Plants Take a Long Look for Savings

Greater emphasis on lifecycle costs and diagnostics is paying dividends.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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Overall, BASF places a significant emphasis on creation of value in capital investment, operation and maintenance. LCC considerations and their benefits cannot be separated, says Raschka, as they are an integral part of economic decisions.

Another big Advocate
LCC considerations also are important to Todd Overbeek, master black belt and lean program leader in the maintenance department of Eastman Chemical, Kingsport, Tenn. (Figure 2).

“The facility here in Kingsport is huge. It’s like many plants within a plant and we have a maintenance staff of around 1,300. Within that there is a whole reliability department of around 50 people that is dedicated to improving equipment reliability across the site. This department includes 10 or 11 reliability engineers: mechanicals, electricals and chemicals, who have been specifically trained to tackle reliability issues.”

The focus on reliability has changed considerably over recent years, with everyone in the department now attending two-day LCC analysis classes given by a consultant, says Overbeek.

“Most engineers and technicians from outside the department also go on this class, too, because Eastman is very big on giving people the skills and knowledge they need to do the job properly,” explains Overbeek. “So interest in LCC has grown a lot in the last five years as the company is always looking to find new techniques and skills — anything that will give clues to equipment performance.”

Eastman Chemical
Figure 2 -- Tennessee titan: Eastman’s
Kingsport, Tenn., complex has a maintenance
staff of 1,300.
Source: Eastman Chemical

Eastman is in the early stages of formalizing its maintenance strategies and doesn’t yet rely on a defined LCC program at Kingsport. “The age profile of our engineers is older than in many U.S. chemical companies and they have a huge amount of experience. So, for example, they understand and realize that in a certain situation it would be better for us to purchase a more expensive API pump than a cheaper ANSI one,” says Overbeek.
Sometimes, the cheaper option may make more sense, as one maintenance engineer documented. He completed a simple LCC on rotary air locks (RAL) in a TPA (terephthalic acid) plant that led to change from units costing $20,000-plus to ones costing $6,000. “…the repairs on [the expensive RALs] were running around $6,000 to $8,000. The high cost for the repair was due to the body being damaged and the machine work that was necessary to fix them. The bore is tapered and it’s very difficult to get a good machining job and to have the performance be good when the repair is complete… So we decided to go with [the less expensive RALs] and, if they failed, we could just buy new ones cheaper than rebuilding the [more expensive units]. Since that time, we have started to rebuild [the less expensive units] and I guess the rebuild cost is around $2,000 to $3,000, unless they have body damage and then they are replaced. They are not tapered and the clearance is fixed, so the body doesn’t get damaged as often...”

Says another: “Most equipment upgrades are justified based on some aspect of LCC, usually just the M&R (maintenance and reliability) aspect but I have also used energy savings due to improvements in efficiencies as part of the justification.” Such upgrades have included scrubber relief valves, a high-pressure reactor feed pump and a methanol feed pump.

Continuous equipment improvement is at the heart of maintenance activities at Kingsport, stresses Overbeek. Efforts include a Six Sigma program looking at the use of pumps in one processing area. Already the site has achieved a huge improvement in the mean time between failures on its centrifuges — increasing it from two weeks to nine months.

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