It’s no secret that heat exchangers are major sources of leaks for plants. And when you look at the traditional way they’re inspected, it’s no surprise why.
A flange runout inspection is a huge undertaking. Just taking measurements of a few components ties up crews for days as plant owners are forced to set up massive field machining equipment and coordinate costly shipments. The time spent on and expense of finding deficiencies and machining fixes can be enormous. Because of these complications, plant owners are often left picking and choosing which components to inspect during a shutdown, leaving many — sometimes hundreds of — components unchecked and possibly on the verge of leaking.
If this process sounds outdated, that’s because it is. Laser inspections can cut out several of these complex and costly steps, allowing you to check all of your components quickly, easily, and with remarkable accuracy.
INNOVATOR experts recently put the Laser Tracker to the test at a plant in Sarnia, Ontario.
A need for speed
“All of our inspections are customizable: We can tailor the inspection to what our clients are looking for,” says Chris Coombs, quality assurance manager at INNOVATOR.
In this case, two of the general contractors needed to ensure all exchanger components were checked during the plant’s shutdown.
“The Laser Tracker is more accurate than most traditional tools; however, that level of accuracy wasn’t required for our inspections at Shell,” explains Coombs. “Traditional tools would have been perfectly capable, but laser inspection is much faster. In the time it takes to set up on one exchanger with a regular machine, we can potentially complete that entire operating unit with the Laser Tracker.”
Best of all, the Laser Tracker’s reporting is instantaneous, meaning it can pinpoint exactly which components are in working order and which need machining. This reduces unnecessary machine hookups for operators, letting them focus their time and resources only on the exchangers that need work.
The proof is in the numbers
With the help of the FARO Laser Tracker, the INNOVATOR crewmembers were highly productive in a very short window: They completed 100% of their inspections ahead of schedule.
“We have the ability to bring in more than one laser, depending on the scope of work required, so for this client, we were actually using three,” says Coombs. “In one day, we inspected 30-plus components all with on-site, instantaneous reporting. This number of inspections isn’t typical, but it shows the potential of laser inspection.”
The work was done so quickly, in fact, that the client was initially concerned about the accuracy of the reports.
“Because of our speed, the client was skeptical,” says Coombs.
However, in this case, INNOVATOR professionals weren’t making the repairs for the client; the team was simply brought in to inspect the flanges while another contractor was performing the repairs.
“Our inspection results were actually verified by the repair contractors on-site, using their mounted flange facers to within 0.001 inches,” Coombs says. “After this, our client had 100% confidence in our results.”
Transforming shutdown inspections
Needless to say, the customer was impressed.
And we are, too! Laser inspection is a transformative technology that changes the whole outlook on inspections during shutdowns.
“The timing, scheduling, costs, and logistics of shipping the components back and forth for a flatness or runout inspection check are completely eliminated when we employ laser inspection,” says Coombs. “We’ll continue proactively looking for ways to use this tool because it saves our customers so much time and money!”