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Maintaining the Reliability and Safety of Steam Methane Reformers through Outlet System Monitoring

Monitoring the performance of a steam methane reformer (SMR) is a crucial process in the ammonia, methanol, hydrogen, and steel industries.

However, the operation of the SMR close to its material temperature and pressure design limits poses significant reliability challenges, such as creep rupture and cracks caused by high pressures, temperature fluctuations, and mechanical loads. Therefore, regular physical inspections and monitoring of the SMR are required despite the safety risks beneath the reformer.

LWIR - 640 Thermal Imaging SolutionsOne crucial variable to monitor is the surface temperature of the outlet tubes, manifolds, sub-headers, and cross-headers. These components indicate the gas exit temperature and insulation or refractory condition. The outlet pigtails and manifolds that operate at syngas temperature can be monitored using thermal imaging borescopes, and welds/joints can be inspected through access ports. Additionally, in cold outlet systems that use internal insulation and eliminate hot pigtails and manifolds entirely, reformed gas is collected in a refractory-lined manifold.

Outlet system temperatures are monitored throughout the industry visually and periodically using handheld pyrometers or portable thermal imaging cameras. Fixed/continuous monitoring solutions include thermal-sensitive paints, contact thermocouples, or temperature-sensing cables. However, these solutions have limitations, such as difficulties in applying and maintaining, and are unsuitable for long pipe lengths where large surface areas require measurement.

AMETEK Land Thermal ImageThe ideal solution is continuous monitoring, recording, and alarming using thermal imaging and asset monitoring. AMETEK Land's fixed thermal imaging solution – utilising the LWIR-640-EX camera, the new EXSH housing, and the powerful IMAGEPro-Asset Monitor software – continuously monitors outlet systems to provide automatic alarming, recording and archiving, which improves safety, and furnace reliability, whilst reducing operating and maintenance costs.

The area beneath a furnace is particularly unsafe due to high surface temperatures, limited access, and the presence of hazardous, flammable gases. Therefore, autonomous monitoring should only be considered with instruments certified for Ex environments. The outlet system can then be monitored from the control room to protect both the operator/inspector and the integrity of the plant.

In conclusion, monitoring the performance of a steam methane reformer is crucial in the petrochemical industry, and the use of thermal imaging cameras can provide a continuous, safe, and efficient monitoring solution. Constant monitoring solutions such as AMETEK Land's fixed thermal imaging solution can help to improve the safety and reliability of the furnace and reduce operating and maintenance costs.

Click here for more information on our LWIR-640 Thermal Imaging solution.


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