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Some Options When Equipment in Aging Plants Becomes Obsolete

Many industrial plants, such as steel making facilities, are designed to operate continuously on a 24/7 basis for many decades. This potentially introduces a problem where some components within the plant, not having been originally designed to last for decades, have since become obsolete in their design and are thus no longer available.

A typical example would be the by-product plants within a coke plant of an integrated steel plant. For those who are not familiar with such a plant, it is a plant, almost like a refinery where the gasses from cooking coal are collected, cooled, cleaned, refined to numerous elements which are then either burned or sold to other users for further refining or end uses. The whole process generally operates continuously for decades without ever shutting down completely.

This process typically makes use of one or more primary cooler circulating pumps. These may be electrically driven, another by steam, or combustion engine driven (in case of a power failure), with an un-installed spare that can simply be exchanged should one of the in-line pumps fail.

Should the originally designed pump become obsolete, a potential new style pump may require considerable on site modifications to make it fit. Not only is there the cost involved, but potentially also more down time and risks than the operators would be willing to accept.

If the site can accommodate a new installation and have the new style pump(s) mounted off line and connected when all the appropriate preparations have been completed, it may reduce the risk, but would likely increase the total cost. This option often is not possible unless it was visualized in original design of the plant layout; something not usually taken into consideration.

As with many pieces of machinery, the product may be marketed under a trade name but actually manufactured through a specialized subcontractor.

Such is also the case with pump manufacturing. There are companies which manufacture complete pumps and/or most new components of a pump under the recognized trade name but are not directly part of that company. Within that group of sub-contractors there may be organizations with the capability to take an old, worn/damaged pump, do an aftereffect analysis and reconstruct a plan of how the pump may have been in its original, like-new condition, before wear or damage. In this modern age, the analysis is often accomplished with three dimensional, electronic, cost effective methods. This analysis can be utilized to manufacture a pump that very closely resembles the original, and can fit with ease to the desired location as originally intended; saving cost in modifications, risks, time and purchase of additional spare components while allowing the operations continue for years to come.

Experienced pump component manufacturers such as Wabi Iron & Steel Corp. can reverse engineer obsolete pumps and components and provide quality, customized replacements.