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How Control Improvements Save Process Heater Fuel
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Steam boilers and process heaters are the two primary combustion processes in petrochemical and petroleum refining plants. There are key differences in the evolution of these processes which resulted from the historical cost of fuel per unit of product. Relating to the burning of the fuel and the heat transfer to the working fluids, which have shaped process equipment for both types of processes. Our economic environment is changing because of the rising cost of fuel and process equipment, including instrumentation and controls. This provides an incentive for improving existing installations, especially for process heaters as compared to boilers. Control systems which optimize combustion air while improving other performance attributes of process heaters are excellent prospects for investment. The lack of sophisticated conventional process heater control systems and fuel burning equipment correlates with the previous low cost of fuel. Deficiencies of simpler systems can be identified in coping with the operation environment and how this effects operation results and fuel economy. For many existing heater installations, satisfying process and fuel supply environment needs requires improved control strategies. To successfully implement these strategies, the limitations affecting their use and problems of implementation must be understood. Forced and induced draft provides an additional opportunity for control improvement. This brings combustion control and safety constraints for heaters closer to that of steam boilers. Process heater simulation can demonstrate the resulting improved performance.
Dukelow, S. G. (1979). How Control Improvements Save Process Heater Fuel. Energy Systems Laboratory (http://esl.tamu.edu). Available electronically from