SulfurUnit.com (a division of Refining Community) recently performed onsite trainings, audits and shutdown inspections within several plants in North America and Asia. We were able to identify issues, both big and small, and provide our recommendations to improve each specific SRU plant’s operation.
As we all know, environmental regulations are now increasingly strict about emissions. The Sulfur Recovery Unit (Claus Unit and TGU) is the last line of defense for both refineries and gas plants. If the SRU is not operated properly, then the plant might experience reduced sulfur recovery efficiency which can lead to a hefty penalty and environmental issues.
Some refineries and gas plants tend to overlook their SRU operations since it is not a money maker. However, when SRU is down, other Processing Units will either be down or be reduced in capacity. When you see an obvious problem in SRU, it is probably already too late and the unit needs to be shut down for maintenance.
One example would be the Optical Pyrometer. Sometimes it can read low because of sulfur film formation and/or debris accumulation inside the port. So if the plant is trying to achieve at least 1250°C during normal run, the tendency is that they are running 1450°C. Industry practice is to have an adequate purging to clear the port and prevent the sulfur film from forming. It is still, however, recommended that manual cleaning be included on the Preventive Maintenance list. Operators should also include a visual inspection in their routine check to make sure that the optical pyrometer is always free from blockage. A handheld optical pyrometer can be used to verify the Reaction Furnace Temperature.
During one recent SRU plant inspection, the reaction furnace checker wall and ferrules were damaged due to high temperature exposure. Their operating data indicated that the plant was maintaining between 1200°C – 1300°C. However, during the walk-through, it was found out that the optical pyrometer was misaligned and the port had a significant amount of debris.
A proactive approach is always the best way to operate the Sulfur Recovery Unit. Onsite Audit and Testing Results are always good information to have so the operations team can act on items that need attention. Operator Training, like the SRU Process and Troubleshooting, TGU Review course, is necessary to equip the staff with the knowledge and techniques to operate the plant for optimum operations. Attending conferences, such as RefComm® Budapest or RefComm® Galveston 2018, provide the staff with new troubleshooting techniques that other refineries/gas plant have already implemented.
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