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FCC Trouble Shooting

Determining the Cause of a Problem

The Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) process has many complex interactions
between catalyst, hardware, feed, and products.

This complexity can make it difficult to determine the cause of a problem.

When a problem arises, the first step must be to define the problem.

This is done by gathering data on current operation and comparing this


information with data from a time of normal operation.

Consider any changes that occurred near the time the problem was first
observed.

Some Common Major Problems


High Catalyst Losses
Poor Catalyst Circulation
Poor Product Yields

A: Definition of Problem
High Catalyst Loss Rate
Are losses from the reactor, regen., or both?
From one vessel
mechanical or operation problem
From both vessels
problem

low system pressure or catalyst

Are losses steady or increasing with time?


Steady losses
blocked cyclone dipleg
Increasing

hole or crack in vessel or line


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A: Definition of Problem
High Catalyst Loss Rate, cont.

Is fines fraction (0-40 ) in the eq. cat. decreasing


or increasing?
Decreasing
poor fines retention;
low fines replacement
Increasing
high stream velocity; soft catalyst
Are the gas velocities in the affected vessel within
cyclone design ranges?
If no
unit pushed beyond operating
envelope
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A: Definition of Problem
High Catalyst Loss Rate, cont.

Additional questions:
Has there been a change in the particle size of the
escaping catalyst?
When were the high cat. losses first observed?
Did the change occur suddenly or gradually?

High Catalyst Losses


Troubleshooting Check List
OBSERVED DATA
Fines increase in
equilibrium catalyst;
high cyclone P

POTENTIAL CAUSES
High velocity stream in
dense phase (>70 m/s)
Soft catalyst

INITIAL ACTION
Reduce velocities
(replace missing RO,
close bypass valves,
reduce stripping steam)
Test catalyst attrition

Loss increases with time Crack in plenum or hole in Reduce vessel


cyclones
velocity
Fines decrease in
Unit shut-down may
equilibrium catalyst
be required

High Catalyst Losses


Troubleshooting Check List, cont.
OBSERVED DATA

POTENTIAL CAUSES

Losses are steady at the Something has broken,


not simply cracked; or
higher level
Fines decrease in
flooded/plugged dip leg
equilibrium catalyst
Additional Data
a APS of losses = 25
b APS of losses > 30

INITIAL ACTION
Reduce cyclone velocity

nd

a 2 stage cyclone problem


st
nd
b 1 or 2 stage cyclone
problem or hole in plenum

High Catalyst Losses


Troubleshooting Check List, cont.
OBSERVED DATA
Losses from both
vessels increase after
the unit operating
pressure was reduced
Fines in equilibrium
catalyst are decreasing
Losses at the increased
level are steady

POTENTIAL CAUSES

INITIAL ACTION

Losses are normal for the


increased gas volume
(from reduced pressure)

Either increase
operating pressure
or accept higher
losses
Increase operating
pressure until
losses reach an
acceptable level

Catalyst level in diplegs is


too high, or improper
dipleg seal

10

B: Definition of Problem
Poor Catalyst Circulation

Is problem in spent, regenerated, or both catalyst


lines?
If in one of the lines
aeration problem
If in both
catalyst problem
Is problem increasing with time?
If yes
mechanical problem

11

B: Definition of Problem
Poor Catalyst Circulation, cont.

Has the percentage of fines (0-40) in the eq. cat. changed?


If decreasing fines
coarse fresh catalyst / poor fines
retention
If steady fines
poor aeration
Has the pressure profile changed?
If yes
make adjustments to aeration to minimize
problem

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Catalyst Circulation
Troubleshooting Check List
OBSERVED DATA

POTENTIAL CAUSES

INITIAL ACTION

Poor regeneration
Change in yields
Poorer stripping

Coarse catalyst
Loss of fines
No catalyst withdrawals

Lower regen. velocity


Add more or finer
catalyst

Unsteady standpipe P
High regen. holdup

Hole in standpipe

Alter S/P aeration

High temps. and stresses

Uneven regen. temps


Uneven flue O2 or CO

Erosion / Corrosion

Review operating
history and standpipe
design

13

Catalyst Circulation
Troubleshooting Check List, cont.
OBSERVED DATA

POTENTIAL CAUSES

INITIAL ACTION

Unsteady regen. temp.


