The Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Company, part of the SABIC group, has constructed what is one of the largest petrochemical plants in the world: Kelvion PHE has provided 110 of its powerful Kelvion NT Series heat exchangers in what was the company’s largest single order, to keep the plant cool, even in the heat of the Saudi desert. The project started over six years ago and is now close to going into full production. When it’s up to its full operating capacity later this year the Saudi Kayan petrochemical complex in Al-Jubail in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will have several plants operating including an ethane/butane cracker capable of distilling two million tonnes per year; a polyethylene plant producing around 700,000 tonnes a year; a polypropylene plant designed for 350,000 tonnes a year; and a 530,000-tonnes ethylene glycol unit. The factory will also include a plant for the production of speciality amine derivatives. As well expanding the range of products produced in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Kayan intends to establish an application centre which will focus on the development of industrial products and applications.
Kelvion PHE is the main supplier of plate heat exchangers for the plant. The heat exchangers are required to provide process cooling water to keep all the plants within the complex operating efficiently. This would be a difficult problem in any environment, but in Saudi Arabia, with summer ambient air temperatures touching 50°C, and no fresh cooling water available, the task takes on another dimension. Erik Petersen is the representative for Kelvion PHE in the Saudi Kayan plant and is the company’s service manager based in Dubai. “The summer time temperature makes a lot of difference to the efficiency of the system,” he said. Water temperatures in the Persian Gulf in summer can reach as high as 36°C. The return water from the plant is to about 50°C. The plant lies on the banks of the Persian Gulf which provides a ready supply of sea water for cooling. The water travels through the whole of the Al-Jubail industrial complex in purpose-built open channels that feed water towers. The authorities forbid any water treatment as, after use, it is discharged directly into the sea. The use of sea water, however, has required Kelvion PHE to supply heat exchangers with titanium plates to resist the corrosiveness of the sea water cooling medium. Kelvion won the contract both because of the excellent technology built into the NT 350L plate heat exchangers and because of its ability to guarantee a reliable source for the 520 tonnes of titanium required for their construction.
NT Series is a gasketed plate heat exchanger designed for multiple applications. The 110 units supplied to Al-Jubail are NT 350L units with 350 mm connections and a throughput of 1,900m3/hour. They are part of a new generation of plate heat exchangers from Kelvion PHE that provide high throughout with low cost investment, operation and maintenance. They were the largest in the range at the time the Al-Jubail plant was planned. The optimized plate design requires less heat transfer surface area for the same capacity and brings about a lasting reduction of investment costs. New installation and glueless EcoLoc gasket technologies make maintenance easier and ensure a perfect fit of the gasket and plate pack thereby avoiding damage and extending the service life of the equipment. The optimized wave configuration – called OptiWave - results in ideal flow across the entire plate width, guaranteeing maximum heat transfer rates. Fouling is also a potential problem when using sea water contaminated with shells, crustaceans, molluscs, and other sea creatures. Left unchecked this fouling will interfere with the operation of the heat exchangers and could, under extreme circumstances, cause the plant to overheat. Erik Petersen explained that the whole plant is so large that it’s difficult to monitor the operation of the individual heat exchangers, with existing installed instruments. “Saudi Kayan just has an overview of the entire system. It’s our job to monitor the performance of each heat exchanger and to spot any signs of fouling that could interfere with their efficient operation,” he explained. “We concentrate on preventing problems before they happen.” The cooling for the plant runs on two loops. Currently loop one is running close to full capacity; loop two is at around 40% capacity as not all the plants within the complex are operating. “For the time being we are doing full checks on all the heat exchangers to build up a pattern of how they are coping with the fouling. In time it might be possible to drop these checks back to every 9 or 12 months. Kelvion PHE is contracted directly to Saudi Kayan. Erik Petersen said that the success of the project has largely been due to the effective communication between his company and his customer ever since the order was placed over six years ago. “It’s a real partnership,” he said, “We work as a team to solve problems as they come up. There is a genuine spirit of co-operation here.”
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