation, higher process reliability and more consistent wastewater treatment temperatures than the S&Ts. Best of all, there has been no plugging and, based on savings in maintenance and cleaning costs alone, the payback time was less than 18 months. In the desalting process, crude oil is contacted with hot water to remove impurities such as chloride salts and particulate matter befo

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