Recent Projects

Posted on: April 6th, 2011 by n0rtnEngnr

Butyl Rubber Projects

Project type – Process Development | Planning | Process Design

Project summary – A long time petrochemical client contracted Norton Engineering to assist with planning grass roots Poly-isobutylene Projects based on the client’s proprietary technology in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Norton Engineering personnel worked as part of the client’s team during development of the FEL-2 and FEL-3 design packages.

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Chief tasks of the design teams

  1. development of process improvements in the slurry liquid recovery and purification section
  2. incorporation of proprietary reactor internals upgrades in the design
  3. assessment of direct devolatilization strategies to replace conventional stripping and drying operations
  4. development of design heat & material balances

Norton’s engineers have successfully redesigned the slurry liquid recovery and purification section reducing energy consumption and improving the quality of the liquid returned to the reaction section. The changes did not adversely affect the investment cost of this section of the plant.

The client wished to incorporate recent experience they had gained from fabrication and operation of a reactor using enhanced heat transfer surface technology, which was designed by Engineering for this client previously. Several changes were made to the previous reactor design to facilitate manufacture and reduce cost without sacrificing performance.

Several direct devolatilization strategies, used in the manufacture of other like polymers were assessed. The length of the development cycle for direct devolatilization technology for this application was too long for it to be included in these projects. Incentives identified in the initial technology assessment are promising and the client is considering development of this technology in the future.

Norton Engineering developed final design heat and material balances (PROII) for the client’s use during process and detailed design of the facilities. During the development of the process models several inconsistencies were identified and resolved in the polymer thermodynamic data base by Norton’s engineers.

Norton Engineering’s work was successfully concluded on both projects and the client has come back to us requesting assistance in design optimization for several components of these plants.

EPDM Project

Project type – Process Development | Planning | Process Design | Project Follow-up | Start-up Assistance

Project summary – Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Company contracted Norton Engineering Consultants, Inc. to assist with upgrading previously developed catalyst and process technology for the production of Ethylene-Propylene and Ethylene-Propylene-Diene Rubber (EPR and EPDM respectively). In addition Norton Engineering was also tasked with reviewing the status of BYPC’s technology and determining if it was sufficient to develop a process design for a 40 kta commercial plant and to build a plant in parallel with further process technology development. BYPC’s interest in fast track updating and commercializing this technology is a direct result of recent growth in domestic demand for EPR and EPDM and future projections for sustained growth.

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Norton’s engineers and technical specialists reviewed BYPC’s technology and previous pilot plant data and determined that it was possible to design and guarantee the performance of an EPR/EPDM plant based on available data. At the same time, Norton Engineering also recommended that BYPC develop a pilot plant based on an adiabatic reactor system to develop commercial size batches of products for market trials and to develop operating targets for the commercial plant to manufacture the most desirable EPR/EPDM grades tested. The pilot plant design (in progress as of this writing) is based on the commercial scale design prepared by Norton Engineering.

Norton Engineering completed a FEL-2 quality design basis covering the EPR/EPDM manufacturing process and vetting monomer recovery options, refrigeration system options, finishing equipment options and air and water pollution control requirements. The FEL-2 package also identified preliminary utility loads and set the basis for contractual guarantees for energy consumption, raw materials consumption, on-spec throughput, waste water discharge quantity and quality, air emissions and on-site heat and material balance accuracy.

Upon completion of the FEL-2 design package in October 2010, Norton Engineering began working on the FEL-3 process design package which was completed and issued on May 31, 2011. Key portions of the plant designed during this phase included:

  1. Adiabatic reaction system including feed control, compositional control, feed chilling systems, reactor internals, reactor mixing and safety systems.
  2. Contactors for reaction stop and deashing; separators and gel traps.
  3. Monomer flashing and recovery systems including fully integrated ethylene and propylene compression and drying systems.
  4. Solvent separation, recovery, drying and purification systems.
  5. Polymer dewatering and drying systems.
  6. Product packaging facilities.
  7. Wastewater treatment facilities to remove vanadium and aluminum compounds.
  8. Propylene refrigeration system and other onsite utilities including a dedicated low pressure steam system.
  9. Safety systems including automated emergency shutdown systems, over fill protection systems, hazardous materials safety systems and over-pressure protection systems.
  10. All required DCS and local control components were defined.

As designed the EPR/EPDM plant that BYPC will build in 2011 is a state-of-the art facility capable of producing a broad range of EPR and EPDM grades with world class product quality and minimum emissions to air and water. The plant is also highly efficient and minimizes water usage.
In June 2011, Norton Engineering prepared and issued operating guidelines for the plant which included: start-up; shut-down; normal and upset conditions.

