Ethanol processing plants have to ensure their equipment can withstand months of running product through shell and tube heat exchangers. This process builds up dirt and grime on the equipment, which has to be cleaned periodically. According to Ethanol Producer Magazine, facilities have to prepare for cleanings in advance to ensure downtime for the process is limited.
Matt Werzyn, maintenance manager for Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Elkhorn Valley Ethanol LLC, explained that ethanol processing facilities have to make sure they schedule downtime for the cleaning process, the source reported. The plant managers have to follow through with the deep cleanse, otherwise the facilities will see downtime from grime and dirt build up.
The cleaning process must be quick and simple. If there are too many steps, the plant could be shut down for multiple days for repairs and equipment maintenance. In addition, certain metals and alloys tend to corrode over time, Engineer's Edge reported. Finally, some of the chemicals and gases that are used with heat exchangers in ethanol processing plants can damage the metal.
That's why it's essential to invest in stainless steel shell and tube heat exchangers. According to the source, stainless steel is much easier to clean and can withstand multiple cleanings.
Regular steel is typically used in manufacturing plants, but it has a somewhat weak passivity, which leads to rusting and corrosion. However, stainless steel contains additional alloy elements that increase corrosion resistance and provide more strength over time. This can provide a quicker return on investment for processing facilities with heat exchangers that have to be replaced frequently.
Fouled equipment slows plants down
Werzyn added that once equipment becomes fouled or dirtier, there are other consequences for plant operation, Ethanol Producer Magazine reported.
"As we get closer to shut down, there is a definite performance decrease and an increase in the required energies needed to run the process," said Werzyn. "If duct lines are not cleaned over a long period of time, duct fires can result, which can be very expensive, if not destructive, if they occur."
Equipment needs regular cleaning to last and perform required duties at its highest level. Werzyn said keeping equipment continuously clean could help save a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, the source stated.