Reopening a mothballed plant offers a cost-effective alternative to new construction, but only if the overall structure is in good condition and major equipment is in good working order. It makes economic sense particularly if the plant’s original design was flexible and the plant can be reconfigured to produce something other than its original product mix. If you are planning such a reopening, it is essential that you perform a thorough evaluation of everything in the plant down to the gauges, sensors, and instrumentation that control industrial processes.

If the plant has been idle for more than six months, you will probably need to perform some upgrades. One key consideration is how diligently the shutdown procedures and preservation measures were followed. For example, was all piping thoroughly flushed and rotating equipment prepped for an extended shutdown? Another important preventive measure is a nitrogen purge on all vacant lines and rust prevention while the equipment is idle. In addition, the plant’s proximity to fresh or salt water will affect the deterioration of both the building and equipment. Older gauges and instruments must be thoroughly tested to ensure that they operate properly, meet current safety standards, and can support new equipment. Assessing new health and safety regulations is key, particularly if a plant has been mothballed for a number of years. In some cases, the company may need to engage the services of an environmental-protection contractor during the design review and later plant refurbishment.

A great time for turnaround instrument planning

Reopening a mothballed plant is a golden opportunity for turnaround instrument planning, which WIKA offers to instrumentation customers through its Full Audit Service Team. FAST engineers start with a thorough instrument audit, specifying the correct instruments, and replacing broken ones with state-of-the-art replacements. The following parameters of the new operation are critical to properly specifying replacement gauges:

  • Process pressure ranges
  • Temperature ranges
  • Vibration levels
  • Media type – in essence, the chemical being measured

Turnaround instrument planning helps to streamline gauge and instrument management: In some cases, the number of gauges in inventory can be reduced by up to 50%. Moreover, ensuring that the correct gauges and instruments are installed when and where they are needed allows engineers and plant operators to test and adjust equipment before production begins. Users who take these steps can trim gauge maintenance costs by 25% and reduce the frequency of unscheduled equipment downtime in the future. Of note, many plant operators will seize the opportunity to take advantage of equipment advances and to replace older, local indicators with the latest smart gauges and transmitters. These instruments can be monitored from another location in the plant or from an entirely different site. There are other bottom-line benefits to turnaround instrument planning. Customers avoid delayed or lost equipment and reduce cost overruns that might result from prolonged re-engineering of a production line. Perhaps more critically, such planning helps to avoid the installation of incorrect gauges and instruments, which could cause leaks or failures upon start-up. ExxonMobil CEO Sherman Glass likens plant startups and shutdowns to the takeoff and landing of an airplane. He states that 40% of production problems occur during a plant’s startup and shutdown. His comment underscores the need for adequate planning, beginning with the gauges and instruments in the plant. Contact WIKA for more information about outfitting your plant with the right instrumentation to meet your requirements.

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