By Robert Lasser, Vice President, Tower Division of Woven Metal Products
Innovation in the energy and petrochemical industries has always been a relentless pursuit with ever evolving challenges. After all, minimizing a plant’s unit outage time and equipment repair costs is vital for meeting operational performance targets, and business financial goals.
At Woven Metal Products (WMP), we are in the business of providing custom solutions for our customers in the energy, refining, chemical and process industries. One of the main ways we service these customers is fabricating both replacement and custom process internals that go inside their plant’s reactors, towers or pressure vessels (drums), including mass transfer and separation products.
As the vice president of our Tower Division, I review hundreds of tray packages each year and often see similar, recurring equipment problems across the industry. Over the years, I noticed older plants were frequently ordering rush tray panels and large quantities of replacement tray valves. When I asked repair crews why these parts were always needed on discovery with a rush time basis, I identified a common equipment problem with older moving valve trays.
With years of constant operation, the moving valves were slowly enlarging the tray panel openings that hold them in place. When valves were simply replaced in existing enlarged panel holes, they either weren’t able to function smoothly due to overbending for a secure install or would not stay mounted. If the valves weren’t able to move freely — or even worse — didn’t stay mounted to the tray panels, the whole tower’s performance would be impacted.
Tray panels with worn hole openings
Because this problem is typically found on discovery during unit outage inspections, our clients had to order new, custom-made rush replacement tray deck panels, often requiring additional outage days and unplanned expenses.
That’s when I came up with the idea for a tray deck repair washer — one that could quickly and reliably fix this common problem. This new type of washer bends into the existing enlarged tray panel holes, allowing field crews to repair existing panels during turnaround discovery with no special tools, extra manpower, delays, welding or large unplanned expenses.
WMP-patented tray deck repair washers; left is before install; right is bent into position
In fact, this product can save days of wait time and hundreds of field crew labor hours. Instead of ordering entirely new, custom tray panels from a manufacturer hundreds of miles away — and taking several field crew members’ time to safely remove large old panels, wait on new panels and re-install them — one person can make the needed repairs in just a few hours.
Tray deck repair washer; installed on existing tray deck
The repair washer design is simple, yet effective, and WMP was awarded a patent for the design in 2018.
When it comes to tower or vessel maintenance and repair, increased labor, time and unplanned purchases add up to significant expenses. In my experience, there is a large, aging population of installed tower trays out there — some up to 50 years old — still found in many plants around the country.
Since 2018, we’ve sold thousands of the WMP tray deck washers for installation, which can handle discovery repairs until our customers can plan for their future equipment needs.
The washers are available in many metal alloys and shapes to match your existing tray valves.
The entire project came about simply by talking to and understanding our customers and their daily challenges — and ultimately their product needs. That’s what sets our team at WMP apart: our expertise, passion and commitment to understanding all aspects not only of product fabrication, but also field installation, unit outages and more.
I look forward to finding other innovative ways to solve our customers’ issues — and sharing the solutions we continue to develop every day.
Interested in WMP’s tray deck repair washer technology?
Get in touch to find out how WMP repair washers, and other tray hardware products can support your next Tower outage needs at https://wovenmetal.com/contact.