Process Equipment Malfunctions: Techniques to Identify and Correct Plant Problems
The training provided to the process operator and to the chemical or process engineer often does not seem to apply in the plant. It’s as if both formal education and training are irrelevant to actual process plant problems. The difficulty lies in an implied assumption made by instructors, professors, textbooks, and training manuals that the equipment is working correctly and within its normal operating range.
But in the real world, the process engineer and operating supervisor do not concern themselves with properly performing equipment. It’s the malfunctioning pumps, control valves, pressure transmitters, compressors, fractionators, and fired heaters that occupy their attention. To identify a malfunction, the technician must first understand the normal function of that equipment. Such understanding may come from training or experience. In this book, I’ve assumed that you already understand the basic operating principles of steam reboilers, air coolers, distillation trays, reciprocating compressors, knock-out drums, and heat exchangers.
A reasonably intelligent person can be taught to design, monitor, or operate correctly functioning process plants. Competent maintenance personnel can efficiently execute equipment repairs. But to identify and troubleshoot equipment malfunctions requires a different and higher level of understanding and analytical reasoning. In that sense, this text presents an advanced type of training not available in universities or operator training programs.
The information and ideas I’ve presented are based on my own 46 years of field experience. If I have not seen it myself, I have not included it in this book. The examples are drawn from my work in oil refineries and, to a lesser extent, petrochemical plants, LNG facilities, and gas field production.
If you have an erratic bottoms level, or a flooding fractionator, or a surging steam jet, this is the text that can help you, provided that you’re willing to go out into that noisy, hot, hostile, confusing, and evil-smelling world on the other side of your office door. And don’t forget your wrench, infrared surface temperature gun, screwed fittings, and pressure gauge.
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