Tracerco’s FCCU Study saves millions in lost production


Leading industrial technology specialist Tracerco, part of the Johnson Matthey Group, has successfully completed a project with an Australian refiner to perform an operational study of its Fluidised Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) reactor which was experiencing problems carrying over catalyst into the main fractionator tower.

The contract was valued at over £150,000, though the value of its findings to the customer resulted in a multifold return on this investment.

An FCC Unit is a key component in the refinery process and in order to fully understand and optimise its efficiency and performance, a FCCU study was carried out. As part of its process diagnostics portfolio of services, a TRACERCO Diagnostics™ FCCU study utilises the placement of sensitive radiation detectors placed at strategic locations around the unit. By injecting a compatible radioactive tracer, it is possible to determine the efficiency of riser termination devices, cyclones or distribution devices along with many other residence times, velocities and distributions through the riser and stripping section, ultimately providing the customer with ‘insight onsite’.

Tracerco was able to quickly determine that a blocked cyclone dip-leg was the probable cause of carry-over. It also identified a slight vapour maldistribution in the riser and gross steam maldistribution in the stripper caused by missing feed nozzles and damage to the lower stripping steam distribution ring, respectively. This allowed the customer to order replacement parts and have confidence in the problems expected to be found in the forthcoming planned shutdown. The insight derived from the TRACERCO Diagnostics™ study allowed precision planning and preparation for mechanical repairs reducing shutdown cost and duration and generating a significant financial benefit for the operator.

Following start up of the system, Tracerco completed a repeat study to gain a set of baseline data for future reference and with the exception of a layer of static catalyst in the bottom of the spent catalyst standpipe, found the reactor to be operating efficiently with no major process or mechanical malfunctions. Future studies would allow the customer to trend changes in process performance over time.

Tracerco project manager Matt Wilson said: “We are delighted this project has been a major success. It reiterates our expertise as a solution provider in this field and our ability to work quickly and efficiently to identify issues, ultimately saving the customer significant production costs. We look forward to carrying out further tests in the future to ensure the safety and efficiency of this FCC system.”

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