Being efficient 2/3: how equipment matters 13.07.2015

How to meet the world’s growing demand for energy? How to produce fuels and chemical products in the most efficient way? These new challenges have set the path to important changes on how any energy company operates.

Refining-petrochemical integration was presented in the first episode of Axens’ blog. In this second video, Axens CEO Jean Sentenac stresses how energy efficiency plays a crucial part on refining and petrochemical sites, given that energy represents 50% of a refinery’s operating expenses, and develops the concrete example of exchangers.


Energy is at least 50% of a refinery’s operating expenses. It can be even higher in older sites, which were designed at a time when it was less of a concern. Bringing imagination to work to try to better integrate processes and equipment is a must; this involves both the design of the process itself, but also the choice of equipment.

For example the exchangers: I remember when I was a young engineer, plate-fin low Delta T exchangers were reserved for very specific applications, such as in cryogenic processes. Nowadays, exchanger manufacturers have done a tremendous job in producing equipment that allows a Delta T approach of 2-3 Celcius Degrees in many applications, therefore minimizing wasted heat; and if traditional Shell & Tubes are still largely used for their robustness, you see more often new types of exchangers being used in projects and that’s a positive trend.

But to come back to your question, very generally the fundamental objective of any process engineer when dealing with energy integration is to use all the heat available in hot streams to warm up the cold ones; we should be seeing heat less often “destroyed or wasted” by simply cooling it with water or air. This is what we are doing in our everyday work; in some of our process, we have created energy savings of up to 40-50% compared to the previous generation. We have successfully applied this approach to FCC complexes in existing refineries and to grass roots aromatic complexes.

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