Project Synopsis

Provide a variety of distillation research related assistance to a world-wide oil & gas production concern aimed at improving refinery operations performance on a company wide basis.

Project Summary


Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) was contracted by the research and engineering group of the client, a world-wide oil and gas production concern, to help expedite distillation and coking related process research work while their Distillation and Gas Processing group was experiencing a temporary shortfall in staffing.  Specific tasks addressed were:

  • Produce a document summarizing the benefits and risks of using grid packing in refinery fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) main fractionator slurry pumparound sections
  • Assist in handling various issues related to the client’s Fractionation Research, Inc. (FRI) membership, particularly issues involving the FRI Long Range Planning Committee
  • Create a cold-flow apparatus and experimental plan to investigate the removal efficiency of small droplets of liquid entrained into the transfer line of fluid cokers and flexicokers.

PROCESS organized a significant amount of FCC main fractionator slurry section case-history information which had been gathered by other Distillation Group members, and wrote a document summarizing this information in client internal transmittal format.  To fill gaps in the experience history, PROCESS contacted and interviewed a number of current and former refinery personnel to document valuable details of their experiences.  A set of tabular “experience bands” was created showing when grid packing could be used in the main fractionator slurry section to improve fractionator capacity at minimum risk of unintended consequences.  The document also identified process conditions and tower configurations that would lead to increased risk, and gave advice on steps that should be taken to mitigate the risk in these situations.

To assist the FRI Long Range Planning Committee, PROCESS established contact with FRI staff and requested they assemble an updated listing of possible research projects that had been suggested by FRI members in recent years.  Although the list represented a minor update from the previous year’s list, a new category of research items was created this year to help elevate and expedite certain types of research items.  PROCESS crafted a descriptive definition of the new category of experiments and helped decide into which category each project should be placed.

The third task PROCESS helped expedite was a cold-flow experimental program to investigate the efficiency of small heavy-oil droplet removal from a gas stream in a transfer line of a fluid coker or flexicoker.  PROCESS examined transfer line drawings from a well-performing unit and calculated the droplet size that would likely pass through the various turns in the line at typical commercial conditions.  This information was then used to create a scale model transfer line flowing air with entrained water droplets that would give a similar droplet removal efficiency.  A design-of-experiments methodology was then used to pare down the number of actual experimental runs to be done with the apparatus so overall test program costs could be reduced.  PROCESS also suggested a different mechanism that could be causing the problems in the client’s poorly-performing units, which meant that the experimental results from this test program might not explain the performance differences seen in their commercial units.

Industry Type

  • Petroleum Oil & Gas Processing

Utilized Skills

  • Distillation packing selection
  • Design of experiments
  • Distillation research support

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