July 2001

Distillation/Refining

Diagnose flooding columns efficiently

Using field pressure data, a refiner made a low-capital modification on a crude distillation column to increase throughput without a shutdown

Barletta, T., Nigg, J., Process Consulting Services, Inc.; Landry, W., Mayfield, J., Ruoss, S., Tosco Refining Co.

Flooding of the crude distillation unit (CDU) adversely impacts a refinery's profits. Such conditions force crude charge reductions, downgrading of product draws, etc. Consequently, the CDU operates under stress. Determining the root cause for the flooding is another obstacle that a refiner must overcome. Incorrect diagnosis of the flooding source can be equally as damaging as the root cause. Gathering valid field data is vital when understanding the dynamics occurring within the crude column. Proper interpretation of the data is also required to determine the best recourse to correct the problem. In this case history, a

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