What are turnarounds?
Have you heard about people talking about turnarounds, but don’t understand what they are talking about? First let’s talk about what a turnaround is. Turnarounds are a term used for when a whole plant (or large part of it) is shut down for maintenance activities. So things can not be repaired, modified, or replaced while the unit/plant is running (unit or plant means the same thing), so the whole unit or a section of it must be shut down to preform the maintenance needed. Chemical reactions that take place within the unit requires a catalyst, and that catalyst has a certain lifespan. Changing reactor catalyst is a common reason that turnarounds are scheduled. Another reason is the plugging of heat exchangers. The chemical reactions needed to convert one substance to another produces by-products that plug (aka foul) those heat exchangers and they must be taken out of service for cleaning. Another common issue is the lack of isolation valves needed to perform maintenance on a certain piece of equipment, so a entire section or plant must be taken down to remove/reduce the risk for maintenance workers.
So now you have an idea of what a turnaround is, let’s talk about how it affects Process Operators. Turnarounds are when Process Operators make their big money. That money is made from working everyday (depending on company fatigue policies). Turnarounds can last anywhere from a couple weeks to several months. Operators must first, safely shut down the process unit. Next they will begin unit isolations, and cleaning of process equipment that will be maintained. When the turnaround kicks off, Process Operators will issue work permits for maintenance to be done, and ensure equipment is safe for the maintenance crews to work. When equipment is turned in as complete, Process Operators, will inspect equipment for serviceability, remove the tag out tags, and return equipment to normal alignments. Finally, the Process Operators will restart the process units.