FCC Unit Blowers Respond to “Proactivity”

On Clark Refining’s Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit at the Port Arthur Texas Refinery, there are two blowers used to supply combustion air to the regenerator section during the “burning off” of residue on the fluid catalyst. In the past, machinist and operators in the refinery have gotten very adept at changing the drive couplings that broke down every eight months almost like clockwork. However, since learning the value of “proactivity” in doing plant maintenance, someone asked the question “Why do we keep having these failures?”

Plant RER (Rotating Equipment Reliability) group members decided to look into past records and determine when the drives and blowers were last aligned. To their amazement, it was discovered that according to records, they had never been aligned. It was decided that during the next available opportunity that an alignment would be performed on both units.

Shortly after that decision, an unplanned shutdown occurred and the machinist and RER groups got to work. As anyone who works in a refinery knows, an unplanned outage is not necessarily a good time to do preventive maintenance as everyone’s efforts are mainly aimed toward getting the unit back to the business of making sellable product. In this case, however, management realized that this might be time and money well spent as it might prevent the all-to-frequent unit charge cutbacks caused by the coupling failures and their associated repairs.

The alignments were performed in record time and the unit was returned to operation in March 1999 and since then, both blowers have operated to perfection. This is welcome news as the coupling change-outs were costing the refinery about $285,000/ yr. in lost productivity and maintenance cost. The couplings alone were $40,000 each!

This instance has helped teach everyone associated with the effort that being proactive is more than just a neat sounding catch phrase, there really is big money associated with “wiping out bugs”.