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Coker Board Staffing Considerations

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Anonymous 11 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #1909


    Original Question:

    Given the complexity of instrumentation on new units and the general lack on older units, I accept the diversity of configurations are broad. What is the minimun console (board, panel, etc) operators required to safely run a 6 drum coker with an attached highly integrated atmospheric distillation unit (aka diluent recovery-DRU)?

    I ask because minimum staffing in the oil sands has recently come into question. Obviously the bare minimum is 1 but should there be two to handle process upsets, switches, etc.

    If we make the comparison to the upgraders in Venezeula (Coker + DRU), I have been told that 3 of 4 in Jose use two console operators for the coker/dru complex.

    If we make the comparison to a normal refinery (atmos + coker), I’ve never been to a plant where the crude unit and coker were run by the same operator.

    Thoughts, comments, please and thanks.



    I’ve seen operations with two and some with one. Most of the time if there is only one, there is also a “satellite” console for upset conditions. The working supervisor or lead can help if needed.

    I think many locations use the number of control points the operator might be responsible for.

    We dont have a 6 drum coker but our board operator has two units to operate (2 drum coker and a Hydrotreater). Our cokers in Robinson with 2 cokers (5 drums) has only one boardman.We do bring in a boardman on special occasions (shutdown, start-up, and spalling). We believed in 1 point of control so we dont have a satellite console (we have one in one of our facility but only for viewing).

    So I would say 1 for a six drum coker unless labor is very cheap and you can afford 2.

    Does the DRU have a Vacuum Section as well? I did the original DCU manpower plan for the Ameriven Upgrader and our plan was to have separate Boardmen for the DCU and DRU (DRU Atm & Vac Units). Tom

    Hyde-clarification in response to Meek
    CNRL Console = 1 for DRU(atmos only)+Coker
    Suncor Console = 1 for 2-DRU+VDU+Coker with a backup sulfur (3 claus) operator who is qualified on Cokers

    I concur that at critical times (startup, shutdown, or spalling) a second is a must. What about normal operations?

    An interesting point about control points, I will have to look into the total more precisely. Based on an XLS I have, there are a total of 399 controllable points on the DCS for CNRL.

    Our six drum coker units (2) are operated from a control console dedicated to coker operation. Therefore, we operate the coker with a single board operator. For special operations such as shutdown or startup we will schedule a second console operator to work the board full time. On normal days, there are more than one qualified board operator on the crew, so if an unexpected event did occur, there is an opportunity to put two folks on the board at the discretion of the shift supervisor or head operator. I think that discretion would be exercised based on the experience and confidence of the board operator and the severity of the process upset or situation.

    The board operator on our smaller coker does have multiple units on the same console.

    I would say that 10 – 15 years ago the definite answer would have been 2 board operators, 1 for the coker and 1 for a full crude unit. However, technology continues to evolve.

    Now we have
    + advanced simulator training
    + advanced alarm management
    + extensive valve automation allowing remote operation from the console
    + abnormal event detection programming
    + real time advisory programming
    + real time optimization

    These advances directionally allow reduced console manning. They definitely allow improved response during upsets and emergencies (like a loss-of-containment fire). Ultimately the site needs to do a detailed analysis to justify manning levels on the console relative to normal and emergency response. Our console manning breakdown varies based on number of coke drums and extent of controls technology and training. Range is from 0.5 to 1.0 console posts for the coker, plus extra hands, in some cases, for spalling or SU/SD.



    Range = 0.5 – 1.0 – 1.5 posts/coker
    Average = slightly less than 1.0
    (Assuming the coker board operator has some responsiibility for other another unit)

    The decision needs to be based on
    + Site or corporate experience with coking
    + Layers of higher level automation
    + Training methods

    The consensus seems to be that additional support is justifiable during:
    + start up
    + shut down (planned)
    + spalling

    Additionally, it is best practice to have
    + Additional qualified board operators in other posts but on shift who can support in an emergency in central control or remote DCS stations
    + Additional console stations in the operator shelter for abnormal situation management, troubleshooting, and training

  • #4688


    This is a good format and summary.  Thank you, Evan, for assembling it and posting here.
    Once all of you contributors confirm with Evan that you approve his use of your comments, he can post it in the approriate category in the public forum.  There it will not be restricted, but available to everyone.  If there’s something you do not like, you can ask him to remove it or modify it.
    Thanks to all.
    The next time someone has a question, feel free to post it here in this restricted forum where the advisors can contribute.

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