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Reduce cost on plant shutdown, turnaround, & outage (STO) projects with LiDAR or laser scanning

Updated: Jan 17

As fixed equipment such as piping and pressure vessels reach or exceed their service life, they must be re-rated or replaced. Re-rating the equipment or reducing the maximum allowable working pressure may not be optimal for the plant's operation, and a like-in-kind replacement is required.

Existing point cloud with 3D model of proposed asphalt pumps with associated piping
LiDAR laser scan with integrated engineering model
“refinery improved its piping bust rate by over 80%”

Process plants in continuous operations perform fixed equipment repairs, replacements, and alterations during planned shutdown, turnaround, or emergency outages (STOs). Plant-wide shutdowns, or unit turnarounds, are often planned 24 months in advance and executed in less than 30 days or as fast as possible. Exceeding schedule during an STO event is not an option as process plants must honor supply commitments to their customers, and a single day over schedule can cost millions. The planning, design, and inspection effort required to execute a maintenance project often accounts for less than 10% of the project's total installed cost; thus, a little more time spent in the office at the front end of a project can save you a lot of money in the field during execution.


Flange misalignment seen on LiDAR
Laser Scan Compared to Engineered Model

A refinery in the northwest United States historically added budget and schedule contingencies to STO projects for piping bust equivalent to weather delays, resulting in a lot of tied-up capital. After implementing laser scanning for all projects with piping tie-in points, the refinery improved its piping bust rate by over 80% and reduced project costs. When registered correctly, laser scans and their resulting point clouds provide precise measurements within 1/16” tolerance or better. However, consideration should be given to the operating temperature of the piping and equipment when laser scanning while systems are in service. Field fit-up welds may still be required for cryogenic or elevated temperature services and when mating to rotating equipment for proper alignment.

Reduce Project cost with LiDAR

Laser scanning new fabricated equipment to ensure fit up of a like in kind replacement
LiDAR laser scanning a new pressure vessel

LiDAR technology functions similarly to radar; however, instead of using radio waves to detect and locate items, laser scanners emit a pulsed laser light beam that reflects off the surrounding environment to create a single point. The laser scanner registers millions of these single points to create a point cloud of the captured scene. The point cloud is inserted into a 3D plant design program, such as AutoCAD Plant 3D, where an as-built 3D model of the scene can be created. The as-built 3D models are used to generate fabrication drawings for like-in-kind replacements or run automated clash detection to identify possible conflicts between new projects and the existing facility.

Aside from point clouds, laser scanners can also capture a panoramic photo of the scan location. Panoramic photos, or scenes, are a great spatial tool that eliminates the need for multiple field investigations and supports remote planning and inspection to remove people from busy work sites while reducing project costs with LiDAR. Users can easily navigate from scene to scene utilizing an interactive site map with indexed scene locations.

Contact a Turnaround specialist to learn more about implementing laser scanning to reduce costs on your next project!


Author: Keith W. Grimes

Turnaround Technical, LLC

All Rights Reserved; No copying or reproduction allowed without express written consent from Turnaround Technical LLC


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