Dec 20, 2015

Optimized maintenance strategy maximizes PSA unit availability

Damien Ferrone
Damien Ferrone
Service Project Manager

The availability of a pressure swing adsorption (PSA) unit was becoming a major concern for a French refinery in 2009. Constant failures within the unit’s systems were leading to a huge loss of revenue annually caused by unplanned shutdowns. Additionally, plans called for the unit to be expanded to meet the refinery’s growing needs.

Neles valves in a plant

The PSA unit in any petrochemical plant, which operates to purify hydrogen for the refinery, is an extremely demanding process for industrial gas. The process requires perfect tightness with high cycling, a fast response time and short shutdowns. Therefore, the reliability of the valves used in a PSA unit process is of utmost importance and requires a special focus on maintenance programs and the availability of spare parts.

Trusted partnership

To find a solution, this French refinery wanted a partner that could ensure reliable operation of the PSA unit, guarantee top-level safety, optimize maintenance costs and anticipate failures. The company had carried out point-to-point analysis earlier but wanted to improve its maintenance through the use of diagnostics.

man with helmet

Over the years, Neles had proven itself as a trusted partner for the refinery when conducting valve condition checks upon request. The customer’s positive experience led it to select Neles again to provide a comprehensive maintenance strategy for the plant’s PSA unit. Moreover, Neles’ field-proven results in the sector and years of product and spare part expertise were additional reasons for being chosen.

Neles solution

As a first step to improve the plant’s reliability and avoid unplanned shutdowns, Neles carried out a complete valve condition analysis. The audit at the customer’s site covered checking all devices, identifying obsolete devices and recommending upgrades. Then Neles proposed and implemented a full maintenance strategy that included diagnostics, repairs and spare parts.

As a result of the audit, Neles overhauled and upgraded the 60 existing valves with the latest Neles SwitchGuard SG9000, high-cycle kits and ND9000 valve controllers. An additional 36 valves were delivered for the PSA unit expansion, making all valves now interchangeable to meet the refinery’s high reliability requirements. Since replacement in 2009, the refinery has no longer experienced any unplanned shutdowns due to a failure in the PSA unit.

In addition, the advanced device and asset management software Neles FieldCare™ PRO was chosen for the PSA unit to monitor the valves’ condition at all times. FieldCare provides an accurate flow of information during all stages of a production process. Based on the data FieldCare provides, the refinery can manage all maintenance activities, ensuring sufficient time to order spare parts and plan for service operations, which lowers its cost of ownership.

A total of 24 new valves were also delivered to cover one bed while having another complete set in stock in case a failure occurs when repairing the first set. The spare valves are owned by the customer. One set is kept on site while the other is being maintained by Neles.

Regular training during each visit is included in the maintenance agreement with Neles to keep the refinery’s staff updated. 

Damien Ferrone, Service Sales Engineer at Neles comments on the results: “For the years since the implementation of the upgrades and monitoring solutions, no unplanned shutdowns have occurred at the customer’s PSA unit. Before the implementation, the refinery was losing a few million euros in revenue in 2007 and 2008. Today, our valves are operating reliably and run some 750,000 cycles each year. Additionally, we have been able to raise the level of safety for the plant’s personnel and surrounding community.”

Customer support

“Thanks to our customized maintenance strategy, our customer is now able to monitor the valve condition constantly and prioritize day-to-day actions,” he continues. “Spare part needs and maintenance plans are now clearly defined, which helps prevent failures and reduce downtime in case of a shutdown. As a result, maintenance intervals have been extended to 2.5 years and maintenance activities can be conducted without stopping production.”

To accurately determine the equipment’s state on a consistent basis, a skilled Neles technician visits the refinery four times a year to analyze the data and give recommendations according to the device criticality and defined maintenance plan.

Based on the spare parts consumption history and criticality analysis recommendations, Neles makes certain that the refinery has optimal inventory for its PSA unit. By removing obsolete items and stocking just the necessary spares, it has been possible to further optimize maintenance costs. Today, all the spare parts are included in the customer management system. Orders are placed automatically so Neles can fill the stock when needed. 

The refinery not only has been able to reach high reliability for its PSA unit, it has also benefited from increased safety levels, optimized maintenance costs and anticipated failures. This approach is part of the Neles way to be a truly long-lasting partner, supporting its customers at all times.

Previously published in Petroleum Technology Quarterly Q1/2016, Technology in Action section.

This text has been up-dated in July 2020, due to company name change to Neles.

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