Unsteady reactor temp
Catalyst shifts between
reactor and regen.
Unsteady regen. press.

Unsteady press diff.


control (PDRC)
Slide valve operation
- poor instrumentation
- sticky slide valves
Poor gas compressor

Check slide valves


and controllers
Adjust aeration in
cat. transfer lines

Unsteady reactor temp.


Catalyst shifts between
reactor and regen.
Transfer line vibration
Fluctuating valve P

Aeration changes
Remove water from
aeration system
Check SV system

Improper aeration
Water in aeration medium
Water in steam lines
Malfunctioning cat. slide
valve actuators

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C: Definition of Problem
Poor Product Yields

Is there a poor weight balance?


If yes
metering error or exchanger leak
Are yields steadily deteriorating with time? If yes
mechanical problem such as feed
nozzle erosion
Are metals on equilibrium catalyst increasing?
If yes
feed quality or low catalyst
replacement
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Poor Product Yields


Troubleshooting Check List

OBSERVED DATA

High H2 yield
High coke yield
Higher riser velocities
Overloaded gas
compressor

POTENTIAL CAUSES

High metals in feed


Catalyst contamination
Poor resid catalyst
Feed type change

INITIAL ACTION

Lower feed metals


Segregate feed
Increase cat. addition
Change to metals
tolerant catalyst
Low catalyst replacement Inject antimony
Vac. unit op. conditions
Increase riser steam

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Poor Product Yields


Troubleshooting Check List, cont.
OBSERVED DATA

POTENTIAL CAUSES

INITIAL ACTION

High coke yield


Leak in exchanger train; Isolate leaking HX
Poor weight balance
Adjust feed train pressure
Hvy. products in feed
balance
Partly open S/U valves Close valves, install blinds
Low coke yield
Leak in exchanger train; Isolate leaking HX
Poor weight balance
Adjust feed train pressure
Lt. products in feed
Unsteady feed
balance
header pressure
High coke yield
High H in coke

Poor stripping
Poor feed vaporization

Increase steam rate


Increase rxtr. temp.
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Poor Product Yields


Troubleshooting Check List, cont.

OBSERVED DATA
Low catalyst activity

POTENTIAL CAUSES

INITIAL ACTION

High regen. temps.


Review regen. operation
Localized high temps.
Use combustion promoter
High Na and V on catalyst Increase cat. addition
Minimize metals into FCCU
Excessive steam in regen. Review regen. operation
Torch oil
Remove torch oil; install
blind in line

18

Poor Product Yields


Troubleshooting Check List, cont.
OBSERVED DATA
Poor circulation
Poor regeneration
Poor stripping

POTENTIAL CAUSES
Coarse catalyst
Loss of fines
No catalyst withdrawals

INITIAL ACTION
Review regen. ops.
Use finer catalyst
Increase cat. addition

Change in riser P

Eroded or blocked riser


Riser velocity too high
Feed injector vel. too low

Review riser design


Change PDRC to
control circulation
Check feed injection

High LCO endpoint; low


HCO initial boiling point

Poor LCO/HCO split

Adjust pumparound
duties
Check steam rates
Review MC operation
and internals

Inefficient HCO stripper


Improper tray loading in
Main Column

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Conclusions

You Cant Fix a Mechanical Problem by Changing Catalysts (though


many try)
BUT

Proper Catalyst Selection May Allow Longer/ Smoother Operation

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Regenerator Cyclone Operation

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Regenerator Cyclone Operation

Catalyst loading to cyclones depends on


operation
- high velocity, 3.5 fps = 1.1 lbs catalyst
per ft3 of flue gas
- low velocity, 2.5 fps = 0.6 lbs/ft3
- entrainment has an exponential curve

Catalyst loading is usually higher than


catalyst circulation.

