Taking the heat: How hiring heat exchangers can save the bottom line

Heat exchangers are widely used in numerous industry sectors, but if they go wrong they can lead to production bottlenecks and loss of revenue.

Heat exchangers are prone to fouling or corrosion problems, which can develop gradually, or spring up without warning. If a plant isn’t prepared, it can mean shutting down a production line and capital expenditure running into the tens of thousands. Complete replacement of a heat exchanger can take three months or more.

Aggreko, the leading supplier of mobile power generation and temperature control equipment, is now hiring heat exchangers across all sectors of UK industry to prevent downtime and lost production – so that companies do not need to buy in new heat exchanger systems while repairs are made.

“Anywhere where there is a process involving a heat exchanger and an issue in terms of it fouling or failing, Aggreko can provide a rental solution, and has the capability to rapidly deliver exactly what the customer needs,” explains Chris Smith, head of temperature control, northern Europe, Aggreko.

Many process plants try to maximise production capacity. This is currently particularly true in the petrochemical refining industry, where the low price of crude oil means margins can be greater than normal. This also means systems are being pushed to their maximum, and can therefore fail suddenly, whatever the sector, whether petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, or general manufacturing.

Fouled heat exchangers can also limit a process unit’s operation, especially during the hot summer months, and cut down on efficiency. This is because process units experience cooling limitations due to warmer cooling tower water, or because dry coolers using the warmer ambient air become less effective. 

Any of these common problems can force a plant to reduce plant/unit rates, product quality, and consequently miss out on potential profit opportunities, or exceed permitted environmental limits, risking significant fines.  

  “One of our customers in the US, a leading ethylene oxide (EO) producer, was faced with a leaking recycle gas heat exchanger. As EO is a toxic substance regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency, emissions into the atmosphere were exceeding permitted limits,” said Chris

The producer ordered a replacement heat exchanger, but faced a long lead time of approximately 12 weeks until it arrived.

“The plant estimated that if it had to shut down, losses would be in the region of $700,000 in profit per day. Continuing to operate the leaking exchanger was not a viable option due to safety risks – and the potential for significant fines from the regulators. We developed a solution in only six days,” said Chris.

Aggreko’s solution was the installation of multiple 1,000-tonne cooling towers, 2,000 square feet shell and tube heat exchangers, high pressure pumps, and high pressure piping, custom made for the project to meet the EO producer’s welding specs.

The three-month installation enabled the plant to continue operations, resulting in $64,000,000 in profit that would otherwise have been lost.

In the UK, Aggreko’s 40-strong team of engineers will tailor heat exchangers of any size to a specific plant and deliver the solution within a day or two, to prevent bottlenecks and allow equipment to be repaired without excessive capital expenditure. The company has servicing bases across Britain and Ireland. The input of its network of specialist engineers across the globe is also on hand if required.

Aggreko also offers a disaster recovery service, where an engineer surveys a customer’s plant and identifies the consequences of heat exchanger failure and the temporary solution needed to get the process back up and running as quickly as possible.

Chris added: “Our contingency planning service means that if something goes wrong, we already understand their technology in detail, so can implement a temporary fix quickly, while a long-term solution is found. For the manufacturer, this level of proactive planning can mean reductions in insurance premiums over time as it demonstrates they are doing everything they can to avoid a production shutdown.”

Aggreko also continuously updates its fleet of heat exchangers to ensure the latest designs are available. In the US, there is a massive petrochemical industry, but in Britain the company is developing heat exchanger hire across a number of sectors, including food and beverage, manufacturing, and pharma.

 “There is massive potential here for manufacturing and process companies to avoid costly production bottlenecks and capital expenditure on new equipment. At a time when manufacturers need to be as efficient as possible, Aggreko can help them avoid some of the pitfalls of heat exchanger failure,” said Chris.

Further information: www.aggreko.co.uk


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A writer working in the field of business energy management, renewable energy and clean technology. Communications specialist working for global energy management services group ENER-G.

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