It’s been an interesting year so far, one that I misdiagnosed at the start. I have been far busier than I expected, which is a good thing, but it also brings along an entire series of unintended consequences. The response to the survey about FCC downtime has been great, and I have been waiting for responses to slow down, but they are still coming in.
In terms of upcoming events, Astron will be hosting an FCC Health Check workshop at the NPRA FCC Symposium being held during August 2008 in Houston. The exact dates of the NPRA FCC program are August 19th and 20th.
If you have never attended the NPRA FCC program, it is held every other year and is very much worth attending – the focus is on both reliability/maintenance and process topics. Attendance is typically in the 500 – 700 person range, and is generally split evenly between mechanical oriented versus process oriented people. Feedback about the meeting has been overwhelmingly positive. As of today, it is accepted as being the best industry wide FCC event, and serves as a great place to meet other refiners and talk to many experts in one place. There will be a Q&A panel on the first day, followed by workshops on the second day.
I encourage everyone that is free to attend this meeting make the trip to Houston. In recent NPRA programs, there have been numerous international companies represented, some from as close as Mexico, others from as far away as Korea, India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia.
The results from the first survey are available. They largely confirmed most of the expectations most people in the industry have, but were still interesting. Information from many FCCU outages came in and have been tabulated. Total results are shown in figure 1; approximately 70 % of outages are due to the combined reasons of major rotating equipment (air blower, wet gas compressor, and expander), cyclone failures, catalyst circulation upset, or utility failures. While not surprising, the survey results indicate that only about 10 % of FCCU outages take place on a scheduled basis.
Major rotating equipment made up almost 40 % of the total and was the single most common reason for FCCUs shutting down early. Figure 2 shows the breakdown of major rotating equipment outages. Air blower outages make up about half of the total for major rotating equipment.
The sample size was respectable, representing hundreds of FCCU outages going back over the last 6 years. Over the next couple of weeks, some geographic sorting will be done.
Also, if readers have not sent in survey results, go ahead and the survey regarding FCCU outages will be updated periodically as additional information comes in, probably 3 more times this year.
One of the things I think I have noticed in the refining industry in the last several years is that the people accountable for performing routine FCC technical service at refining locations are being stressed more and more by their employers to do new activities in addition to the historical focus on FCC optimization/troubleshooting.
The refining industry has changed in many ways over the last several years, mostly for the better, particularly in the areas of being a good neighbor in local communities. In most cases, I think it’s been the front line operations, engineering, and maintenance staff that have shouldered the majority of this worthwhile work.
Fortunately, the industry has been able to lean on the increased computing power of the IT world to free up some of our time so we can devote ourselves more fully to these other initiatives, but the downside is that we have to keep finding the best ways to turn our reams of data into useful information.
Please take a moment and send your responses in to the below second survey – we will let this survey run for 40 days and post the compiled responses. And, again, if you have not responded to the first survey, go ahead and send that response in as well.