Norton Engineering will perform process follow-up during the detailed design phase of the project and will participate in Hazardous Operations Reviews (HAZOP) during the detailed engineering phase. Norton Engineering will also provide technical support during plant start-up in 2012.

FCC CO Boiler Reconditioning, saves client $150,000,000

Project type – Consultation on FCCU Emissions Control Project | CO Boiler Mechanical Evaluation | CO Boiler Performance Evaluation & Field Testing | Mechanical Component Design | Turnaround Planning | Field Supervision

Project summary – A large gulf coast refinery was developing a Fluid Catalytic Cracker (FCC) emissions control project with a major multi-national engineering company. The engineering company recommended installing a new 1,500klb/hr, 600psig CO Boiler and ancillary equipment designed to withstand 3-5 psig flue gas back pressure. The installed cost of the new CO Boiler was estimated to be in excess of $150,000,000 representing over 60% of the total project cost. The client wanted another opinion and contacted Norton Engineering.

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After evaluating the existing CO Boilers (built in 1969), and the emissions control options recommended by the client’s engineering company, Norton Engineering identified several low cost upgrades to increase the flue gas side design pressure of the existing CO boilers and further recommended a change in scrubber technology to reduce the boiler back pressure resulting from the installation of downstream pollution control equipment. The changes to the project scope (different scrubbing equipment) and the boiler upgrade / reconditioning work, which cost less than $5,000,000, were successfully implemented in 2008/2009 saving the client over $150,000,000 in capital expenditures.

Chief tasks in execution of this project included

  1. A detailed mechanical evaluation of the original Combustion Engineering boiler design to determine the flue gas side pressure capability of all envelope components including: water walls, buck-stays, roof supports, floor supports, flue gas ducting, CO gas ducting, wind boxes, FD fans, etc.
  2. Development of mechanical designs for increasing the stiffness of buck-stays, roof and floor supports and the strength of corner brackets.
  3. Assessment of boiler performance including field testing to determine operating limits for maximum steam production and idling one boiler while the FCC continued to operate.
  4. Development of detailed boiler performance model, allowing evaluation of off-design operating conditions to support refinery turnaround planning, steam system optimization and allow evaluation of future FCC operating scenarios.
  5. Development of detailed execution plans for field work to be accomplished during an FCC turnaround.
  6. Evaluation of boiler CO gas control and bypass systems including redesign of automatic atmospheric vent system and components.
  7. Redesign of CO boiler expansion joints to allow minimum effort, minimum cost, quick replacement.
  8. Technical support / supervision of turnaround field labor for initial inspections, determining the scope of work necessary for reconditioning items found during initial discovery inspections, designing and supervising fabrication of replacement parts as needed, inspecting and approving field work.
  9. Review of the project scope as proposed by client’s engineering contractor which resulted in changes in scrubber type, location, revised flue gas ducting design and, revised planning basis for future NOx control.

Both CO boilers were successfully reconditioned/upgraded during two separate 12 day turnarounds. The client had to delay the FCC turnaround due to equipment delivery problems and wanted to take one boiler offline to complete its reconditioning/upgrading. This schedule change necessitated operation of the FCC with one of two boilers on line, the first time that the refinery had run the FCC without both boilers on-line. Norton Engineering’s combustion specialists and mechanical engineers worked with operations to define FCC operating constraints during single boiler operation and provided technical support during transition and initial operating periods. Aside from allowing the work on one boiler to proceed outside the turnaround, saving significant costs, the refinery has demonstrated and gained experience with a single boiler operation so the in the future, CO boiler problems will not automatically trigger an FCC shut-down and the attendant loss of revenue.

Both boilers were brought back to original design capacity after the reconditioning work and have been operating for two years with higher flue gas back pressure resulting from the installation of emissions control equipment on the boiler exhaust.

The client has contracted Norton Engineering to support a second stage of emissions control for the FCC which will further increase the back pressure on the existing CO boilers. Norton Engineering’s efforts in the next phase of the project will be to complete work on boiler pressure part designs and supervise small additional boiler upgrades needed for the higher back pressure expected in the next project phase.

Norton Engineering has also been requested to review the next phases of the project, being completed by the same large multi-national engineering company which did the planning and detailed engineering for the first project phase.

