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Are Your Process Columns Ready for Winter?

Date: 12/18/21 | Author: AMACS Process Tower Internals | Category: Blog, Column Internals, Process Columns, Uncategorized |

Last year saw many of our clients facing severe unplanned shutdowns due to the Texas deep freeze. Equipment was damaged, production was shutdown, and lots of money was lost. You don’t want to get caught off guard again. So below we will help you answer: are your process columns ready for winter?

The Problem with Winter on Process Columns
Last year the deep freeze caused a huge issue with refineries, plants, and all sorts of industrial operations. For example, the nation’s largest refinery with a capacity of 630,000 barrels per day was shut down. In fact, there were rumors that the entire grid of Texas was just minutes away from being shut down for weeks or even months. The cost ended up being billions of dollars and over 200 lives lost. However, it wasn’t all bad. El Paso had properly winterized its systems and experienced minimal impact as its larger competitors went down.

How to Prepare Your Process Columns for Winter
Many factors can impact the performance of your towers such as:
– Feed conditions including state and composition of the feed as well as trace elements that can affect the VLE.
– Internal liquid and fluid flow conditions that can be affected by extreme weather.
– State of trays or packings which can be affected by a number of factors.

There are two general ways to prepare process columns for winter. Most distillation columns are open and exposed to the weather. Process columns may be insulated but extremely low temperatures can and will affect your operation. As a result, the reboiler must be appropriately sized. This is to ensure enough vapor is created for developing cold snaps. Additionally, the reboiler should also be able to be turned down during our hot Texas seasons. The same goes for your condensers.

Have a Backup Plan
In addition to properly preparing process columns for winter, you should also have a contractor in your area on hand should the worst happen. You don’t want to wait for your columns to go down to begin shopping around. Your contractor should be available 24/7/365, as well as know your system, be knowledgeable in your industry, and back up all their work.

AMACS is a leader in the Gulf Coast for assisting operations of all types with preparing process columns for winter by providing mass transfer and separation process internals. Contact us if you need emergency help with your columns.