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Furnaces Basic Concepts




This part provides an introduction to the furnaces used by Saudi Aramco in petroleum
processing plants. The types of furnaces used and their components are described. Also,
types of documents used by Saudi Aramco to specify furnaces for design and purchase,
and to record their inspection are presented.
Furnaces are used mainly to heat process fluids and usually are parts of specific process
units. Process furnaces consist of an internally-insulated enclosure, in which heat is
liberated by the combustion of fuel and is transferred to fluids contained in tubular coils.
Since the composition of the fluids being processed and the operating conditions vary
widely between units, many furnace arrangements are used to satisfy the individual
process unit requirements. Furnace size is almost always denoted by the amount of heat
Furnaces are also referred to as fired heaters. These two terms are used
interchangeably. They consist of a radiant section and a convection section. In the radiant
section, heat is transferred to the process fluid in the tubes primarily by radiation from
high-temperature flue gas. In the convection section, heat is transferred from the flue gas
to a bank of tubes, mainly by convection.
Furnaces are generally classified by the type of structural configuration and radiant coil
arrangement used. The choice of furnace type depends mainly on the furnace size and the
process coil requirements. Figure 1 illustrates typical furnace types in use today. The
main types of furnaces used by Saudi Aramco are vertical cylindrical and box furnaces
(Figures 1).


FIGURE 1 Typical Furnace Types

Vertical cylindrical furnaces are the most common type in use in the petroleum
processing industry. They are usually used for heat duties up to about 100 M Btu/hr,
although larger ones are sometimes used. Figure 2 shows two vertical cylindrical furnaces
at the Ras Tanura refinery.
The interior of a typical vertical cylindrical furnace is shown in Figure 3. In the radiant
section, tubes stand or hang vertically in a circle around the floor-mounted burners. Thus,
firing is parallel to the radiant section tubes.



Most vertical cylindrical furnaces have a horizontal convection section located above the
radiant section. Flue gases flow upwards through the convection bank and then to the
stack. Some vertical cylindrical furnaces do not have convection sections. These allradiant furnaces are very inefficient and usually are used only for very small furnaces or
when the furnace is operated very infrequently.
Box type furnaces are used for larger duties. In box furnaces with horizontal radiant
tubes, the tubes are located on the radiant section sidewalls and roof. The convection
section, also containing horizontal tubes, extends over the entire length of the radiant
section. Larger box furnaces can have two radiant boxes with one common convection
section, as shown in Figure 1 C. Cabin furnaces are very similar to box furnaces. An
internal view of a cabin furnace is shown in Figure 4


Several burner arrangements can be used with box furnaces, as shown in Figure 5. In
Saudi Aramco's furnaces, the burners are located in the furnace floor, firing upward, or in
the sidewalls below the tubes, firing horizontally against a center wall (Figures 5a and c).
In either case, firing is perpendicular to the tubes.


Arbor, or hoop tube, coils are also used in box furnaces (Figure 1a). These coils consist
of a series of vertical tubes located on each side of a radiant section, connected at the top
by a large semicircular tube section. This arrangement permits the use of a large number
of parallel flow paths. It is used in noncoking, all-vapor process flow services, where a
low pressure drop is desired. Arbor coils are used in the Plant 488 and 493 Rheniformer
furnaces. In this furnace, separate radiant zones are provided for the preheat and each
reheat service. These zones are separated by free-standing brick walls. The flue gases
from all the radiant zones pass through a common convection section.

A sulfur furnace is a different type of furnace, which is used in a sulfur recovery plant. It
consists of a refractory-lined combustion chamber, in which the H2S in the acid gas feed
stream is partially combusted with air under carefully controlled conditions. The effluent
from the combustor flows directly through a fire-tube waste heat boiler, where steam is
generated, and then to the remainder of the unit for sulfur recovery and further
processing. A sketch of a typical sulfur combustor furnace is shown in Figure 6.


A partial list of the furnaces in Saudi Aramco plants is contained in Figure 7.



The major components of a typical furnace are shown in Figure 8, which is an illustration
of a horizontal tube box furnace. These components comprise the three major elements of
the furnace: the process coil, the combustion/flue gas system, and the structure.


The process coil consists of a series of tubes which are connected at the ends by headers.
The process fluid usually enters the furnace at the top of the convection section, where
both the process and flue gas temperatures are the lowest. It passes down through the
convection section, following several parallel flow paths (passes), and exiting at the
bottom of the convection section. The convection section tube bank consists of several
tube rows, with each row consisting of several tubes. In the upper rows, the tubes have an
external extended surface to improve heat transfer with the flue gas. This extended
surface can be either fins or studs, and these are illustrated in Figure 9.

