Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Oil & Gas

A Gulf Coast chemical manufacturer of oxo derivative and intermediate products including alcohols, polyols, carboxylic acids, specialty esters, and amines experienced a failure in a critical chiller that shut down its entire Gulf Coast plant. A plant manager estimated a potential financial loss of over $1,000,000 each day the plant was down. The incident occurred over the weekend and there was great concern that locating a replacement chiller with sufficient capacity would be challenging.  
Chiller & Cooling Best Practices Magazine interviewed Paul Heston (General Manager) and Tom Strock (Chief Engineer) from Hydrothrift Corporation. In a nutshell, where workers are exposed to harmful chemicals, they must have eyewash and safety shower stations to decontaminate themselves in the event of a spill or splash. A variety of industries, including petrochemical, chemical, metal fabrication and laboratories, must plan for this contingency. The ANSI Z358.1 Standard specifies the water used for these purposes must be tepid or within a site-specified range.  This means in colder climates, water must be heated, and in hotter climates water must be cooled.  
As with most major process plants, refineries and petrochemical plants periodically need to shut down the entire plant or major portions of it for major maintenance activities. These time periods are referred to as ‘turnarounds’ and are time periods of intense activity. Once the plant shuts down, a considerable amount of money is being spent without any revenue being generated.
The first and most important process unit in petrochemical processing is ethylene. It is the starting point for the vast majority of other petrochemical processes that derive their feedstocks from ethylene. If this unit is forced to reduce its throughput due to an equipment-related issue, it could spell economic disaster for a plant. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to a Gulf Coast petrochemical processor’s primary facility. It experienced a collapse in the cooling tower that supported the ethylene unit, which compromised the structural integrity of the equipment. Worse yet, it was estimated that it would take one month to repair the two damaged cells. The affected facility would need to reduce the feedstock to its downstream units by 20 to 40 percent to compensate for the lost cooling capacity. The economic impact of the cooling tower failure was estimated at $5,000,000 per day.