How to Find the Lowest Hanging Fruit in Facility Cost Reduction

How to Find the Lowest Hanging Fruit in Facility Cost Reduction

January 2020

An operations supervisor at one of our Refining customers, had a particulate contamination problem. His crews were cleaning the suction screens on his kerosene pumps every 24 hours. His (6) pumps were failing, on average, every 8 weeks. The disposable filters downstream of the pumps required change-out every 18 days under normal conditions. Upsets could cause plugoff in 72 hours. The coalescing filters plugged off every 8 weeks and clay filters plugged off every 26 weeks. The costs were substantial.

As a first step, they sent a sample of the particulate contamination (i.e. Black Powder) to the lab to see what sort of contamination they were dealing with. The lab report showed a significant percentage of iron compounds, with a high proportion under 10 microns in size. They had heard that BPS’ Magnetic Separators capture particles to below 0.1 microns. A Magnetic Separator sampling station was purchased, and installed on a kerosene slipstream. It captured what extrapolated to 95% of contamination in the line.

It was calculated that installing a full-sized Magnetic Separator would pay back in under 8 weeks, based on filter and pump repair savings alone. The Magnetic Separator was installed upstream of the product pump as they do not restrict flow and show a limited pressure differential.

The operations supervisor’s colleague was having foaming problems in their amine unit. Lab results showed that over 50% of the contamination was sub 5 microns. It was decided to first install a low cost magnetic strainer in continuous operation to better understand the contaminant volume over time, and then install a full-size separator. It significantly reduced filter and chemical costs, and improved process stability.

Cost Savings

Table 1 shows both the impact of pump repair costs dropping to zero and reduced filter costs resulting from the initial installation of Magnetic Separators (based on a real-life case). It does not include savings on contract labor, disposal costs, avoided volume reduction, energy savings or avoided downtime.

Filters & Pump PartsBeforeAfterSavings – $Savings – %
Media Filters$ 120,000$ 5,000$ 115,00096 %
Coalescer Elements$ 120,000$ 20,000$ 100,00083 %
Clay Filters$ 20,000$ 10,000$ 10,00050 %
Pump Repair (parts only)$ 162,000$ 162,000100 %
Total$ 422,000$ 35,000$ 387,00092 %
Table 1: First year of filter and pump parts cost reduction (6 pumps) after installation of Magnetic Separators.

Safety Impact

Table 2 shows how the contamination-related hazard exposure events in this particular unit dropped annually by 95%, from 120 events to just 6. This does not count the pump repairs, only removal and installation.

Hazard Exposure EventsBeforeAfterReductionSavings
Media Filters Change4043690%
Coalescer Element61583%
Clay Filters21150%
Pump Remove / Install72072100%
Table 2: Annual number of worker hazard exposure events (6 pumps) after installation of Magnetic Separators.

Based on the success of this test and after discussing with the other facility units, the facility manager implemented a facility-wide Contamination Impact Assessment (CIA) to prioritize potential further deployments.

What’s in a Contamination Impact Assessment (CIA)?

The main deliverable of a CIA is a set of heat maps for a facility showing:

Figure 1 is a partial and simplified CIA Cost Heat Map for illustrative purposes only. A key revelation of such a heat map can be finding what operators consider to be “normal maintenance” events, previously invisible to management, which can now be substantially reduced by installing cleanable Magnetic Separators.

Figure 1: Simplified Example of Cost Heat Map – Color Coding Based on User Defined Cost Thresholds

Such heat maps helped the company prioritize further Magnetic Separator installations to achieve the greatest overall financial impact on facility performance.


The facility manager estimated that full deployment of Magnetic Separators on contamination cost hot spots in this smaller facility could save over $11 million per year.

In addition to cost and safety impacts, acting on a CIA offers the opportunity for significant environmental benefits of substantially reduced filter and chemical usage – especially if applied to an entire facility.