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Efficiency and safety improved at Europe’s largest ammonia plant

17 December 2009

Sensornet has installed and commissioned two of its Halo DTS (distributed temperature sensors) systems and sensing cables at the largest ammonia plant in Europe to provide continuous process monitoring of two reactor vessels.

Efficiency and safety improved at Europe’s largest ammonia plant
Efficiency and safety improved at Europe’s largest ammonia plant

By providing reliable, real-time data, Sensornet brought a number of significant benefits to the client. Yara is the world’s largest supplier of mineral fertilisers, the world’s largest supplier and trader of ammonia, and a global leader in a wide range of chemical products. The site, at Sluiskil in the Netherlands is a major European fertilizer complex.

Sensornet has developed its Halo DTS technology to cope with the thermal and chemical processes that occur within reactor vessels and columns and which can slowly erode and weaken the structure of the vessel. As this weakening occurs the skin of the vessel is reduced causing a potential point of weakness or failure.

The two ammonia vessels at Yara Sluiskil operate at high temperatures. Constant monitoring of the skin temperature (approximately 110 to 150°C) is required to detect the location of any cracks in the internal insulation, allowing any hotspots to be identified and managed from an early stage.

The temperature of the vessels can rise up to 350°C when a hotspot occurs. These hotspots create great stress on the vessel and repairs must be completed during a turn-around.

The former monitoring solution, using electrical resistivity, was outdated and was not supported by the original supplier. Sensornet was required to fill the monitoring gap by providing a solution that provided a complete temperature profile of the reactor vessel with near real-time refresh rates. Monitoring the entire vessel online enables the process to be managed to ensure the vessel performs within its operational tolerances. This results in longer run times between cleaning and maintenance periods. Moreover, the operator can be safe in the knowledge that the vessel is operating safely.

The Sensornet team worked around the clock along with other service companies to ensure the installation of the monitoring cables was completed within schedule.

The DTS from Sensornet offers measurement times of down to 10 seconds and temperature changes of better than 0.01°C can be detected by the sensing cable. For each of these vessels a total of 1km of sensing cable was deployed directly onto the skin. This gives a total of 1,000 measurement points and provides the client with comprehensive thermal modelling of the reactor vessel.

Jerry Worsley, Industrial Monitoring Manager, Sensornet said: "Having developed our technology and established our reputation in the oil and gas industry, working with Yara posed unique challenges for our team. By delivering within the tight deadlines imposed by the need to have the work completed within the down periods we were able to complete the monitoring process with the minimal disruption to production."

Xavier Herman, Assistant Engineer, Yara, said: The installed system enables us to follow-up the state of the refractory. Due to the system we are able to detect changes that give us the oppertunity to act in early stage. Furthermore Yara is satisfied with the cooperation withSensornet to find a solution and the ability to react and adapt to small changes during the project. Yara is also satisfied in the effort they put in to realise it in short period.

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