With complex projects like designing a plant, the less critical choices are sometimes given lower priority. Coatings are often placed in this category, but if selected and used correctly, they can have a huge impact on a plant. Here are 5 ways coatings can be used to maximise your engineering design.
1. Cost effective material design
The chemical processes carried out in plants present a variety of challenges in terms of materials. Due to contact with corrosive substances and challenging operating temperatures, the materials used in a plant design have to be carefully selected. Exotic materials will often be needed to meet the particularities of a plant, which can increase the cost considerably.
By utilizing coatings to withstand environments with corrosive species and chemicals and reducing the risk of challenging conditions such as corrosion under insulation (CUI), it might be possible to reduce the use of exotic materials and thereby bring down the cost of materials used on the plant site.
2. Design life time expectancy and time between major maintenance
Traditionally, major maintenance requires shutting down production and going offline. However, by selecting high quality products, the time between major maintenance works can be extended, thus increasing the revenue. Decreasing the number of days offline greatly impacts profitability, with every day costs normally costing around $0.5–6 million.
While premium coatings come at a cost, when one compares that cost to the loss of profit generated by shutting down production, it seems minimal.
Selecting higher quality coatings can increase time between major maintenance works by anywhere between 2 to 5 years, depending on service conditions and operating environment.
3. Avoid unnecessary shut-downs
Since many coatings cannot be applied on structures operating at elevated temperatures, the plant must be taken offline for maintenance. By using coatings that can be applied on substrates operating at higher temperatures, maintenance work can be carried out on lifelines.
This can be the difference between making it to the next planned maintenance period or not. And while a planned shutdown period for carrying out maintenance is expensive, unplanned shutdowns have a severe impact on plant financials and company profits.
4. Optimize production capacity/production rates
In general, chemical reactions give improved yields and production rates when the reaction temperature is increased. Increased operational temperatures can mean increased production rates. Likewise, periodic steam-out periods at elevated temperatures remove blockages and contaminations inside pipelines which in turn increases production capacity.
If the wrong coating is selected for the plant, there is a risk of coating damage if temperatures become too high. While this might seem like a minor issue since hot areas are generally insulated, coating damage due to excessively high temperatures often occurs under insulation where they cannot be detected easily. The ensuing corrosion progresses rapidly and can often lead to leaks. Worst case scenario these undetected leaks can lead to fire and loss of lives.
5. Not all coatings are created equal
When coatings are considered in engineering design, it is critical that you consider what the manufacturers had in mind when the coating was developed. A coating that has excellent anti-corrosive performance on a marine vessel might not be suited to the chemical environment that you find on a chemical production plant. Likewise, a coating developed for structures operating at continuous high temperatures might fail miserably if it is put through many, rapid temperature cycles – especially if these cycles start going to the ultra low temperatures of LNG or other cryogenic processes.
When it comes to coatings there is no such thing as one size fits all, and careful thought and attention should be placed on selecting the most optimal product for your situation, as it can bring cost savings and increased safety and productivity to your business.
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