Potential Operating Strategies & Considerations – An SME Opinion

Potential Operating Strategies & Considerations – An SME Opinion

Current market conditions are forcing many refiners into an unfamiliar operating state.  A different approach may be required to rebalance and reduce refinery intake and maximize products that are still in demand.  Unit and equipment specific impacts of this approach will depend on the severity of the rate reduction as well as the duration.

As your business partner, Becht is committed to assisting you with Subject Matter Expert (SME) experienced-based solutions and guidance. We have extensive owner/operator expertise including previous industry downturns.  Below is a punch list of considerations for the current market.

If you are considering a crude rate reduction & corresponding turndown or shut down of process and utility units:

  • What are the challenges / limitations / risk to minimum rate capacities?
  • Can we reliably shut down one train on dual train systems?
  • How do we mothball / maintain equipment to prevent future degraded status?
  • Should we use this opportunity to preform needed maintenance? What is the risk and method to optimize scope using available resources?
  • How do we utilize remote (intra-company, 3rd parties) technical knowledge to monitor and support operations?
  • Which modifications for operational flexibility require documentation (defined work scope, MOC with P&ID and PFD mark up, etc.)?

If you are changing operational set points to achieve product optimization:

  • Will cut point optimizations cause long term adverse asset reliability? Consider:
    • Conducting risk analysis with new operating temperatures and pressures
    • Increased monitoring of at-risk equipment. What equipment is most at-risk?
  • Can we utilize or modify product streams for alternative finished products?

Have a strategy for the short and long-term impacts of these changes:

  • Consider the impact and risks to on-stream reliability with a change in feedstocks and run rates.
  • Tune/optimize furnaces and preheat exchangers to mitigate fouling issues from lower velocities
  • Optimize fin-fans & heat exchangers to avoid product separation issues.
  • At reduced throughput, consider:
    • Added residence time in the desalter may favor lower cost or difficult-to-desalt crudes
    • For opportunity crude slates, consider mechanical integrity and process issues

What are the symptoms of impending (or current) issues?

  • Increased fouling rates in furnaces and heat exchanger networks
  • Increased pressure drops and / or temperatures in critical equipment
  • Product specification issues / contamination
  • Operating parameters trending toward edges of prescribed safe operating windows
  • Excessive vibration and / or overheating of rotating equipment or piping
  • Rogue or out of specification emissions
  • Increased corrosion rates especially chlorides in overheads and side loops
  • Abnormal catalyst degradation / deactivation


In the next few weeks, Becht will be develop more detailed blogs focusing on unit and equipment specific issues to help you address the above and more.  Reach out anytime to your Becht expert or visit our website at https://becht.com/.


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