Did you know that in 2017, oil and gas revenues in the United States alone topped over $136 billion? These numbers demonstrate the critical nature of the oil and gas industry to global GDP; in fact, this industry is often called “the engine of the world economy.” While keeping this significance in mind, it’s also pertinent to consider the variety of equipment and products that are essential in keeping this industry up and running.
A strong example is low-pressure blowers. These machines play a key role in powering petroleum refining, or the variety of processes employed in converting crude oil into useful products, including gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, and diesel oil. Within petroleum refining, there are 2 particular processes blowers are used to power: sulfur recovery and thermal incineration/oxidation. Blowers are also employed in carbon black production.
Sulfur Recovery. This is the process of converting hydrogen sulfide (H2S – also referred to as sour gas or acid gas) into elemental sulfur. H2S is extremely detrimental to the environment; consequently, oil-processing facilities are required to recover between 95% - 99.9% of all sulfur introduced into the sulfur recovery unit, reducing the amount of hydrogen sulfide to an acceptable level. In this application, blowers are used to compress combustion air (or air that is used to burn the fuel) that feeds into a burner, which then feeds into a reaction furnace.
Thermal Incineration/Oxidation. Thermal incinerators are utilized to assist with the oxidation of the sulfur compounds that are being reduced in sulfur recovery units. Essentially, these machines further clean the H2S gases prior to their atmospheric release. Blowers are integral in this process, as they enhance the combustion of the “tail gases” that allow the gases to be further cleaned in the thermal incinerator. These blowers typically operate around >500 mbar.
Carbon Black. Carbon black is a black pellet or powder product used in plastics, paints, and inks as a color pigment. It’s also a useful electric conductive agent, and can be used as a reinforcing filler in tires and other rubber products. This is produced in one of two ways: the thermal decomposition method (aka the furnace method), or the partial combustion method. Blowers are essential to powering the furnace method, supplying a high volume of air that’s injected with specific amounts of natural gas. This allows the thermal decomposition to occur. Blower airflow also assists in carrying the carbon particulate and exhaust gases through quench towers and into bag filters.