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The headers which connect the tubes are located in header boxes at each end of the
convection section. Headers can be either return bends or plug-type headers. Plug-type
headers are used only in cases where access to the inside of the coil is required for
inspection or cleaning. This access is not required in most cases. The shield section
consists of the bottom two rows of tubes in the convection section. These tubes shield the
next rows of tubes from direct radiation. After leaving the convection section, the fluid
passes through crossover pipes to the radiant section. In most furnaces, the radiant tubes
are arranged in single rows that are located a few inches from refractory walls. In some
furnaces, an auxiliary coil is included in the convection section to provide heat to a
secondary process service. In addition to heat required by the process services, more heat
can often be recovered from the flue gas by adding a steam generating section to the
convection section. In the case of the Plant 488 and 493 Rheniformer furnaces, the
process coils are located only in the radiant section, and the entire convection section is
used for steam generation. Throughout the furnace, the tubes are supported by tube
supports, which are attached to the furnace structure. In the convection section, large
supports which extend across the width of the convection section are used to support
several rows of tubes. In the radiant section, horizontal tubes are supported by small
supports which resemble fingers. These are discussed in greater detail in another module.
Arbor coils are supported by the inlet and outlet manifolds which are usually located
below the furnace floor. Tube guides are also provided to restrict movement of the tubes.
Most of Saudi Aramco's furnaces are designed to fire either gas or oil fuel, although some
are designed to fire only gas. Oil fired furnaces usually require soot blowers to
periodically clean the convection section tubes, particularly when extended surface tubes
are used. Soot blowers direct a blast of steam at the tubes to clean the surface and
increase heat transfer. Combustion air is supplied to the burners, where it is mixed with
the fuel. This flow of air is caused by the natural draft in the furnace, which is caused by
the difference in temperature between the flue gas inside the furnace and stack, and the
outside air. The rate of air flow is adjusted so that only the amount of air required for
good combustion is admitted to the furnace. Greater quantities of air-flow waste energy.
Combustion takes place in the furnace radiant section. Heat is transferred from the
burning fuel and hot flue gases to the radiant tubes by direct radiation. The radiant section
is sized to ensure that there is no direct flame impingement on the radiant tubes.

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The flue gases then flow through the convection section around the tube bank. Corbels
are provided in the convection section sidewalls to prevent flue gas from bypassing the
tube bank. The flue gas then flows from the convection section, through the breeching
and ducting, to the stack. In some cases, the flue gases from two or more furnaces are
combined and exit through a common stack. Dampers are provided in the ducting or
stack to regulate the available draft in the furnace. Some furnaces use a combustion air
preheater to improve efficiency. The most common type of air preheater system is shown
in Figure 10a. This system uses a heat exchanger to transfer heat from the flue gas
leaving the furnace to the air to be used for combustion. Because of the increased
combustion air, and flue gas pressure drops, forced and induced-draft fans are needed.
Another type of air preheat system is shown in Figure 10b. In this system, waste heat
from another source is used to heat the furnace combustion air.

The furnace enclosure consists of a metal casing plate with an internal refractory-lining.
An external structure supports all the furnace components. The furnace casing is designed
for minimum air infiltration, since any air entering the furnace, except through the
burners, does not contribute to good combustion. However, since the furnace normally
operates with a slight negative pressure (draft) inside, the structure is not subject to the
same internal pressures as boilers. Therefore, an expensive pressure-tight structure is not
required. Observation doors are provided in the casing to permit viewing the burners, the
combustion process, and all the radiant section tubes.

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Several Standards and Codes are used to cover the minimum requirements of new
equipment purchased by Saudi Aramco. Additional documents are used to record details
of the equipment actually purchased and installed, and to record the furnace's history
during its operating life.
SAES-F-001 Design Criteria of Fired Heaters
This Engineering Standard is mainly used for the purchase of new process furnaces (fired
heaters). It is based on and includes API Standard 560, Fired Heaters for General
Refinery Services, which contains the minimum requirements for the design and
fabrication of process furnaces. AES-F-001 also includes specific additions and revisions
to API 560 to meet Saudi Aramco's specific requirements. Included in these standards

Basic process and mechanical design considerations.

Mechanical design requirements, including the design of tubes and tube supports,
refractory, burners and fans, structure, platforms, stacks and ducts.
Inspection and testing.
Required connections and auxiliary equipment.

This standard also references other documents that cover specific aspects of the furnace
supply and design. The most important are listed below:

API Recommended Practice 530, Calculation of Heater-Tube Thickness in

Petroleum Refineries. This document covers procedures for the design of furnace
SAES-J-600, 603 Process Heater Burner Safety System. These standards cover
the instruments and controls required for safe operation of the furnace combustion

