Increasing the safety and reliability of our primary gasoline-making units
In this update, we highlight our project to increase the safety and reliability of one of our primary gasoline-making units – the fluid catalytic cracking unit, also known as an FCC – in Plant 2. Producing approximately 8,500 barrels of gasoline per day, the Plant 2 FCC allows for the critical production of fuel for Coloradans.
Our refinery has two FCC units, one in Plant 1 and one in Plant 2. The FCCs operate continuously for the majority of the year, but an FCC may need to shut down for any number of reasons, including a change in temperature, change in pressure, power loss, or maintenance. Over the past two years, we have made significant improvements to the shutdown process in both FCCs. We completed upgrades to the automated shutdown system of the Plant 1 FCC in June of 2021.
Our recent improvements in the Plant 2 FCC are a continuation of the important work we completed in August 2020, where we installed an automated shutdown system within the distributed control system (DCS). The DCS is a computerized process control system.
This year, we further improved the Plant 2 FCC by installing a programmable logic controller (PLC), which is an additional computerized process control system that provides an independent layer of control for the FCC shutdown process.
Together, the DCS and PLC allow for independent layers of protection, helping to ensure that the shutdown system operates at a high level of reliability, while also increasing the efficiency, speed, and reliability of the shutdown process.
In addition to the upgraded computer systems, we installed new critical hardware including automated shutdown valves and hydraulic pressure units. These new pieces of hardware isolate and seal off processes during a shutdown to greatly reduce the potential for releases of catalyst (made up mostly of clay and sand) used during the gasoline making process.
“The Plant 2 FCC can quickly and safely shut down for any reason, such as a power loss. The independent layers of protection provide an additional level of reliability to contain catalyst within the FCC unit,” said Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City Refinery.