NCRA to add to McPherson skyline

By Dan Kliewer
September 05, 2014

The NCRA Coker Replacement Project is about to enter the most visible stage as two large drums, each weighing approximately 1 million pounds, will be lifted into place near the end of September. Following the drums by about two weeks will be the lift of the Coker derrick. The derrick will be placed above the drums and will clearly become the highest structure in the refinery, standing at over 300 feet tall.

A “Supercrane” is on site to make the necessary lifts and has been plainly visible for several weeks. The many parts for the crane were brought to the refinery for assembly over several months requiring close to 250 semi-truck and trailer loads. The crane is a VersaCrane TC-36000 from Deep South Crane & Rigging and is ranked at about #9 among the largest cranes in the world. It has a capacity of 2,500 tons (5 million pounds). The crane is stationary and strategically placed to reach the picking and placing points and for its tallest configuration for the lifts at NCRA the length of the boom will be approximately 540 feet.

The Coker is a unit in the refinery that squeezes the last bit of gasoline and diesel fuel out of the crude oil. What remains is a thick, black, hot liquid that cools to a hard coal like substance called petroleum coke. The finished Coker will have two large drums standing next to each other, one on the north and one south that will alternate filling and cooling. When the north drum is full, the process is switched to filling the south drum while the north drum begins to cool and solidify. Once it is sufficiently cooled, the top of the drum is opened and a drill with a high pressure water bit is lowered into the drum to break the coke into smaller pieces. The petroleum coke falls into a Coke Pit where it is separated from the water. A dedicated coker crane (gantry) will scoop up the petroleum coke and place it in a crusher to break up the larger pieces before it falls onto a conveyor. The conveyor will take the petroleum coke about 700 feet west to a silo storage bin near the railroad tracks. It will then be loaded into railcars and trucks for delivery to customers. Petroleum coke is generally used as a fuel source for industrial applications. Cokers have been an important part of refinery operations since the 1930s.

Once the Coke drums and derrick are lifted into place, the VersaCrane 36000 will move on to its next destination and the work will continue on the Coker Project as more piping and equipment are installed and connections are made.

Rick Leicht, NCRA Vice President of Refining, said, “The new unit will be a significant upgrade in technology over our current Coker that has been in service since 1953. It will also increase our options for the types of crude oil that can be purchased and processed through the plant. The new unit will stand out because of its height and the fact that it is brand new. Our target for completion of the unit is August of 2015.”