In 1969 Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF) commissioned the DA-101 vacuum tower in the La Plata Refinery outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina. During the design phase, the design basis used a Kuwait crude as the expected feed-stock. Concurrently with design and construction efforts, YPF developed indigenous crude production from the Neuquen field. After the La Plata start-up, the new Neuquen crude became the feed-stock to the La Plata Refinery. Neuquen crude has a significantly higher vacuum residue yield than the Kuwait design feed-stock. The reduced volatile fraction coupled with conservatism in the original design resulted in excessively low loads throughout DA-101. The reduced loads encountered lead to lower tray efficiencies and ineffective product separations on the sidestreams. The gradual increase in the heaviness of the crude feed has constantly exacerbated the product quality problems since the unit start-up.
In 1990, YPF started evaluation of the benefits from improving DA-101 performance. YPF's objective was to improve fractionation performance on the current feedstock. Preliminary analysis showed that DA-101 suffered from excessive area open to vapor and liquid flow. After review of available data with Florcalde, S.A. and Glitsch, Inc., authorization was received to proceed with work, and evaluation of operating data began in 1991. Evaluation of operating data soon demonstrated the need to develop a defined test basis for tower modifications. The test run was executed in April 1991. Following the test run analysis, the improvement anticipated from tower modifications was quantified with tower simulations. Based on operating and investment trade-offs, a final mechanical design was selected and is scheduled for installation in the first quarter of 1992. This paper details the original tower process design, test run, analysis of data, and proposed operating performance after modification.
6 pages including 7 figures and tables.
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