GE helps an oil refiner optimize a reformer process

An oil refinery located in Eastern Canada is capable of producing of more than 300,000 barrels of refined products per day. The refiner had concerns about the performance and accuracy of trace moisture measurement in their catalytic reforming unit. Moisture is a contaminant in the both the feed stock and hydrogen recycle gas streams and has adverse impacts on the operation. So controlling the moisture concentration remains critical for optimized operations and maximized reaction yields from the reformer unit. 

Excess moisture can:

  • Damage or deplete the specialty catalyst used in the reformer
  • Reduce the yield of valuable end products produced by the reaction in the reformer
  • Increase both downtime and operating cost by having to regenerate the catalyst more frequently
  • Potentially cause permanent damage to the specialty catalyst, typically platinum-based, which would require replacement costing upwards of a million dollars. 

The refiner used a contact-based moisture sensor to monitor the moisture in the hydrogen recycle stream. Because the existing technology contacted the fluid, corrosion issues occurred, reducing the reliability of the measurement and causing process slowdowns and quality issues in the production process. In addition, the hydrogen recycle gas stream contains chloride-based components, that combined with water vapor, produce hydrochloric acid (HCl). HCl is corrosive to conventional contact-based trace moisture sensors and detrimental to performance.

After performing a technical analysis of the application with the engineering and operation staff at the refinery, GE recommended replacing the existing contact-based moisture sensor technology with sensor technology based on tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS). Because the TDLAS sensor is a non-contact measurement and all wetted surfaces on the sample system and absorption cell are constructed of inert materials, the system remains essentially immune to contamination from HCI.

TDLAS technology has a proven track record in oil and gas applications. No maintenance or field calibration is required with TDLAS and costly consumables, such as calibration gas or permeation tubes, are not required. 

GE’s TDLAS product, the Aurora, is an entire moisture measurement system that is turnkey, easy to install, program, and operate. To learn more about Aurora and TDLAS technology in hydrogen recycle applications, read this informative white paper.

After using GE’s Aurora for a six-month trial, the refiner indicated a high satisfaction with its performance and noted some key operational benefits:

  • Getting reliable, drift-free measurement without the need for calibration gases or consumables, saving an estimated $10,000 plus 60 hours/year in labor costs associated with maintaining quartz microbalances. 
  • Eliminating the cost of purchasing new moisture probes, stocking an inventory of spare moisture probes, and calibrating existing moisture probes, avoiding an estimated $10,000/year plus 30 hours/year in labor costs and the logistical costs of shipping probes to a calibration lab.
  • Increasing uptime of the reformer unit and enhancing reformate product yield, potentially amounting to millions of dollars. 

To understand GE’s TDLAS solutions for moisture measurement with our Aurora product line, click here.

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