Project Synopsis

Conduct a debottlenecking study of two reformer units and provide viable options for improvements based on the results of technical and economic evaluations.

Project Summary


The client, a subsidiary of an international petroleum and chemicals concern, contracted with Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) to conduct two separate expansion studies for their East Plant and West Plant refinery reformers at a mid-size USA refinery.  Specifically, for both studies, PROCESS executed the following tasks:

  • Plant test preparation
  • On-site plant test
  • Existing system process simulation preparation
  • Expansion alternatives technical and economic evaluations
  • Project review meeting.

The test preparation involved the transfer of the requisite operating and engineering data for the reformer for the development of test matrices to be used in the subsequent plant test.  The on-site test involved the recording of process information, with the reformer running at existing capacity, vital to identifying reformer bottlenecks in the subsequent plant study tasks.  The collected data included flows, temperatures, pressures, motor amps, and control valve positions, etc.  Additional equipment and engineering data were also gathered by PROCESS during the on-site test.  PROCESS then prepared a detailed process simulation of the existing reformer.  This simulation was used as the basis for the identification of system bottlenecks (reactor space velocity, column capacities, heat exchanger duties, furnace limitations, unit and piping hydraulics, and fractionation efficiencies) and the subsequent identification of debottlenecking solutions.  The alternatives evaluation involved the identification of equipment, instrument, and operating debottlenecking solutions, the technical screening of these potential solutions, and the technical and economic evaluation of the screened solutions.  Finally, a project review meeting was held with the client to discuss the evaluated alternatives and to assist the client in selecting the preferred debottlenecking solution(s).

Six (6) alternatives were developed for the East Plant that ranged from maintaining current capacity (but recovering hydrogen and light ends) to increasing capacity by 37% by modifying equipment, using existing plant equipment for reformer service, and/or adding new equipment.  Likewise, 6 alternatives were developed for the west plant that could potentially increase capacity by as much as 35%.

Industry Type

  • Petroleum Reforming

Utilized Skills

  • Process debottlenecking
  • Baseline throughput test plan development
  • Technical and alternatives evaluation study

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