Data driven innovations in oil and gas refining

With breakthrough developments in cloud connectivity and heat exchange, Alfa Laval’s partnership with Honeywell UOP is revolutionizing the design of refineries and petrochemical plants.

DATE 2023-11-28 AUTHOR David Landes PHOTO Honeywell and Getty images

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The connected service streams and analyzed real-time data from various assets, providing a far more accurate picture of operations.


Oil and gas refining is a high-stakes, high-pressure business that also demands a high level of operational precision.

Material flows must be monitored and analysed; reaction temperatures must be carefully calibrated; prices are constantly shifting, as are a myriad of other variables that can affect plant performance and profits. 

As conditions change over time, the optimal way of running these plants changes. It’s very hard for operators to anticipate how they should adjust as conditions are constantly changing more or less in real time.
Christophe Romatier of Honeywell UOP, one of the leading process licensors in the downstream oil and gas industry

Bearing these challenges in mind, Honeywell UOP in 2016 launched the Connected Plant programme, a customisable, connected service that streams and analyses real-time data from various assets, providing customers with a far more accurate, detailed, and constantly updated picture of their operations. 

“The Connected Plant is a way to drive improvements in the operational outcomes of our customers,” says Romatier. “Running trainings and sending in consultants is simply not enough anymore. Connectivity through the cloud provides access to expert knowledge much faster.”

And considering Alfa Laval’s Packinox heat exchangers have been specified in Honeywell UOP plant designs for more than 30 years, inviting Alfa Laval to join the programme was a natural step in the companies’ long-standing relationship. 

“This is an expansion of an already very strong and mature relationship,” explains Romatier. “Alfa Laval and Packinox have a great deal of very well recognized expertise that’s respected in industry. The ability to pull them in as a partner adds a lot of value for our customers.”

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How Alfa Laval’s Packinox optimizes performance

Today, Packinox heat exchangers can be found on more than half of the roughly 600 refineries operating around the world. They play a central role in the production of high-octane motor fuels and aromatics, ensuring that crude distillation, catalytic reforming, and waste heat recovery take place as efficiently as possible. 

“Packinox is specialized equipment that performs very well, and the addition of Alfa Laval’s expertise helps refiners operate that equipment even more efficiently,” says Romatier. “Connecting them allows us to operate as close to the edge as possible to get the maximum performance while still staying reliable.” 

In addition to optimizing process performance, adding Packinox to the Connected Plant programme will also bring important benefits when it comes to equipment maintenance. 

Failure to detect a slight anomaly or see a critical trend in time can have a direct and significant impact on profits. Thus, refiners are always on the lookout for services and equipment that keep their facilities running at peak performance, which is a driving force behind Honeywell UOP’s Connected Plant initiative. 

A partnership for the future

Honeywell UOP is planning to have the first Packinox-enabled Connected Plant online by 2020, at which point plant operators can benefit from the predictive maintenance capabilities that come with the transition from a slow, occasional, manual process to one that is automated, continuous and in real time. 

“Previously when problems arose, we only had access to backward-looking data. Now we can continuously analyse data and help identify potential problems before they emerge,” says Sourp. 

And staying ahead of potential problems is crucial considering shutting down can cost refiners up around €1 million per day. Adding in the time required for a refinery to cool before maintenance as well as the time needed to ramp up to full capacity, any plant shutdown translates into a minimum of €5 million in lost revenues. 

Even planned maintenance needs to be carefully scheduled in order to minimise costly downtime, and insights from the Connected Plant programme can make a difference. 

“Trend analysis allows us to give customers advance notice about what they need to do during their next shutdown or even if they should consider planning an earlier shutdown to plan maintenance accordingly,” adds Sourp.

In addition to operational efficiencies, adding Packinox heat exchangers to the Connected Plant also gives Alfa Laval a new tool to help customers operate their equipment in a sustainable manner. 

“There’s a lot of talk these days about programmed obsolescence, but in this case, we’re doing the opposite. We want to make sure our compact heat exchangers operate in a way that will maximise equipment lifespan,” says Sourp. 

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PRODUCT - Packinox


  • Lower OPEX – The high heat recovery leads to substantial energy savings. Maintenance costs are also low thanks to minimal fouling.
  • Lower CAPEX – A single Packinox can replace several large shell-and-tubes and makes it possible to operate processes with smaller furnaces and cooling
  • Higher process yield thanks to a low pressure drop, optimal liquid/gas mixing, high operating flexibility and a fully customized design.
  • Reliable, proven technology – More than 350 units in operation worldwide.
  • Real-time monitoring and continuous optimization by Alfa Laval experts.

Related industries

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Petrochemical producers demand continuous processes and sustainable performance. Alfa Laval has a broad range of compact heat exchangers and specialized shell-and-tube heat exchangers that provide cost-effective energy recovery as well as improve heating and cooling, and condensing and reboiling duties. This boosts profitability while reducing costs, floor space and emissions.

Find out more about our offerings within petrochemical 

Crude oil refinery

Maximizing profitability depends upon the ability to improve energy efficiency, lower costs, reduce emissions, use plot space wisely and optimize production yields as per market demands. Alfa Laval has a complete portfolio of heat exchangers for refinery processes. No matter the nature of the service, we can provide you with well-proven technology to address and overcome your everyday challenges.

Find out more about our offerings within crude oil refinery

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Programmed obsolescence, also known as planned obsolescence, refers to a policy of purposefully limiting a product's lite to accelerate replacement purchases. While the concept originated with 1920s auto industry, today programmed obsolescence is often used in reference to the tech industry with companies being accused of issuing software updates that impair the performance of older models. In 2015, France passed a law outlawing the practice. 

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