Optimizing Ethylene Furnace Operations on Low-Cost Ethane Feedstock

For manufacturers with energy intensive processes, such as the petrochemical industry, the shale oil and gas boom in North America has led to lower feedstock costs. In this short, 1:34 video, Emerson’s James Beall describes some of the challenges faced by plants to more efficiently operate their ethylene furnaces.

For those unfamiliar with the ethylene manufacturing process: [Wikipedia hyperlinks omitted]

Ethylene is produced in the petrochemical industry by steam cracking. In this process, gaseous or light liquid hydrocarbons are heated to 750–950 °C, inducing numerous free radical reactions followed by immediate quench to stop these reactions. This process converts large hydrocarbons into smaller ones and introduces unsaturation. Ethylene is separated from the resulting complex mixture by repeated compression and distillation.

The first challenge James cites is managing the variability typically found in the control loops associated with the furnace. The second challenge is poor control of the overall furnace conversion and the constraints imposed by the process design. The third challenge is having the ability to feed the furnace with ethane, which is lower in price due to the current shale oil & gas production boom occurring in North America.

James mentions the SmartProcess Ethylene Furnace application that he and his fellow consultants apply in helping petrochemical producers overcome these challenges.

You can connect and interact with James and the other consultants in the Chemical industry track in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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