GE is developing an advanced integrated solution that will drive greater productivity, product consistency and improved production rates for ethylene manufacturers worldwide. The sense-diagnose-remediate system tracks the build-up of fouling deposits on charge gas compressors in ethylene manufacturing lines, deposits that can greatly reduce manufacturing efficiency or force unplanned shutdown of the plant production if left to grow unchecked. The system will be installed for demonstration at PKN Orlen, one of the world’s leading ethylene manufacturers, until the end of 2012, after which GE plans to commercialize the system throughout the industry.
The new fiber optic sensors integrated with machine monitoring and diagnostics technology enable plant managers to operate the unit more smoothly and for a longer time even in the presence of wide fluctuations in production requirements. In addition, this solution enables higher flexibility in feedstock selection—a common requirement in today’s unstable market.
“We have had companies talk to us about bits and pieces of an anti-fouling solution in the past, but GE’s complete solution is the first that offers the consistent, repeatable improvements that we can rely on,” said Wojciech Jakubowski, PKN Orlen Ethylene Plant manager.
Ethylene is the building block of nearly all plastic items we use every day. It is produced through a thermal cracking reaction that essentially consists of bringing the feedstock—most commonly ethane and naphtha—to a high temperature so that the molecules are broken down and rearranged, thus forming ethylene as well as several other by-products.
“Making ethylene with high efficiency and low energy consumption isn’t easy,” said Ed J. Boufarah, global general manager, GE Petrochemicals Solutions. “We knew that if we could find a way to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing operation, we could bring tangible benefits to our customers by enabling them to be more competitive. So we assembled a team of engineering, petrochemical and process experts from throughout GE to make it happen.”
The GE team tackled one of the most common problems that vex ethylene manufacturing: compressor fouling. As the gas leaving the cracking section of the plant is pushed through the compressors, the highly reactive by-products that it contains begin to form gum-type deposits. As the amount of blockage grows, more and more energy is required to process the material. If undetected, this inefficiency will increase manufacturing costs until the fouling eventually forces the shutdown of the entire process.
In a typically sized ethylene production plant, each 1 percent efficiency gain can save between $300,000 and $500,000 per year or more, depending on local energy costs.
The new technology, developed at the GE Global Research Center, uses advanced fiber optic sensor technology to monitor foulant build up, cracked hydrocarbon gas composition and machine-operation conditions. Then, depending on the nature and composition, the system washes the affected area with the appropriate wash-oil/antipolymerant mix to reduce its size and severity. GE’s engineering team also improved machine design, added preventative coatings to at-risk parts and improved the continuous water injection used to slow product buildup.
About PKN Orlen
PKN Orlen (orlen.pl/EN) is a regional leader of the refinery and petrochemical industry, a leading producer and dealer of refinery and petrochemical products. The company processes crude oil into unleaded petrol, diesel fuel, furnace oil, aviation fuel, plastics and petrochemical products.
PKN Orlen has refineries in Poland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. The company’s refinery and petrochemical facilities located in Płock are ranked among the most modern and effective facilities of the kind in Europe. With the largest fuel station network in Central Europe, covering Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, ORLEN retail network is based on an effective logistics infrastructure consisting of over and underground storage facilities and a network of long-distance pipelines.
As of the end of 2009, the number of ORLEN Group employees totaled 22,535 people.
GE (ge.com) is an advanced technology, services and finance company taking on the world’s toughest challenges. Dedicated to innovation in energy, health, transportation and infrastructure, GE operates in more than 100 countries and employs about 300,000 people worldwide.
GE also serves the energy sector by providing technology and service solutions that are based on a commitment to quality and innovation. The company continues to invest in new technology solutions and grow through strategic acquisitions to strengthen its local presence and better serve customers around the world. The businesses that comprise GE Energy—GE Power & Water, GE Energy Management and GE Oil & Gas—work together with more than 90,000 global employees and 2010 revenues of $38 billion, to provide integrated product and service solutions in all areas of the energy industry including coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy; renewable resources such as water, wind, solar and biogas; as well as other alternative fuels and new grid modernization technologies to meet 21st century energy needs.
Gina DeRossi, Masto Public Relations
P: +1 518 786 6488 / E: Gina.derossi[.]mastopr.com.
Howard Masto, Masto Public Relations
P: +1 518 786 6488 / E: howard.masto[.]ge.com.
GE news, Masto Public Relations / E: information[.]mastopr.com.