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case study


Oil refinery

Customer: Oil refinery

Active Management of Process Steam Traps Nets Refinery a Multi-Million-Dollar Annual Saving

The more steam traps a plant uses, the higher the potential failure rate. Without active management, the situation can easily get out of control, and incur very high energy consumption and costs. However, with proper management, large steam trap users have the opportunity to save significant amounts of money. A team from Spirax Sarco, recently assisted a Texas petrochemical plant to do just that.

The steam trap audit also made possible an optimization strategy for more extensive condensate system improvements that earned the refinery even more savings. The plant, which manufacturers additives used in the production of food, paint and asphalt, operated its 6,883 steam traps (78.7% tracers, 4% process and 17.3% drips) for years without active maintenance management. Finally, the energy consumption came to the notice of plant management who called upon Spirax Sarco for ideas to reduce costs.

Success Funds Further Projects

Optimization of the plant took place in phases over a three year period. In the first phase, a plant-wide ‘soft audit’ of the steam system was undertaken. The recommendations made through the audit were implemented, leading to savings in excess of $52,000.

For the second phase, Spirax Sarco involved its Energy Service Group, who specialize in turnkey steam system optimization services. The Energy Service Group obtained approval for an air/nitrogen leak survey. The results uncovered $306,000 / year in additional saving opportunities.

These savings encouraged implementation of a third phase, an Energy Service Group audit of the steam and condensate system, in the search for additional conservation opportunities. Upon receiving the results, Spirax Sarco was able to propose a comprehensive turnkey solution backed up by substantial savings. The program scope encompassed both Spirax Sarco products and energy services, including training and technical support. This included providing the facility’s steam trap technician with all the necessary support regarding product knowledge, trap sizing for new applications and troubleshooting. As part of the process Spirax Sarco were able to trace a waterhammer problem to a condensate header; resolving the matter contributed an additional $35,000 / year in savings.

Energy Savings and More

Under the guidance of Spirax Sarco, the implementation of an active steam trap management (supported by a comprehensive steam trap database) has contributed towards energy savings worth more than $7 million over three years. Energy consumption per unit of product output has been significantly reduced, along with operating costs, as a result of improved plant safety.

Energy savings of this magnitude are usually accompanied by other benefits; in this case reduced emissions:

  • CO2 emissions have dropped by 33.5 tons /year
  • NOx emissions by 40 tons /year
  • SO2 emissions by 0.24 tons /year

Following this success, the customer has continued to pursue additional energy savings with our help, including a scheduled cold trap survey.

Achieving ‘Best in Class’ Manufacturing Costs

Inadequate steam trap management consumes huge amounts of money at large process facilities, not least because of the large energy flows through critical process components. With expert corrective action a multi-million-dollar annual saving is achievable. This saving helps process facilities minimize their costs. Energy costs become much more controllable, with savings going straight to the bottom line. The experience of this plant illustrates perfectly the competitive impact of steam trap optimization projects.

Reduced Emissions

  • CO2 emissions have dropped by 33.5 tons /year
  • NOx emissions by 40 tons /year
  • SO2 emissions by 0.24 tons /year

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