May 2020

Special Focus: Maintenance and Reliability

Refinery tower inspections: Discovering problems and preventing malfunctions

A previous survey identified installation mishaps to be one of the top five causes of tower malfunctions.

Cardoso, R., Phillips 66; Kister H. Z., Fluor Corp.

A previous survey1 identified installation mishaps to be one of the top five causes of tower malfunctions. Such malfunctions lead to poor separation, instability, lost capacity and higher energy consumption, all with negative economic impact. In some cases, a tower may cease to work, forcing a premature outage. Proper inspection following construction and during turnarounds is the best tool to identify installation mishaps, design oversights, fouling and damage, and to correct them before they turn into malfunctions. This article presents several case histories of refinery towers where inspection and turnaround testing identified potential and actual bottlenecks caused by improper internal

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