AMETEK Land has supplied its Near Infrared Borescope (NIR-B) 3XR, an enhanced thermal imager, to the world leader in gases, technologies and services for industry and health, Air Liquide, which is now gaining know-how by continuously measuring temperature of tube walls within its steam methane reformers (SMR).
Air Liquide’s steam methane reformers, which produce industrial hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases, are critical assets, and their safe and reliable operation is of paramount importance. However, they are very challenging assets to maintain and operate. Some of the most-common problems in reformer operation are burner, flue gas distribution and catalyst issues. All of those problems can directly affect tube wall temperatures (TWT) and tube life and can lead to premature tube failure. Those issues also can lead a producer to be overly cautious on TWT and lose valuable production every year.
Using AMETEK Land’s Cyclops, a portable non-contact pyrometer, TWT readings are taken manually through peep doors. These measurements are spot readings. When opening peep doors, the tubes cool, affecting the accuracy of the temperature measurement, plus enormous stress is added to the tubes, that may result in damage to the tube wall. Air Liquide understood the critical importance of managing TWT. It required a solution that delivered highly accurate and more-complete measurement of the equipment and process, compared to spot temperature measurements, while operating in a hazardous environment. AMETEK Land recommended its Near Infrared Borescope (NIR-B) 3XR. It provides a high-resolution thermal image with real-time, high-accuracy temperature measurements of both the tube wall and refractory wall surface, allowing for background compensation.
Developed specifically to operate in the hazardous areas of a steam methane reformer, the NIR-B 3XR is ATEX and IECEx approved and CSA certified. It is a short-wavelength radiometric, infrared borescope imaging camera, which measures temperatures in the single range of 600 to 1800 °C (1112 to 3272 °F) and utilizes the latest wide dynamic range imaging technology.
This solution was ideal for Air Liquide’s industrial gas application in which there were high differential temperatures in the field of view, such as the tube and furnace walls.
Air Liquide initially undertook a live trial of AMETEK Land’s NIR-B at a pilot plant in Spain with the full support of the AMETEK Land team., That allowed the operators to fully test the instrument within their specific and harsh environment. Air Liquide was able to confirm the instrument’s’ suitability and prove the critical role it could play in enabling and enhancing tube know-how. The borescope was installed through the furnace wall in front of the tubes within the chamber. The thermal imager is connected via a field connection box to the control room.
Gonzalo Navarro, Production Manager at Air Liquide Ibérica de Gases, comments, “Our main drivers for investing in AMETEK Land’s NIR-B 3XR were to extend tube and catalyst life, which we are achieving as a result. We continuously are learning about our reformer, which enables us to balance it correctly and to follow our main and most-critical asset online.”
Air Liquide uses the extensive functions available within the LIPS NIR-B thermal imaging software to monitor TWT 24/7 and to receive early warning of increasing temperatures.
“The software allows us to spot and respond immediately to problems such as hot spots and bands on the tubes, refractory damage and any flame impingement,” comments Mr. Navarro. “We extensively use the Isotherm temperature measurement mode within the software to highlight areas of a thermal image that are within a selected temperature range. Areas within the isotherm’s range are displayed in our chosen colour for clear visibility and are key to our comprehensive understanding of tube performance.”
“The implementation of the thermal imagers has allowed us to gain furnace know-how,” continues Mr. Navarro. “Now, our teams are able to monitor the temperature of the tubes continuously, they are able to make more informed and confident decisions implying greater plant reliability”.
With the confirmation that its plants are increasing know-how by continuously measuring temperature of tube walls, Air Liquide’s Research and Development team approved the NIR-B 3XR thermal imager for potential installation in additional steam methane reformers.