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FCC Catalyst Entrainment

Catalyst Entrainment, lb/cf

10.00

1.00

0.10

0.01
1.5

2.0

2.5

3.0

3.5

4.0

4.5

Superficial Velocity @ Bed Outlet, fps

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Cyclone Design Issues

Must be very, very efficient - 99.997 % or


more is a typical target
typical loading of reactor cyclones for 30,000
BPD FCC is ~ 18 tons/min, or 26,000
tons/day
99.997 % efficient system means losses of
0.8 tons/day from the reactor

Must be able to withstand erosive conditions


in order to meet run length targets
Needs high reliability of support system
Has to handle wide range of operating
conditions
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Typical Cyclone Terminology

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Industry Cyclone Design Targets


OUTLET
INLET VELOCITIES
INLET
Riser 55 - 65 ft/sec
Upper 60 - 75 ft/sec
Regen 1st Stage 60 - 70 ft/sec
2nd Stage 70 - 80 ft/sec
OUTLET VELOCITIES
Riser 45 - 65 ft/sec
Upper 175 ft/sec maximum
Regen 1st Stage 50 - 70 ft/sec
2nd Stage 175 ft/sec max

DIPLEG FLUX
100-150 lb/ft-sec
for Riser and
Regen 1st stage
cyclones
75 lbs/ ft-sec for
Upper and Regen
2nd Stage
cyclones

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Other Cyclone Parameters

To improve system efficiency


Target first stage cyclone L/D ratio to be at least 3.6,
higher if possible
Target 2nd stage cyclone L/D for 5.0 when possible

Check dipleg pressure balance


Want several feet remaining in the diplegs at all
operating conditions to avoid upsets/carryover

Plan on 1 of hexmesh refractory


AA-22S is industry standard

For trickle valves, plan on partially shrouded designs

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Likely Maintenance Issues For Cyclones

Weld Cracks
Crossover Duct Cracks
Vortex Termination
Catalyst/Vapor Entrainment

28

Dipleg Erosion
Caused by
vortex
being
pushed
into top of
dipleg
EXTREME
LY
common!
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Localized Erosion

Gouge in refractory
through to metal
Caused by shape of
inlet horn
this case is minor

Not obvious from


drawings
Very obvious from
field inspection
Cause of damage
may not be apparent
UNTIL you are in the
unit!

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Reactor Cyclone Coking

Approximately 1 of
coke has formed on
the outlet tube
INSIDE the reactor
cyclone
You MUST remove
this if found during
an inspection
VERY likely to fall
off on start up and
plug the dipleg

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Reactor Cyclone Coking Causes

Coke formation is usually due to condensation of heavy


hydrocarbons
Material condenses in the dead area behind the cyclone inlet horn

Can be minimized with:

good feed injection


increased steam in riser
making sure unit is hot when feed is initially injected
taking feed out before riser outlet temperature is too low

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Final Cyclone Thoughts

Cyclones are listed as one of the top three reasons why FCCUs end
runs early
Many people run higher than design inlet velocities
This is not unacceptable
It does carry inherent risk of ending a run early due to mechanical
damage

Erosion to a cyclone is a function of velocity to at least the 3rd


power, if not higher
a 10 % increase in velocity corresponds to at least a 33 % increase in
erosion

Units can run for an extended time period with cyclone damage, but
need to be aware of:
fluidization effects due to loss of small particles
potential safety issues
added headache of catalyst management
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TYPICAL FCCU LAYOUT


PdRC

LT. ENDS
PRODUCTS

FLUE GAS
TRC

TPA

REACTOR
HCN
PRODUCT

REGENERATOR

MPA
BPA
LRC
STRIPPER

Steam

MAIN
COLUMN
LCO
PRODUCT

AIR
OIL FEED
STEAM

STEAM
AIR

RECYCLE

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DCO PRODUCT

TYPICAL AERATION LAYOUT

REGENERATOR
STRIPPER

RISER

FEED

STEAM
STEAM

STEAM
STEAM
AIR
STEAM
AIR

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TYPICAL 2-STAGE CYCLONE


Plenum
Plenum
Gas
GasOutlet
OutletTube
Tube
2nd

Gas
GasInlet
InletDuct
Duct

Barrel
Barrel

Stage
1st
Stage

Dust
DustHopper
Hopper
Cone
Cone

Dipleg
Dipleg
Flapper
FlapperValve
Valve

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