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Fired Heaters: Best Practices for the Control of Fuel Gas

By Allan G. Kern Consultant |

Large petroleum-refining complexes often have dozens of fired heaters, making broad-based competency in this area essential to overall reliability, safety and energy efficiency. Despite industry’s widespread familiarity with fired heaters, they continue to pose significant challenges during initial control-system design and unless properly specified, operated and maintained, fired heaters can hinder good control and reliable operation going forward. All fuel-gas-fired heaters have basic features in common, but no two applications are exactly the same, and an industry best practice for fuel-gas control has never emerged. Even one of the most basic questions — whether to use fuel-gas-flow control or pressure control — remains open, with little industry guidance available. A helpful approach to move toward industry standardization is to identify the most common and successful practices based on current technology and experience, for use as a design starting point and a reference point. Figure 1 provides a proposed starting or reference point for fuel-gas control-system design for fired heaters. This figure encompasses some areas of judgment and compromise, and not everyone will agree with all aspects of it. In my professional…
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