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Improving Catalytic Reformer Heaters

Using New Technologies

Ashutosh Garg
Furnace Improvements Services FIS Patented
Catalytic Reforming Units
❖Catalytic Reforming Unit is an important unit in most
❖It converts Straight Run Naphtha from Low Octane to
High Octane in Presence of Hydrogen
❖The reaction occurs in the presence of catalyst.
❖The reaction is endothermic in nature.
❖The reaction is carried out in 3 or 4 stage reactors.
❖Feed needs to be heated in the charge heater and then to
the interheaters before reactors.
❖Catalytic reforming units initially
operated at very high pressure and
over the last 50 years the pressure has
gradually reduced from 1000 psig to
almost 50 psig.
❖Feed volume increases substantially
as the pressure goes down.
❖Typical pressure drop across each
stage is only 3-4 psi.
❖Pressure drop is very critical as it
determines recycle gas compressors.
Catalytic Reforming Heaters
❖Most of the heaters have charge in the radiant
section only
▪ Inlet all vapor, large manifolds provided
▪ Low pressure drop required, multiple passes
▪ High inlet temperature 850-900 F, outlet temperature-
950-1050 F
❖Convection section has waste heat recovery
▪ Mostly steam generation –bfw preheating, steam
generation and steam superheater
▪ Some have stripper and stabilizer reboilers coils
❖Most heaters are natural draft
configuration Damper

❖Tall stack providing draft in the

radiant section
❖Air preheating also installed in Convection Section

some heaters
❖Typical heat flux
15,000-20,000 Btu/hr.ft2
❖Tubes are single fired or double
Clients are want to increase the
capacity of their units

Most Clients Increase in charge rate means increase

of pressure drop in the heater
want to
Increase Limited in pressure drop and cannot
push more charge
Heater Duty
Limited in firing rate/permit limit
Conventional Approach
❖Increase tube size to reduce pressure drop
❖Upgrade tube metallurgy to increase TMT limits
❖Both options require complete radiant section 250°F

retubing including manifold 750°F

Waste Heat
Recovery Unit
Process Feed Out

❖Increase heat transfer area in radiant section Process Feed In


▪ Extend existing radiant section

▪ Add new radiant section
❖Both these options are extremely expensive
Conventional Approach to Increasing Capacity
❖ Extend radiant cell and add more radiant coils & burners
❖ Provide additional radiant cells with new coils and burners
H-20 H-21

H-21 (NEW) H-20 H-21 H-22


New burners
Real estate
& associated

Drawbacks of New civil

Higher firing
Conventional foundation
Very High cost

Split Flow* Fired Heater

Flue gas 500 °F
Split Flow in
Convection Split Flow out
450 °F 600 °F
Section- II

Flue gas

Flue gas 750 °F Flue gas 1,650 °F

Convection 500 °F Feed Out

Feed In Radiant Section
450 °F Section - I
600 °F

Flue gas 1,650 °F Flue gas 3,200 °F


Reformer Heater - Split Flow

❖Radiant Section
▪ Parallel Passes
▪ Heat 70% of process feed 250°F
Waste Heat
Split Recovery Unit
Flow in 1,100°F
Split Flow Out

❖Convection Section Process Feed In

Process Feed Out

▪ Heat 30% of Process Feed

▪ Waste heat recover
• HC Reboiler
• Steam Generation Service

 Pressure drop is maintained

Reformer Heater – Flexible Split Flow
❖Radiant Section
▪ Parallel Passes
▪ Heat 70% + of process feed
❖Convection Section
▪ Heat up to 30% of Process Feed
▪ Waste heat recovery
• HC Reboiler
• Steam Generation Service
❖Pressure drop is kept same even
at increased charge rate.
Split Flow with Flexibility
Split Flow Technology - Advantages

❖Low Cost Solution for:

▪ Increasing Capacity
▪ Improving Efficiency
❖Lower Pressure Drop
❖Lower Revamping Cost
❖Flexible Operation
❖ Maximum Process Duty
❖ Maximum Steam Generation
Case Study 1
❖Three stage catalytic reformer ( reactor) unit
❖First cell – Feed heater, Rest 3 cells- interheater
❖Feed- Mixture of Naphtha and Recycle gas
❖Inlet Temperature- 842-990 °F
❖Outlet Temperature-1010 °F
❖Inlet Pressure-231 psig
❖Outlet Pressure- 228 psig
❖Pressure drop /stage- 3 psi
Revamp Objectives

