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Best-Practice Guide to Downstream Technology

By Ali A. Al-Khater, Operations Manager, Phenolics, Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Company A SABIC Affiliate

Ali A. Al-Khater works as the Operations Manager at the Phenolics Plants of Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Company in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. He successfully led the team that brought the Phenol, Cumene, and BPA Plants to operation. He has vast experience in project execution, commissioning, start ups and operations. Ali obtained his Bachelor of Applied Chemical Engineering at the King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran KSA and his MBA in International Economic Relations at the University of Alcala in Madrid, Spain. He is also a certified project management professional, PMP. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------1. What do you consider to be the best approach for procurement and analysis of new downstream technologies? Prior to procuring any new downstream technology its vital to do thorough analysis of the technology and do a comparison among them. Based on the analysis results the best suitable technology should be selected. All aspects should be considered when doing the comparison such as the feedstock availability/variable; fixed cost/operability; maintainability utilities/chemicals and catalysts/effluents. 2. What are the key pros and cons of new downstream technologies? The main pro is that new technology will have the latest developments for equipment, including: design, cost, efficiency, safety, environment, operability and maintainability. On the other hand, the con of new technology is that it will always be undeveloped with areas requiring more development and testing. These undeveloped areas can lead to plant down time which impacts the company financially. 3. If you ever come up against budgetary limitations how would you overcome these? - Conducting value engineering, considering all aspects such the project specification. - Cost optimization exercises looking into reducing equipment count / de scoping / reducing plant capacity. - If all of this is not working - look for alternative technology. 4. Testing technologies is a key issue across the board can you give 3 or 4 top tips on how you effectively test new downstream technologies?

Prior to testing the technology its important that the selected technology is a proven technology on a full capacity scale rather than a pilot scale. There are many ways to test a technology before and after commissioning. One of the ways to test the technology prior to the start up is to build a dynamic simulator that simulates the actual plant behavior so if there is any design problem it will be detected prior to start up. During precommissioning all safe guards / instruments / rotating equipment should be tested to detect any deficiencies. Finally, start-up is the time where the plant will be tested against the specification to insure producing on spec. and compare the plant design against actual capacity and rated capacity. Usually when purchasing any new technology there will be liabilities on the technology provider to conduct performance tests for their technology. 5. How do new technologies affect the efficiency of operations? What advice can you give on best-practice implementation? New technologies normally improve the efficiency of operations by having automation implemented all over the plant, therefore minimising operator interference. Implementing the latest technologies for equipment will also develop plant monitoring / maintenance / safety & environment. In regards to best-practice implementation it is advisable that operations and maintenance practices are considered at the early stages of the project so these practices are inherited in the design. Nowadays, there are many companies that provide best-practice programmes for grass root companies to help them in developing their operations and maintenance philosophy to ensure a flawless start up. Ali A. Al-Khater will be speaking at I QPCs upcoming Downstream Technology Conference on Identifying smart techniques to upgrades & enhance performance in petrochemical plants. The Downstream Technology Conference, being held 19 - 22 February 2012 at Hilton Kuwait Resort, Fahaheel, Kuwait will address 21st century production challenges through innovative downstream technology. Visit for more details.