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Reuse and Relocation: A Case History

Source: AIChE
  • Type:
    Conference Presentation
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    AIChE Member Credits 0.5
    AIChE Members $19.00
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    Non-Members $29.00
  • Conference Type:
    AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
  • Presentation Date:
    August 19, 2020
  • Duration:
    30 minutes
  • Skill Level:
    Intermediate
  • PDHs:
    0.50

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Potentially, used equipment can save time and money over new equipment in your plant. Occasionally, used equipment can be picked up for very low prices. But getting it to the plant and properly working does require skills that differ from purchasing new equipment.

Buying used instead of new may be less expensive and quicker. Experience has shown that often the cost savings have been minor or in some cases costs even more than new equipment. In contrast, the schedule savings in procurement are often been significant.

First, this discussion will distinguish between used equipment and remanufactured equipment. Remanufactured equipment is material taken out of a plant, then taken off to a shop and reconditioned and returned to a ‘like-new’ state. The reconditioning may be either by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or a specialist vendor. Most specialist vendors focus one type of equipment. Many remanufacturing vendors focus one specific equipment types. Common equipment available as remanufactured or reconditioned includes control valves and pumps. The specialist vendors typically use after-market replacement components instead of OEM parts. The specialist vendor takes the risk of the reconditioning cost and usually provides some type of warranty with the equipment.

In contrast, used equipment is generally purchased with minimum cleaning and reconditioning. No warranty is supplied by the seller. Various purchase methods and situations apply. The equipment may be purchases as-is, where is, or may be purchased in ‘after-cleaning’. This depends upon the agreement between the buyer and seller.

A large amount of used equipment on the market comes from shut-down or bankrupt facilities. Also, it may have sat unused for years, or even decades. Equipment purchased this way rarely comes with a warranty or performance guarantee of any type. Additionally, it often lacks design documentation. Both mechanical and process design information may be missing. At best, some mechanical design information is available. As long as the name plate is identifiable and the original manufacturer is still in business, it may be possible to get original design mechanical details from them. However, this request will often require payment. Additionally, the effect of repairs or modifications since the equipment left the original manufacturer may remain mysterious.

Finally, the process requirements for the new service are nearly always different from the original process requirements. Expert-level knowledge may be required to decide if the equipment will really do the required job.

Adding repair, reconditioning, and engineering costs to the used equipment cost is what makes saving money with it so difficult. If you’re fortunate enough to find equipment with a very close match to what you need, then you can save money. In contrast, significant time can be saved. Currently some specialty items can have 48-week or longer deliveries from order. If you can find the right equipment, it might be at the plant in a few weeks instead. Even if you have to pay more, getting the plant running again is worth a lot.

This paper examine a plant that purchased a 42-inch diameter tower ‘used’ from a pharmaceutical plant. It had been built and erected but never placed into service. The unit the tower was in was abandoned part-way through construction. Some years latter it was purchased with the intent that it was to be used as a distillation tower in a solvent recovery unit.

In spite of the original owner still being in business, the tower was sold with no documentation on the internals inside it. No mechanical or process details were available on internals configuration or original design rates, conditions, or physical properties. The tower was purchased, loaded onto a truck (horizontally) and shipped well over a thousand miles to its new home. It was unloaded and erected in the new plant. At no time was the internal condition of the tower inspected.

After the new plant started up, the tower failed to perform. Troubleshooting quickly ran into problems. What were the internals? What was the mechanical range of liquid and vapor rates the internals could handle? What was the mechanical condition of the internals? No one knew.

The paper examines the history of the tower, troubleshooting, and the problems that had to be solved.

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