Double the Refractory Cost, Triple the Savings

Category: Articles
12 May 2016,

To state the obvious, everyone in industrial manufacturing in the U.S. is searching for cost reductions. The common practice is to attempt to find savings by reducing upfront material and labor costs. However, that provides no guarantee of actual saving over the long term, and there are times when you need a wide-angle lens instead of a fine-tooth comb to secure real value.

In a recent project, our customer used a wide-angle lens and it paid off.

double the refractory cost

The Challenge

This customer uses a large coal-fired boiler for powering the plant. The challenge they were facing was that abrasion was causing deterioration in the refractory in the real seal of the boiler. This wear forced them to ram plastic or gunite every six months to replace the damaged material.

The repair work wasn’t a quick fix; they needed to replace the entire rear seal and the front wall and bullnose. Shutting down every six months to perform significant repairs can be expensive – both in costs and downtime.

The Solution

While their biannual outage is always planned, the repair work required several days to complete each time. Since this boiler powered the entire the plant, production couldn’t start until the work was completed. If it was possible to reduce the repair time, the plant would get back on line faster and production would therefore increase.

To brainstorm a solution, we got together with the boiler manufacturer to research alternative solutions. After reviewing a number of different options, we were intrigued by using Stellar Material’s Thermbond for this specific application. Our Knoxville office team worked with Stellar Materials, along with our customer’s engineering team. After analyzing the situation, we estimated that by using Thermbond and engineering for the new materials, we could dramatically reduce the abrasion, which would shorten the repair times during the planned shutdown.

The Result

The initial Thermbond installation job cost more – approximately twice what the customer would spend every six months; however, now we just have to patch with 1 to 2 bags, at minimal cost to the customer. Over the long term, they’re saving money on repair costs from using the more expensive refractory material.

While the Thermbond material was more expensive – almost double the cost of the other refractory materials being used – its real value is that it has reduced their planned outage time by several days!

That extra production time represents significant additional, and documented, revenue.

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