His problem: When your plant manufactures highly abrasive ceramic beads that are used as proppants in oil and gas exploration and drilling, how do you keep those beads from doing their destructive work inside your conveying lines?
Carbo Ceramics’ Eufaula, Ala. facility manufactures calcined kaolin ceramic beads that are used by global giants like Halliburton and Schlumberger. The beads are pumped into well bores to prop open newly induced fractures and enhance the flow of oil and natural gas to the surface.
Trouble is, these same beads were wearing out the inside of Carbo’s pneumatic lines on the way to storage. Sorensen, Carbo’s maintenance manager, recalls a time not long ago when the lines’ traditional long-radius elbows were wearing out as often as once a week, and inspecting a dozen elbows for wear or failure was part of his daily routine.
“Each elbow would wear through and leak within a week or two after installation,” he said. “We would patch them up, but even that would only add a few more days to their operational life.”
And the elbows weren’t always easily accessible. Accessing some of them required a workbasket and a two- to three-person crew, and the costs of maintenance and equipment were adding up. Cleaning up leaked kaolin exacerbated the problem, causing lost production and increased housekeeping labor.
As the situation approached critical status, Sorensen and a colleague noticed an ad in a trade magazine for a different type of conveying elbow, called the Smart Elbow® deflection elbow from HammerTek Corp. in Bethlehem, Pa. The Smart Elbow unit is an entirely different kind of elbow whose technology has solved similar abrasive problems in some of the world’s largest facilities handling ceramics, plastics, grains, minerals, food ingredients, and other materials.
While traditional elbows invite collisions between the materials and the elbow wall, the Smart Elbow deflection elbow is designed to eliminate such wearing impact, instead causing gentle deflections that promote directional change without adversely affecting system pressure.
Sorensen tested a single Smart Elbow model, a 6-in. tungsten carbide-coated HammerLast™ 300 model. Seeing immediate and dramatic improvements, he quickly began replacing others as leaks occurred, eventually replacing all 12 with the new design.
The result? Since installation, only one elbow of the 12 has been patched, and not one has required replacement. Sorensen’s daily elbow inspections have been practically eliminated, along with the costly line downtime, maintenance, and cleanup expenses. Elbow life is now measured in years, not days.
“There are cost savings, but more importantly, you can’t place a high enough value on the peace of mind,” Sorensen said. “Installing Smart Elbow deflection elbows is an easy call for anyone processing ceramics or other abrasive materials.”
To read the full case study, please visit the HammerTek website.