❖Improve Efficiency
▪ Stack temperature was 1100 ºF
❖ No steam generation
❖ No air preheater
❖Gas prices touched
Arrangement - Original Heater
Stripper Btms
428°F Stack 459°F Stack Stack
Stripper Btms Stabilizer
Btms From Plat.
1010°F Stabilizer Stripper Btms
To Plat. RX To Plat. RX
840°F From Plat. RX.
Stripper Btms To Plat. RX From Plat. RX
To Plat. RX


Process flow before revamp
Reformer Heater Conventional
❖Increase heat transfer surface in
convection section
❖Pressure drop – more than twice
of existing
❖Large size piping requirement
❖Larger convection sections
❖Increased stack height
❖High cost ($6 Million) Reformer Heater
Split-Flow Arrangement
Stack Stack Stack
In Out
In #4 In
#3 In
#1 In #2 In Out
#3 Out
#4 Out
#1 Out #2 Out

Burners Split Flow Technology Design
Heater Data Comparison
Reformer Heater Data Comparison

Item Units Before After

Capacity BPD 18,500 24,000
Heat Duty MMBtu/hr 158 194.5
Heat release MMBtu/hr 234 225
Stack temp. °F 1,092 478
Efficiency % 67.5 86.6
Fuel savings $/annum 5.8 Million
Heater after revamp
Case Study-2
❖Process heating-all Radiant
❖Steam Generation in Convection
❖Natural Draft
❖Firing rates were very high
❖Heater efficiency lower than design
value by 10% to 15%
❖Stack temperature -650℉ (320 ℉
higher than design)
Radiant Section
❖3 Cells
❖52/56/48 tubes in cells 1/2/3
❖P22 tubes
❖Inverted U tubes
❖Single fired design
❖Bottom inlet/outlet
❖2.5 inch tubes at 5 inch pitch
❖Total -23 Burners (7 , 9 and 7 in cell 1/2/3)
Convection Section
❖Steam Generator Bank
❖BFW Preheater Bank
❖Steam Generation: 53,650 lbs/hr@300 psig
❖8 tubes per row
❖Eleven rows
❖Two future rows
Revamp Objectives

❖Increase heater capacity from 12,000 to

18,000 BPD
❖Improve thermal efficiency
❖Maintain NOx emissions
❖Improve Reliability
Proposed Process Heat Duties (MMBtu/hr)
at 18000 BPD

Existing Heat Proposed Extra Duty

Heater Section
Duty Duty Required
70-H-1 27.7 37.5 9.8
70-H-2 33.4 44.7 11.3
70-H-3 22.9 30.9 8.0
Stem Gen. 51.6 47.8 -
Total Process 84 113.1 29.1
Split Flow for 70-H-1/70-H-2/70-H-3
❖70-H-1- 2 Bare Rows TFG = 350℉

❖70-H-2- 2 Finned Rows

❖70-H-3 – 2 Finned Rows

TFG = 1,300℉

TFG = 1,717℉ TFG = 1,717℉
Final Revamp – Split Flow Control Scheme
Proposed Revamp Solution
❖Lower Pressure drop in all heaters
▪ Allowable : 5 psi
▪ Calculated : 2-4 psi
❖No Modification to existing Radiant cells
❖Reduced Average Heat Flux
❖Lower Firing Rate – 180 MMBtu /hr
❖Lower Volumetric Heat Release
❖More efficient system - 89%
❖Flexibility to increase duty further
Flexible Split Flow Technology
Proposed Scheme Advantages
❖25-30% process feed of Cells 1 & 2 is heated in split flow coils
❖Heater to be operated at two modes:
▪ Normal operation/Maximum process absorbed duties
▪ Dry run operation/Maximum steam generation
❖To maximize steam production, process absorbed duties reduced
❖Split flow coils are run dry to shift convection heat duties for steam
❖It gives flexibility in steam production and process duties as per
❖No change in firing rates
General Advantages of FIS
Flexible Split Flow Technology
❖Improved Capacity and Flexible Operation
❖Higher Efficiency
❖Lower Pressure Drop (process)
❖Lower Firing Rate
❖Lower Fire Box Temperatures
❖Lower Radiant Heat Fluxes
❖Lower TMT
❖Lower Turnaround Time
❖Lower Installation Cost
Thank you very much.
Questions and Comments are welcome.

Furnace Improvement Services Inc.

Low Cost Solutions for Fired Heaters and Boilers
1600 Hwy 6 South Ste. 480
Sugar Land, TX 77479
Tel: (281) 980-0325