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The challenge

One of CORE Additive Technologies’ main areas of expertise is in the chemical decontamination of refinery equipment, such as heat exchangers, pipework and storage tanks. These areas become clogged up over time with foulant, which if neglected, stops mechanisms from working and a process from flowing. The traditional means of cleaning this foulant away is to halt the process, disassemble the parts and blast it all with high pressure water jetting, re-assemble and resume the process. As well as being inefficient and expensive as it takes up a lot of time, this method also creates a huge amount of waste product, which then needs to be safely disposed of, usually at considerable cost.

Great chemistry

CORE Additive Technologies’ innovative solution to this age-old problem is to make a chemical analysis of the specific foulant and work out how best to break it down with chemicals. This is done by circulating the company’s special chemistry at various temperatures and concentrations around the system to be cleaned. The resulting substance is collected and whether it sinks or floats, it can then be efficiently drained off. This keeps the amount of waste produced to a minimum and means the whole cleaning process is much quicker, as disassembly is not required.

Designing and constructing lab scale experimental rigs

CORE designed and built a lab scale experimental rig, which it has used to test its innovative chemistry on foulant samples from equipment on various refineries around the world. This small scale, five litre rig does not just enable effective testing of the chemistry on different foulants, it is also used for client demonstrations, so that customers can see how the process works right in front of them.

CORE attended a number of masterclasses at I2C, including Institute for Manufacturing, Process Control and Automation and 3D Printing. Applying the skills acquired in these sessions, the company worked with I2C in the Energy Centre at Thornton Science Park to construct a more stable model of this rig that is suitable for running for longer hours, reflecting ‘real world’ onsite working. I2C has helped in the development of an interface to use on the rig to monitor temperature, level and flow of the circulating chemistry. By experimenting with different flow rates and temperatures, the process can be optimised to make massive savings on the heat and energy required, as well as reducing shutdown time too.
The model is also being designed to produce data that can be exported into graphs that can be shown to clients to demonstrate performance and efficiency. In addition, the rig will include an automatic safety shutdown system as well as alarms to ensure the rig is safely operating at all times.

Lee O’Nions, Managing Director, CORE Additive Technologies, says, “Without I2C’s unceasing support, expertise and state-of-the-art premises, we would not have progressed to this point so quickly. We had a great idea and knew it had commercial potential but I2C has enabled us to realise that potential and develop it still further. We have even taken on two new members of staff as a result of our rapid growth.”

The I2C initiative was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. SMEs registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, who met the eligibility criteria, were eligible to apply for support from the I2C project. Applicants had to have a turnover of less than €50 million and employ fewer than 250 employees. In addition to I2C’s in-house team of engineers and specialist equipment, SMEs that enrol in the project had access to the world-class facilities at the University of Chester, via its state-of-the-art skills, equipment and resources based at Thornton Science Park and the NoWFOOD Centre in Chester.

The I2C project has now finished but if you are a business looking for access to facilities and expert growth support, please contact the University of Chester’s Business Growth team either by visiting www1.chester.ac.uk/business-growth, emailing businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk or you can call 01244 512 477.