Hydrocarbon Engineering Article| Brüel & Kjær Vibro (B&K Vibro)

Hydrocarbon Engineering – Beyond Double-Checking

By Published on September 15, 2021


You may not think about this in your day-to-day routine. However, did you know that those innocent-looking low-density polyethylene (LDPE) bags you get in your grocery store are actually created under some of the most extremely harsh operating conditions found in a petrochemical process? For instance, there is a lot of pressure. 2000 bar pressure is needed to make the LDPE pellets shown in the photo! Read about the whole process in our featured article in the Hydrocarbon Engineering Magazine.

Machine Monitored

Undoubtedly, the autoclave reactor is one of the more critical machines in an LDPE polyolefin plant. It is also one of the most sensitive to process conditions. This is because the high-pressure polymerization reaction is very sensitive to pressure-temperature conditions in the reactor. If not properly controlled, ethylene decomposition occurs (breakdown into hydrogen and methane), which can lead to an explosion. This will result in a full day of lost production if you have to replace the reactor. That corresponds to 205 tonnes of lost LDPE production, or over €225 500 – not counting maintenance costs.

Rolling-Element Bearings

The rolling-element bearings are critical components in an autoclave reactor. If a bearing fails, it can result in shutting down the entire LDPE process. Moreover, just a single ball-bearing fault at an early stage of development can create enough localized heat to unleash ethylene decomposition and an explosion.

Read more about three case studies in this article that demonstrate how important it is to monitor your rolling-element-bearing faults in a reactor.

Conclusion

In summary, a reactor mixer is a critical machine used in the LDPE process. The bearing fault detection and diagnostic cases in this article prove that an effective condition monitoring solution is absolutely imperative for this machine. It avoids costly production loss and increases uptime. The bearing fault detection and diagnostics, however, can be challenging as pointed out in the article.

Read More in Hydrocarbon Engineering

 

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