Cost Assessments for SO2 Control Projects

Project type – Emissions Control Technology Evaluations | Project Planning | FEL-1 Cost Estimating

Project summary – In 2009, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) completed an evaluation of the cost of compliance with proposed reduced SO2 emissions limits for large sources in the LA basin (5 FCCs and 10+ Sulfur Plants in Six (6) refineries, glass plant, cement plant, coke calciner, and two (2) sulfuric acid plants). The evaluation determined Best Available Retrofit Control Technology (BARCT) and developed capital and operating cost estimates for installation of these facilities in the subject plants. SCAQMD used the information in the study to determine the cost of compliance both regionally and individually for each facility, and proposed rule modifications based on the cost of compliance so determined.

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A number of individual companies and industry groups (e.g. Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)) questioned the SCAQMD compliance costs on the basis of use of unproven technologies and unconfirmed costs based on general industry design requirements vs the design standards typical for the industries being asked to comply and site specific requirements. WSPA recommended SCAQMD contract NEC to complete a cold eyes review of the background information and recommendations of the report writers and SCAQMD.

Major efforts in this project included:

  1. Site visits with all affected companies to review the SCAQMD report recommendations and project cost estimates. Obtain feedback from the affected facilities on recent project costs and turnaround costs to provide a basis for checking study costs quickly by using factored estimating methods.
  2. Review “new” technologies with vendors and the sites where SCAQMD recommended them as low cost compliance options. Developed recommendations and guidance for SCAQMD to include process development allowances in both capital and operating costs for unproven technologies to account for the additional uncertainty these technologies pose when they get into the field. The process development allowance is a variable contingency for capital and operating costs based on the current status of a technology’s development.
  3. Updated capital costs for each project based on plant feedback, plant design and construction standards, revised vendor quotes, inclusion of process development allowances where applicable, etc.
  4. In some cases the revised economics changed the technology selection for a particular plant.

On average, capital and operating costs for refinery units increased by 30% when the above factors were included in costs. Sulfur plant costs more than doubled from prior consultant estimates and showed good correlation with current gulf coast costs for identical technology applications. Glass plant and calciner costs increased by a factor of about 1.5 primarily due to limited plot space and the additional costs adding large equipment to the site would incur.

Based on the revised cost figures and the back-up information provided SCAQMD and the industries in the LA basin were able to negotiate a SOx reduction rule making compromise which was passed by the SCAQMD governing board in December 2010


Project type – Safety Systems Standard Development | Process Design | Fired Heater Design and Operations Support | Detailed Design Follow-up | Operating Procedure Development & Operator Training | Start-up and Initial Operations Support

Project summary – A US Gulf Coast refining client has contracted Norton Engineering to develop site specific standards for safety instrumented systems for fired heaters and to develop and support projects for more than 10 heaters to date. In parallel with the SIS projects Norton Engineering also executed projects to install ultra-low NOx burners in five of the refinery’s heaters.

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Chief tasks executed for the SIS projects include:

  1. Develop site specific standards for fired heater SIS systems and obtain site operations and technical support department’s approval of these standards.
  2. Develop FEL-1 and FEL-2 basis and design packages for implementation of SIS projects on over 10 heaters. FEL-2 design included detailed logic for SIS system operation. Developed project support documentation for client’s approval process. Obtained the approval of operations, technical and refinery management for project.
  3. Provided fired heater, instrumentation and control, and process support to Jacobs Engineering during detailed design phase of each project.
  4. Updated existing fired heater start-up, shutdown, normal and emergency operating procedures. Completed management of change documentation for the new facilities and obtained approvals of same.
  5. Evaluated transient heater fire-side conditions to determine the minimum acceptable response times for the SIS system to an unsafe condition.
  6. Developed operator training materials and provided on-site training to all operators.
  7. Provided technical support during start-up.

Chief tasks executed for burner replacement projects included:

  1. Assessment of heater performance and sizing of new ultra-low NOx burners.
  2. Development of specifications for new burners, and mechanical details for heater floor replacement/modification to accommodate the new burners.
  3. In one case, worked with Callidus to modify a ULNB offering to allow for on-stream burner replacement, including new tile. Also worked with the client and the maintenance staff to develop and execute a safe burner replacement procedure. This work allowed the client to continue operation of an HF alkylation unit until a scheduled shutdown approximately 6-8 months after the burner replacement which allowed them to continue to meet commitments then made in their EPA consent agreement.
  4. Provided fired heater specialist support during detailed design executed by Jacobs Engineering.
  5. Updated existing operating procedures and trained operators.
  6. Witnessed burner tests on behalf of client.
  7. Provided fired heater/burner specialist support during burner change-out and start-up of new burners.

Norton Engineering’s work was successfully concluded on 10+ projects for this client. The client is pleased with the work and continues to show their trust in our abilities by asking us to continue working on both SIS and ULNB conversion projects for them and undertaking other troubleshooting and optimization work in the refinery. They have also recommended us to several of their affiliated refineries for whom we have also successfully completed projects (FCCU Regenerator O/H, FCCU emissions control, CO Boiler Upgrades, etc.)

