Inspectioneering Journal

What Is Refractory?

Its Uses / Installation Methods / Anchoring Systems

By Jackson Espinoza, Refractory Division Manager at Sentinel Integrity Solutions. This article appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


What is refractory? This is a question I am frequently asked when I tell people what I do. I often say it’s a manmade rock and depending upon the type has various degrees of resistance to heat, abrasion, and chemical attack. Of course refractory is a little more complex than this over-simplified response.

Refractory has been used for temperature control since as early as the Bronze Age (circa 4000 BC). During this time, refractory came in the form of a pit dug in the soil that was used to fire earthenware (a low-fired pottery). The soil used was found to be resistant to heat and did not deform, which is the main purpose of refractory. Refractory can be defined as a non-metallic material with both chemical and physical properties that make them applicable for structures exposed to environments above 1000ËšF.

Today, refractories are used in many different industries around the world, such as: petroleum refining, petrochemicals, power generation, cement, metals and mining, and many more. These refractories are used as a critical component inside high temperature processing equipment. For example, in fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) units in oil refineries, refractory is primarily used for its abrasion and heat resistant properties. It is also used for its chemical and heat resistant properties in other processing units such as sulfur recovery units.


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