Maintaining Heat Exchanger Performance to Sustain Production

By Jeremiah Wooten, Managing Partner at Inspectioneering. November 9, 2015
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Inspectioneering recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Brian Fahnestock, Vice President – South Business Unit at Aggreko, a global leader in power, heating, cooling, and oil-free compressor rental solutions. Mr. Fahnestock has been with the company since 2011 and is responsible for managing the company’s Petrochemical and Refining business, which focuses on helping operators address a number of challenges including seasonal process cooling limitations, emergency cooling tower replacement, and temporary cooling during repairs and turnarounds. Our discussion touched on heat exchanger issues in the refining and petrochemical sectors and how temporary solutions can help mitigate the damage should a problem arise.  We hope you find the exchange both interesting and informative.

When have you seen heat exchangers really limit a plant’s operation?

BF:  During normal operation, heat exchangers are often a bottleneck since they can foul (degrade), leak, or experience corrosion problems.  These problems can be sudden or develop slowly over time.  Many process plants are trying to maximize production capacity.   Given that they are usually operating far beyond what they were designed for, heat exchangers can be a bottleneck to increasing throughput or maintaining product split.

Heat exchangers can also limit a process unit’s operation during the hot summer months.  That’s because process units can experience cooling limitations, due to warmer cooling tower water or because fin/fans have become less effective. 

Any of these common problems can force a plant to reduce plant/unit rates, miss out on potential profit opportunities, or exceed permitted environmental limits at the risk of significant fines. 

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