In addition to the production of fuel for vehicle motors, the petrochemicals industry produces many other everyday products that you would not immediately associate with this sector. The petrochemicals industry uses mineral oil and natural gas to produce a wide variety of base chemicals that form the basis of plastics, solvents, as well as medicines. Petrochemical plants are normally located directly next to refineries, in order to keep transport distances and thus costs as low as possible.
Petrochemical plants are characterized by a kilometer-long network of very different tubes to transport the mineral oil and natural gas from the refineries into the plants. Once the raw materials arrive, they are led to so-called reformer furnaces for catalysis, and the resulting base chemicals are then transported away for further processing.
Wherever tubes are found, FOERSTER is not far away. Take a look at the petrochemicals industry with us.
Steam reformation is a method for producing hydrogen-rich synthesis gas from light hydrocarbons. This production takes place in a so-called primary reformer.
Primary reformers are found in many refineries, fertilizer plants, and at methanol producers. They are an important and central component of the plants. The actual steam reformation of the hydrocarbons takes place in reformer tubes that are installed vertically in the reformers.
The tubes consist of high-alloy centrifugal casting materials and are filled with a nickel-based catalyst. Since the reaction occurs endothermically in the tubes, an external firing is necessary. This is ensured by burners arranged on the ceiling, on the sides or even on the floor – depending on the design of the corresponding reformer. The high temperatures and pressures place immense stress on the reformer tubes.
Because of the high stresses on the tubes, regular checking is especially important to detect tube expansions and cracks reliably and to evaluate their danger correctly. After all, losses from downtime due to leaks in the reformer tubes are much higher than the replacement and assembly of new tubes.
For this reason, the LEO-SCAN system has been successfully used to inspect reformer tubes for more than 25 years. This uses the eddy current method to penetrate the wall thickness of the tubes completely and inspect for the smallest cracks, which can occur due to overheating from burner or catalyst problems. In addition, expansion is measured with laser technology, since expansion is often a sign of creep damage.
Up to approx. 250 tubes can be inspected per shift with the LEO-SCAN system. All tests can be superimposed on each other to compare the results and their development. Since many reformers develop damage near the floor, the LEO-SCAN system starts testing only 20 mm above the floor.
Picture courtesy of the El Dorado Chemical Site, El Dorado, Arkansas; part of LSB Industries.