A refinery owner needed a faster and safer method to breakout their Delayed Coker Unit (DCU) flanges. The DCU cycled from 150°F to 900°F every 18 hours and breakout had traditionally been a challenge. Using conventional methods they had up to 75% of the bolts seize. A torch was used to burn off the nuts and hardware was replaced every time. Not only was using an open flame on a live unit dangerous, but it was also unpredictable and likely to result in project creep. The total process would sometimes end with a full shift of delays.
In an effort to address these challenges, they decided to install Pop-Washer™ technology on the overhead vapor lines of the DCU. Since installation, they haven’t had a single nut seize in over 500 activations and 1,000,000 hours of combined usage. This has been a major change, as the refinery used to spend 1,400 man-hours fighting these flanges annually. It cost them $56,000 in labor, $19,000 in standby, and $51,000 in hardware annually to break them out every three months. Once they eliminated their galling issues, it brought total direct costs down from $126,000 to $13,200. Along with the financial benefits, they have also eliminated the challenges, uncertainty, and risk they previously accepted as standard procedure.
We’ve got to fight the “it’s just nuts and bolts” mentality. For this refinery, the nuts and bolts of the overhead lines used to result in serious costs – over 1,400 man-hours and $126,000 annually – to address an issue that is avoidable. There are better ways. The bottom line of this case study is simply that galling is expensive, but it can be prevented.
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