Oil Refinery Partners with Turbonetics and Stainless Foundry & Engineering on Illium PD Double Suction Casing

Oil refineries are complex operations with intricate, custom-made process units. Refineries that produce gasoline have at least one unit that requires a slurry pump for the process, which endures an intense environment. The catalyst slurry is so abrasive that it erodes large, industrial, heavy duty pump parts in a matter of months. Stainless Foundry & Engineering (SF&E) recently worked with a customer who had an idea on how to solve this issue – it came down to design and choice of alloy.

Turbonetics Engineering & Services is a Texas-based engineering firm specializing in the repair and upgrade of pumps, steam turbines, and gear boxes. Over the past 20-plus years, they have developed a partnership with one nearby  that involves the continuous repair of their four slurry pumps, according to David Hickham, Co-owner of Turbonetics. To avoid a malfunction and prevent any unplanned downtime, the refinery removes each of three pumps (plus one spare) once they have been in service for a specified number of hours and sends them to Turbonetics for repair.

Used Impeller from Oil Refinery

Recently, Hickham and his team of skilled engineers developed a new pump design for their customer with the goal of increasing pump longevity. This would save the refinery the cost of constant repairs and offer peace of mind for pump failure prevention – of particular concern was the impeller.

“Our proposal was to redesign the whole pump and upgrade the material it was made with. The only requirement from the refinery was that the new pump must drop into the place of the old pump so it would hook up to the same piping and motor and have the same outer dimensions,” said Hickham. “We care about their business and have the expertise to make that happen – anytime we can improve  a pump or turbine, we will always recommend doing something to make it last longer or run better.”

Turbonetics printed a scale model before manufacturing the pump to ensure proper fit and alignment of parts

When the design was final, Turbonetics reached out to SF&E to help with casting and machining the pump casing using our trademark ILLIUM® PD. SF&E produces a lot of pump casings but typically out of stainless steel or martensitic steel known as CA6NM.

“It was a huge casting with a pour weight of 6,800 pounds,” said Mitch McCaffery, Director, Sales & Marketing for Stainless Foundry & Engineering. “To pour that large of a double suction casing was quite the feat for us. Our foundry engineering & metallurgy teams preparation was critical to the success we had on this product.”  

Once Turbonetics brought SF&E up to speed, the project was ready to begin. This marked the first time Turbonetics had worked with a foundry on this scale of part.

“Mitch McCaffery helped guide us in the right direction the entire way so we could get a high-quality pump built,” Hickham said. “It took time, communication, understanding, learning, and a few months to get everything ironed out, but I feel like we have a good product. We did the right thing choosing ILLIUM PD and working with Stainless.” 

Fully machined pump casing ready to ship

The first production of the new pump is now in place at the oil refinery, and they are counting up to the specified hours of use to see if the ILLIUM PD parts withstand erosion longer than the previous pump. All in all, the new pump design is easier to rebuild than the original pump and Turbonetics can get it to their refinery customers quicker and cheaper than the repairs they were doing in the past.

“I don’t know any other company our size that would take on something like this – it has been really exciting, and we expect it to be beneficial in the long run,” Hickham said.

Casing awaiting LPI inspection after machining
End Pump headed to the Refinery

If you are looking to cast pump parts in ILLIUM PD or any other alloy that can increase its longevity, or if you just need to be able to rely on a foundry partner that enjoys a new challenge, contact SF&E at sales@stainlessfoundry.com or 414.535.6089.

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