Performance through partnership
This article published in our customer magazine, Results automation, discusses the importance of reliable, uninterrupted hydrogen supply by Air Liquide’s gas plant at end-user refinery site, where equipment suppliers, such as valves have a very important role to play as well.
Air Liquide’s new production unit in Priolo Gargallo, Siciliy, Italy focuses on the production of technical gases used in the oil industry. While Air Liquide’s core business is air separation and the production of oxygen, argon, nitrogen and other rare gasses, the plant in Priolo was specifically built to supply local refineries with hydrogen.
For a plant serving a refinery, which is in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, availability and reliability that ensures uninterrupted production is absolutely essential. Planned shutdowns are kept short and generally scheduled twice a year at intervals of up to 5 years. This places high demands on not only the components, but also the process itself. In addition to containing solutions and innovations that provide reliability and increase efficiency, the plant also holds high standards regarding the environmental efficiency of its production process.
As mentioned earlier, efficiency and reliability play a key role at the plant. These factors have also guided Air Liquide in the selection of suppliers. Metso is one of their regular partners not only because of the reliability of delivered elements, but also because of how they are installed and managed. Metso has been part of the PSA High Cycling application with its Wafer-Sphere family of valves, equipped with intelligent valve controllers from the ND9000 range. The Metso valves play a critical role, as they are expected to maintain rapid process control while under extreme stress. The built-in intelligence allows precise valve control based on process input, while simultaneously gathering information about operations and performance.
At Air Liquide, Metso has installed the PSA High Cycling with its Wafer-Sphere valves, equipped with ND9000 intelligent valve controllers.
While Metso valves are guaranteed a high mean time between failures due to components, the valve diagnostics help accurately plan for any needed corrective, preventive and predictive maintenance. For Air Liquide this provides indispensable information that ultimately helps avoid any unexpected shutdowns. The diagnostics also help predict the remaining lifespan of components, letting the customer get the most out of them while accurately determining the necessary replacement period.
From service to partnership
The added value that Metso has brought to the table is not limited to innovative technological solutions and components alone. The proactive service mentality and partnership has been important to the customer. The Metso FieldCare Asset Management System connected to the intelligent valve controllers has proven to be a valuable tool in creating tangible savings, but it has been the performance and commitment of Metso’s local Service Manager that has truly impressed.
The partnership that has been formed has facilitated the establishment of a unique on-site assistance-based relationship with technical support for components and their maintenance provided by Metso. Thanks to Metso’s experience and technological excellence, the relationship has even evolved to the level where the supplier has now become the client’s consultant, helping in the management of day-to-day activities.
A model to repeat
The success in Priolo is expected to bring about new cooperative cases. Air Liquide sees the benefits of replicating successful models and procedures across its plants worldwide, and even changing corporate standards based on them. After the Priolo project was awarded second prize in the Efficiency category at Air Liquide’s internal “Innovation Day” in 2010, both sides are already looking forward to new projects in the future.
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