Separation: a fine art that keeps the wheels of industry turning

When one of the main separation columns at Repsol Tarragona oil refinery in Spain required modernizing in the summer of 2016, we knew exactly what needed to happen.

The vast scale of oil refineries often hides the more intricate mechanisms of oil production. Crude oil consists of 17 000 components, all of which need to be separated in the refining process. Inside the separation columns, intricately built trays and internal technology guide the oil through different stages of separation.

The oil is first heated to 400°C, allowing the various components to rise towards the tower’s upper end. The components, called fractions in the industry, are collected and extracted at their points of condensation. Oil and gas condense at different temperatures within the same column, creating an efficient separation process. This delicate process requires continuous upgrade to meet industry standards, which is why Repsol Tarragona contracted Sulzer to future-proof their operations.

Separation is a delicate process that requires continuous upgrades to meet industry standards. That’s why Repsol Tarragona contracted Sulzer to future-proof their operations.

A field service dedicated to building your resilience

Our Tower Field Service planned a rapid response, making sure no details were left unchecked to keep shutdown time to a minimum. Heading inside the separation column at Repsol Tarrangona, this unit of Sulzer’s Chemtech division used their experience to navigate the complex machinery. The team dismantled the existing separation trays and packings before applying powerful protection to the shell: an upgraded metallurgy called weld overlay.

Forging new relationships to protect you against corrosion

Sulzer is constantly acquiring companies that help us to develop the protection we offer our customers. Our acquisition of InterWeld, a specialized automated weld overlay company, in 2015 allowed us to use state-of-the-art equipment to protect Repsol Tarrangona’s separation column against corrosion. This welding process, where one or more metals with specific characteristics are applied to a base metal, protects the separation column and slows corrosion down.

Once the welding was done, we could install the latest Sulzer-manufactured equipment, setting Repsol Tarrangona on a new course of production.

The acquisition of companies helps us to develop the protection of the towers we offer our customers.

Getting the job done – and more

We understand that time costs money, so in-depth preparation was made to keep shutdown times as short as possible. We also understand that getting the job done does not always mean sticking to the plan. When we reached the site, the customer asked our team to clad additional sections: a work area twice as large as planned. The team rose to the challenge, protecting the additional sections and getting the job done within the time schedule.

Putting our energy into saving yours

Increasing the lifetime of your separation columns and saving you energy motivates our Tower Field Service teams to excellence. We know that eliminating corrosion with weld overlay technology has the potential to save you time, energy, and money. Distillation towers consume a large portion of energy on a plant, so upgrading mass transfer technologies to save you energy pays real dividends.

Leading the way with 4 million hours of service

With projects ranging from 30 000 to 500 000 man hours, our Tower Field Service has completed work on major plant-wide turnarounds across the world. Our teams uniquely provide all Tower Field Service so you never have to work with more than one service supplier. As the market leader in technology for fractionation columns used in separating oil into various hydrocarbon compounds, Sulzer’s experience forges a new way forward.

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