(174c) The Future Is Here: Robotic Catalyst Removal

Sloley, A. W., Advisian (WorleyParsons Group)
Jansen, C. R., WorleyParsons
Schroeder, S., Advisian
WorleyParsons has been developing new technology using vacuum catalyst removal from refinery and petrochemical reactors via a remote-operated, screw-propelled vehicle. The development of CAROL (Catalyst Removal Amphirol) is in response to the increasing requirement among major hazardous facility operators to reduce human exposure to inert confined space entry. Several case studies from the beta testing period are examined. The analysis includes the challenges associated with the current catalyst removal techniques and how CAROL has been shown to provide advantages.

To date, testing has included construction of a test vehicle that has been used in simulated reactors. Video of the test vehicle shows operating characteristics.

The current test plan projects initial field tests in industrial units between November 2017 and March 2018. Preliminary work has focused on testing in two plants. The presentation will include progress and test results.

The focus plants for the initial test include;

  • A refinery in the USA Midwest requires catalyst change-out on its silica guard reactors every 6 months. Light crusting and the formation of a large shelf have been experienced during the execution of previous catalyst dumping from these vessels. Human entry is required under inert conditions to knock down, break apart, and vacuum the remaining catalyst. In a similar service in 2014, a person was killed in a reactor in Germany when a wall of catalyst fell on him. CAROL can be deployed during the dumping process to break apart problem areas and to maintain a level catalyst bed.
  • An LNG plant in Australia has nine large, single-bed dehydration vessels that require catalyst changeout on an 18-month cycle. Because the vessels are short and wide, dumping is not effective. The current method for catalyst removal is vacuuming via human entry which takes a full shift to accomplish. With ambient temperatures exceeding 32°C (90°F), risk of fatigue and heat exhaustion limit the time any one person can spend in the vessel to less than one hour. It has been demonstrated that CAROL can achieve instantaneous catalyst removal rates comparable to that of a human whilst reducing the time spent by workers in the reactor and the number of inert entries required by more than 80%.

The number of fixed bed catalytic reactors in the global refining and petrochemical industry is estimated to exceed 58,000. Catalyst removal from each of these reactors pose a risk to safety and/or the environment regardless of whether dumping, vacuuming or water flooding is employed. CAROL provides an alternative option that minimises risk to human life and improves efficiency.


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