FCC Emission Control Project, saves client $50,000,000

Project type – Project Development | Emissions Control Technology Evaluations | FEL-1 Cost Estimating

Project summary – A Northeastern US refiner developed an FCC emissions control project with a large multi-national engineering company in 2008 and 2009. When FEL-2 capital costs came in at over $215,000,000 the client asked NEC to conduct a project review to identify potential cost savings while maintaining emissions levels at consent decree limits.

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Major efforts in this project included:

  1. Review of the project basis with the client.
  2. Review of the project scope with the client and client’s engineering company.
  3. Develop recommendations for reducing project costs.
  4. Estimate the impact of changes on compliance risk.
  5. Develop preliminary (FEL-1) costs for the modifications and identify potential savings.
  6. Make project scope recommendations for client’s consideration.

The client was on a tight schedule and therefore hesitant to make many changes to the project. This limited the options available for cost reduction. However, Norton Engineering identified the following cost reduction items:

  1. The project basis for uncontrolled NOx emissions was too conservative being based on the worst hour of the worst day of the past five years and the client requested NOx emissions control equipment vendors to meet the most stringent emissions (annual average) target from this point. This project requirement eliminated many control technologies from contention and required the most expensive SCR money could buy. NEC recommended revising the inlet NOx values to more closely reflect actual operating data. The client chose to stay with the SCR control option and reduced costs by about $10,000,000. (Implementation of alternate control technologies could have saved the client an additional $10,000,000 to $15,000,000,vs the SCR installation.)
  2. The project basis included complete overhauls, coil removal and steam generation bank tube removal for two CO boilers. NEC recommended an expansion of the newest of the two boilers and abandonment of the older (1960’s vintage). Besides being older and requiring more work, the older boiler which was located in a tight spot inside the unit making it much more costly to overhaul than the newer boiler (1990’s vintage) which is located outside the process block and is readily accessible for expansion. This scope change was estimate to save ($40,000,000 to $50,000,000).
  3. The basis for selection of the type of scrubber for particulate control was extremely coarse. NEC pointed this out to the client and recommended they obtain additional data from their unit. The client obtained additional data and with NEC’s help revised the particulate size basis for the project. This change necessitated purchase of a more expensive scrubber and increased back pressure of the FCC and CO boilers to achieve the required emissions level. This change added approximately $10,000,000 to the cost of the project.
  4. A number of other scope changes were recommended which saved an additional $1,000,000 to $3,000,000.

The client’s project team included some recommendations in the project but left the lion’s share of the potential savings on the table. In spite of leaving money on the table, the client netted a savings of over $700 for every $1 they spent on the review.

The single boiler option was revisited in late 2010 but a lack of time allotted to complete the estimates for the two options and lack of understanding of the modification scope for the older boiler (base case) and expansion of the newer boiler (low cost case) did not allow a proper side by side cost comparison to be made by the client’s engineering company.


Project type – Process Development | Planning | Process Design

Project summary – A long time petrochemical client contracted Norton Engineering to assist with planning grass roots solution EPDM plants based on proprietary high activity catalysts in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Norton Engineering personnel worked as part of the client’s team during development of the FEL-2 and FEL-3 design packages.

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Norton Engineering’s chief tasks on the design teams were development of design changes aimed at a reduction of energy consumption in the solvent recovery section of the plant, reducing fouling in equipment caused by entrainment from the devolatilization section and optimization of monomer recovery and purification.

Norton Engineering developed heat and material balances (PROII) which we subsequently used to assess process improvement and optimize strategies. In development of the H&MBs, several problems were identified in the thermodynamic data packages provided by the simulation vendor which were resolved with the client’s technical staff (polymer chemists, polymer physicists and thermodynamics specialists) and incorporated into the final models. The final heat and material balances were then developed by Norton Engineering and submitted to the client for use in process design and detailed design of the facilities.

Norton Engineering identified process changes in the devolatilization section which resulted in a significant reduction in energy consumption, elimination of high maintenance equipment and elimination of heat exchangers which have been prone to fouling. These process changes required close work with equipment vendors to customize their standard equipment offerings to make it suitable for the process and to meet the client’s design standards.

Norton Engineering’s engineers developed the designs for the propylene recovery and drying towers; and the solvent drying tower for the plant.

Norton Engineering’s work was successfully concluded on both projects and the client has come back to us requesting support for implementing some of the identified changes on existing plants.