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Corrosion problems and prevention


Petroleum refineries run as efficiently as possible to reduce costs. One major factor that decreases efficiency is corrosion of the metal components found throughout the process line of the hydrocarbon refining process. Corrosion causes the failure of parts in addition to dictating the cleaning schedule of the refinery, during which the entire production facility must be shut down and cleaned. The cost of corrosion in the petroleum industry has been estimated at US$3.7 billion.[10]

Corrosion occurs in various forms in the refining process, such as pitting corrosion from water droplets, embrittlement from hydrogen, and stress corrosion cracking from sulfide attack.[11] From a materials standpoint, carbon steel is used for upwards of 80% of refinery components, which is beneficial due to its low cost. Carbon steel is resistant to the most common forms of corrosion, particularly from hydrocarbon impurities at temperatures below 205 C, but other corrosive chemicals and environments prevent its use everywhere. Common replacement materials are low alloy steels containing chromium and molybdenum, with stainless steels containing more chromium dealing with more corrosive environments. More expensive materials commonly used are nickel, titanium, and copper alloys. These are primarily saved for the most problematic areas where extremely high temperatures or very corrosive chemicals are present.[12]

Corrosion is fought by a complex system of monitoring, preventative repairs and careful use of materials. Monitoring methods include both off-line checks taken during maintenance and on-line monitoring. Off-line checks measure corrosion after it has occurred, telling the engineer when equipment must be replaced based on the historical information he has collected. This is referred to as preventative management.

On-line systems are a more modern development, and are revolutionizing the way corrosion is approached. There are several types of on-line corrosion monitoring technologies such as linear polarization resistance, electrochemical noise and electrical resistance. On-Line monitoring has generally had slow reporting rates in the past (minutes or hours) and been limited by process conditions and sources of error but newer technologies can report rates up to twice per minute with much higher accuracy (referred to as real-time monitoring). This allows process engineers to treat corrosion as another process variable that can be optimized in the system. Immediate responses to process changes allow the control of corrosion mechanisms, so they can be minimized while also maximizing production output.[13] In an ideal situation having on-line corrosion information that is accurate and real-time will allow conditions that cause high corrosion rates to be identified and reduced. This is known as predictive management.

Materials methods include selecting the proper material for the application. In areas of minimal corrosion, cheap materials are preferable, but when bad corrosion can occur, more expensive but longer lasting materials should be used. Other materials methods come in the form of protective barriers between corrosive substances and the equipment metals. These can be either a lining of refractory material such as standard Portland cement or other special acid-resistant cements that are shot onto the inner surface of the vessel. Also available are thin overlays of more expensive metals that protect cheaper metal against corrosion without requiring lots of material.

In the 1800s, refineries in the U.S. processed crude oil primarily to recover the kerosene. There was no market for the more volatile fraction, including gasoline, which was considered waste and was often dumped directly into the nearest river. The invention of the automobile shifted the demand to gasoline and diesel, which remain the primary refined products today. Today, national and state legislation requires refineries to meet stringent air and water cleanliness standards. In fact, oil companies in the U.S. perceive obtaining a permit to build a modern refinery to be so difficult and costly that no new refineries have been built (though many have been expanded) in the U.S. since 1976. More than half the refineries that existed in 1981 are now closed due to low utilization rates and accelerating mergers. As a result of these closures total US refinery capacity fell between 1981 to 1995, though the operating capacity stayed fairly constant in that time period at around 15,000,000 barrels per day (2,400,000 m3/d).[ In 2009 through 2010, as revenue streams in the oil business dried up and profitability of oil refineries fell due to lower demand for product and high reserves of supply preceding the economic recession, oil companies began to close or sell refineries. Due to EPA regulations, the costs associated with closing a refinery are very high, meaning that many former refineries are repurposed.


Date: 2015-12-17; view: 771

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