32-SAMSS-029 Manufacture of Fired Heater

This specification covers the minimum mandatory requirements for the manufacture of
Fired Heater. Paragraph numbers refer to API STD 560. The text in each paragraph is an
addition, deletion or exception to API STD 560, Second Edition, September 1995, which
is part of this specification as noted. Paragraph numbers not appearing in API STD 560
are newly added paragraphs inserted in numerical order.
Air Pre-Heater
A heat exchanger which heats the air required for combustion by exchanging heat withthe
flue gases leaving the convection section, or with another fluid of higher temperature.
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The flat or sloped portion of the radiant section opposite the floor.
The burners and tubes are enclosed in the fire box, which consists of a structure,
refractory lining, and tube supports.
The hood which collects the flue gas at the convection section exit, for transmission to
the stack or the outlet duct work.
Bridge Wall Temperature
The temperature of the flue gas leaving the radiant section. The term comes from the old
horizontal box heaters, where a bridge wall physically separated the radiant and
convection sections.
A device for mixing fuel and air for combustion.
A steel sheathing which encloses the heater box and makes it essentially air-tight.
A portion of the radiant section, separated from other cells by tubes or a refractory wall.
Also called a zone.
Center Wall
A refractory wall in the radiant section, which divides it into two separate cells.
A series of straight tube lengths connected by 180 return bends, forming a continuous
path through which the process fluid passes and is heated.
Convection Section
The portion of a heater, consisting of a bank of tubes, Which receives heat from the hot
flue gases, mainly by convection.
A projection from the convection section sidewall to prevent flue gas from flowing up the
side of the convection section, between the wall and the nearest tubes, thereby bypassing
the tube bank.
The interconnecting piping, either internal or external, between any two heater coil

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A device to regulate flow of gas through a stack or duct and to control draft in a heater. A
typical damper consists of a flat plate connected to a shaft which can be rotated, similar
to a butterfly valve.
The negative pressure (vacuum) at a given point inside the heater, usually expressed in
inches of water.
Excess Air
The percentage of air in the heater in excess of the stoichiometric amount required for
Extended Service
Surface added to the outside of bare tubes in the convection section to provide more heat
transfer area. This may consist of cylindrical studs butt welded to the tube, or fins
continuously wound around and welded to the tube.
Fire Box
A term used to describe the structure which surrounds the radiant coils and into which the
burners protrude.
Flue Gas
A mixture of gaseous products resulting from combustion of the fuel.
Forced Draft
Use of a fan to supply combustion air to the burners and to overcome the pressure drop
through the burners.
The fitting which connects two tubes in a coil. In common usage, header refers to cast
or forged 180 U-bends (return bends).
Header Box
The compartment at the end of the convection section where the headers are located.
There is no flue gas flow in the header box, since it is separated from the inside of the
furnace by an insulated tube sheet. Header boxes are sometimes also used in the radiant
Heat Duty
The total heat absorbed by the process fluid, usually expressed in MBtu/hr (million Btu
per hour). Total furnace duty is the sum of heat transferred to all process streams,
including auxiliary services such as stream superheaters and drier coils.
Heat Fired

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The total heat released in the furnace, equal to gross fuel times lower heating value
(LHV) of the fuel. Usually expressed in MBtu/hr.
Hip Section
The transition zone at the top of the radiant section in cabin type furnaces. The wall of
this section is usually at a 45 angle.
Use of a fan to provide the additional draft required, in addition to that supplied by the
stack, to draw the flue gas through the convection section, and any downstream heat
recovery equipment (i.e., air pressure).
Inspection Doors
Openings in the convection section sidewalls to allow inspection of tubes, extended
surfaces, and supports.
A pipe connected to several parallel passes and used to distribute or collect fluid from
these passes.
Natural Draft
System in which the draft required to move combustion air into the furnace, and flue gas
through the furnace and out the stack, is provided by stack effect alone.
Observation Doors
Openings in the radiant section floor and at selected points along the walls, to permit
viewing of tubes, supports, and burners.
One-Side Fired Tubes
Radiant section tubes located adjacent to a furnace wall have only one side directly
exposed to a burner flame. Radiation to the backside of the tubes is by
reflection/radiation from the refractory wall.
A coil which transports the process fluid from furnace inlet to outlet. The total process
fluid can be transported through the furnace by one or more parallel passes.
Radiant Section
The section of the furnace in which heat is transferred to the furnace tubes primarily by
radiation from high-temperature flue gas.
The furnace casing, brickwork, refractory, and insulation, including the tiebacks or
Shield Section

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The first two tube rows of the convection section. These tubes shield the balance of the
convection section from direct radiation.
A steam lance (usually movable) in the convection section for blowing soot and ash from
the tubes, using high-pressure steam.
A cylindrical steel, concrete, or brick shell which carries flue gas to the atmosphere and
provides necessary draft.
Stack Effect
The difference (buoyancy) between the weight of a column of high-temperature gases
inside the furnace and/or stack, and the weight of an equivalent column of external air,
usually expressed in inches of water per foot of height.
Stack Temperature
The temperature of the flue gas as it leaves the convection section, or air preheater,
directly upstream of the stack.
Tube Guide
Device used to restrict the movement of tubes.
A large tube support plate supporting a number of tubes.
Tube Support
A metal part which supports the weight of one or more tubes.
Two-Side Fired Tubes
Radiant section tubes which are exposed on both sides to direct radiation from the

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