Coke Drum Maintenance and Repair During Turnarounds

When it comes to the petroleum refining industry, coke drums play a central role in processing heavy crude oil into lighter, more valuable products. These industrial powerhouses, often exposed to extreme operational conditions, are the heart of a refinery’s coker unit.

Recognizing the critical role they play, NOOTER has carved out a leading position in providing expert coke drum maintenance and repair services during plant turnarounds.

Understanding the Importance of Turnarounds

coker unit lift

Turnarounds are planned periods of non-production where industrial plants can carry out crucial maintenance and repair tasks. These periods are essential for maintaining the health and efficiency of a plant’s equipment, including coke drums.

During these brief operational pauses, a multitude of critical tasks are undertaken, including:

  1. Inspections
  2. Cleaning
  3. Repairs
  4. Replacement of Equipment

The comprehensive activities performed during turnarounds serve numerous purposes:

  1. Increase equipment reliability
  2. Reduce the chances of unscheduled shutdowns
  3. Enhance safety measures
  4. Potentially improve the plant’s bottom line

Take, for instance, a project NOOTER undertook for an international oil refinery. After our team executed a large-scale coker unit turnaround, the refinery reported a 30% surge in productivity and a notable decrease in unscheduled downtime. These results underline the undeniable value and return on investment that comes from meticulous maintenance and repair during turnarounds.

The Role of a Coke Drum in a Refinery

coke drum stored on site

In the complex ecosystem of a refinery, the coke drum holds a pivotal role. Part of the coking unit, it’s instrumental in processing heavy crude oil into more valuable products. Crude oil is pumped into these drums, subjected to extreme heat and pressure, and converted into petroleum coke—a solid, carbon-rich material—and lighter fractions such as gasoline and diesel.

The coke drum’s operation is cyclic. It alternates between the “coking” phase, where crude oil is converted into coke, and the “decoke” phase, where the solid coke is cut and removed from the drum.

Because of their significant role, the health of coke drums directly impacts refinery productivity and efficiency. Regular inspection, maintenance, and prompt repairs of these industrial powerhouses are imperative to prevent operational disruptions and ensure the refinery’s smooth functioning. Investing in professional maintenance and repair during plant turnarounds is a strategic move that safeguards a refinery’s longevity and profitability.

Common Issues with Coke Drums

removing a coke drum in a refinery

Coke drums operate under intense heat and pressure and are prone to several potential issues. Regular wear and tear can lead to shell cracking due to thermal cycling, bulging or distortion of the drum shell, and erosion of the coke chute and drum internals.

Ignoring these issues can have severe consequences, including compromised productivity, operational disruptions, and in extreme cases, total system failure.

Learn: Fast Quench Problems and How They Damage Coke Drums

NOOTER’s Approach to Coke Drum Maintenance and Repair

coker unit lift at a refinery

NOOTER has established itself as an industry leader in coke drum maintenance and repair, combining deep expertise, innovative solutions, and an unyielding commitment to customer satisfaction.

We have developed a comprehensive set of services to meet the varying needs of our clients.

  1. Skirt, Shell, and Crack Repairs: We specialize in structural repairs, ensuring the integrity of the drum and extending its service life.
  2. Coke Chute Demo, Repairs, and Replacements: We offer efficient and reliable services for coke chutes, a critical component of the coking process.
  3. Shell Can / Head Replacements: Safety and efficiency of coke drums are enhanced by our top-quality replacement services.
  4. Delta Valve Removal/Installations: Our skilled team can safely remove and install delta valves, improving the drum’s operation and longevity.
  5. Full Derrick Removal: To improve access and streamline maintenance work, we provide comprehensive derrick removal services.
  6. Coke Drum Change Outs: We conduct complete drum replacements when repairs are not sufficient or economically viable.
  7. Specialty Welding Coke Drum Repairs: Our team’s proficiency in specialty welding techniques provides advanced repair solutions for coke drums.

See: Specialty Welding Services

Heavy Lift Rigging: The Role of Experienced Rigging Engineers

crane set up before lifting coker unit

Heavy lift rigging is an essential part of many industrial operations, particularly in the construction and maintenance of large-scale industrial facilities like refineries and power plants. It involves the movement and placement of massive drums, columns, and derricks using various types of lifting equipment, such as cranes, lifting beams, and hoists.

The importance of having experienced rigging engineers to engineer these lifts cannot be overstated. These professionals play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of heavy lift operations.

Their responsibilities include:

  1. Ensuring Safety
  2. Enhancing Efficiency
  3. Achieving Cost-Effectiveness
  4. Guaranteeing Compliance
  5. Encouraging Innovation

In summary, experienced rigging engineers play a critical role in heavy lift rigging operations. Their skills and expertise contribute to safer, more efficient, and cost-effective projects. Their role is indispensable in ensuring the success of projects involving heavy lifting operations.

Learn: What Heavy Lift Rigging Is and Why It’s Important

Case Study: El Segundo Coke Drum Change-Out

El Segundo Coke Drum Change-Out

Project Summary

At NOOTER, we believe in the power of meticulous planning and precision execution. We demonstrated this commitment in a recent project at El Segundo, California, where we undertook a massive Coke Drum Change-Out assignment.

Pre-Planning and Execution

Every efficient operation starts with comprehensive planning. In this case, the preliminary groundwork began more than a year in advance, featuring engineered heavy lift plans tailored for this project’s unique demands. The objective was clear – ensure a smooth, streamlined turnaround minimizing production downtime.

Project Duration and Manhours

When it comes to plant turnarounds, time is of the essence. We successfully executed the shutdown in just 31 days, an achievement made possible through the diligent efforts of our dedicated team. A total of over 217,000 manhours were invested into this project, ensuring top-notch quality and adherence to safety standards.

Heavy Lifts

A standout aspect of this project was the complexity and size of the lifts involved. In the course of the four-week turnaround, we performed 15 heavy lifts, two of which weighed over an astonishing 1.3 million pounds. This required not only careful planning but also the technical expertise and dedication that are hallmarks of Nooter Construction.

This case study showcases our commitment to excellence in managing and executing large-scale coke drum replacement projects, even within constrained timelines.


coker lift

Coke drums are key in refining petroleum, necessitating regular maintenance for plant efficiency and longevity. During strategic non-production periods, called turnarounds, vital inspections, cleaning, and replacements occur. These actions enhance reliability, safety and can improve profitability.

Given extreme operating conditions, coke drums can experience shell cracking and internal erosion, requiring immediate intervention.

From structural repairs to full replacements, a variety of maintenance solutions are needed for these crucial components, ensuring plant operations run smoothly.

Experience the NOOTER Difference: Pioneers in Coke Drum Repair and Replacement!

repairing a coke drum

It’s time to experience the NOOTER difference firsthand.

See: Coke Drum Repair Services

Get in touch with our team today to discuss your next coke drum repair project. Let us show you how our expertise can keep your coke drums – and your entire plant – operating at peak performance.

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