Project Synopsis

Conduct a hydraulic study of a crude atmospheric furnace and reduce pressure drop in the furnace while maintaining throughput capacity. Also evaluate the crude supply and pre-heat train for pressure drop optimization.

Project Summary


The client operates an independent petroleum refinery in the Westerns U.S. The client hired Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) to conduct a hydraulic study of the crude atmospheric furnace with the objective of reducing pressure drop in the furnace while maintaining current throughput capacity. PROCESS evaluated the furnace for efficiency, flame patterns, tube metal temperatures, flue gas draft, process side pressure drop, and coking thickness.  PROCESS utilized this evaluation and data collection to develop and tune a hydraulic model of the furnace coils and transfer line using its licensed commercial process simulation software. PROCESS then utilized the model to develop options for reducing the process side pressure drop, including increasing the number of radiant section passes, increasing the coil outlet tubing size, increasing the number of convection section passes, increasing the convection section tube size, and increasing the transfer line size.  Each option was evaluated to ensure the tube velocity, heat flux, and tube metal temperatures were kept within normal crude furnace experience ranges and a cost/benefit analysis was conducted on the technically-feasible options.  PROCESS then worked with a fired heater manufacturer to confirm the results and provide a firm cost and schedule for the client’s approval.  Upon selection of the final design, PROCESS was commissioned to evaluate the crude supply and pre-heat train to determine pump impeller size modifications, control valve sizes, desalter operating pressure, and pressure relief valve (PRV) capacities to complete the process design and develop the scope of modifications.  The client was able to realize a 41% reduction in furnace inlet pressure while maintaining current crude throughput capacities.

This project was on a tight execution schedule in order to develop the scope of work for implementation during a maintenance turnaround period.  PROCESS was able to meet all schedule milestones and was under budget for the project.  The deliverables resulting from this project, including furnace hydraulic models, preliminary process flow diagrams (PFDs) for the recommended modifications, a comparison of the furnace performance to industry experience, an economic comparison of the available options, pump impeller modifications, control valve specification sheets, and relief valve specification sheets, were compiled in a project report submitted to the client.

Industry Type

  • Petroleum Refining Processes

Utilized Skills

  • Hydraulic modeling
  • Feed train optimization
  • Furnace optimization
  • Pressure drop minimization
  • Equipment specification

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