A catalytic process unit can perform as expected, it can under-perform, or it can perform better than expected. The important thing here is to measure / monitor the performance of the unit regularly, to normalize the data, and to utilize the available performance of the unit to maximize the margin on the process, and in case the unit is under-performing to investigate swiftly how to restore profitable operation.
Unit monitoring is done regularly by the catalyst user looking after the unit on a daily basis, however, the depth of the analysis varies and we find that some rely heavily on the unit monitoring by the catalyst supplier. The catalyst supplier will look if the unit is performing as promised, give some recommendations, and give a forecast for remaining cycle length. This is usually done on a quarterly basis. A catalyst user is interested in a more frequent and more in-depth analysis on how to deploy the remaining activity of the catalyst for profit maximization day-by-day. To better assist the catalyst user, Catalyst Intelligence has developed a hydrotreater optimization tool, HydroScope, which can be used for unit monitoring and for performance predictions under different operating conditions. This model can be consulted daily or as often as the catalyst user wants. We also develop models for other catalytic processes. This allows catalyst users to make decisions about the catalyst deployment independent from the catalyst supplier.
In case a unit does not perform as expected, an underperformance investigation needs to be launched as soon as possible to determine the root cause and to develop a remedial action plan. The root cause may lie in the quality of the catalyst loaded, the loading procedures followed, the start-up or other factors determining catalyst efficiency. It is important to follow a systematic investigation strategy to eliminate potential causes one by one. The catalyst supplier will usually assist in the root cause investigation, specifying the data they would like to receive from the refiner or petrochemical plant.
Catalyst Intelligence can assist in collecting the necessary information and developing a remedial action plan. If the underperformance is due to actions that have occurred under the responsibility of the refiner or chemical plant it is important to find out what has happened and to ensure that such deviations from best practices do not reoccur during future operations. In case the under performance is catalyst related, Catalyst Intelligence can assist the refiner in issuing a claim against the catalyst supplier, and finding a mutually acceptable solution.
Since 2016, we have assisted several customers with under-performance investigations and found several root causes such as (prolonged) operation outside the guarantee conditions of the supplier, wrong selection of a catalyst for the unit by a supplier, faulty distributor trays in a hydrocracker by process licensor, as well as other causes. In case of an under-performance, the financial consequences are always for the catalyst user. We find the catalyst user is often late with involving our expertise and we only get involved when the catalyst user can no longer accept the losses and begins to look for a solution. This leads us to believe there is a lot of room for performance improvement and we would like to assist with regular unit monitoring. Whatever the cause of the under-performance, we want it to be fixed and we want it to never happen again.
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