Human Factor in a Long Coking Cycles

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Turning around a coke drum is a cooperative effort between the process operators and the decoking crew. It is labor intensive and normally accom­plished without the intervention of supervisors. The work itself is best charac­terized as dirty, difficult, and if not done with care, dangerous.

To get a 12-hour cycle, every facet of the complex task of turning around a drum must be carried out at maximum speed. This means that both the decoking crew and the operators must be personally committed to the objective of short cycles.

One demonstrated method of obtaining this commitment is to put the decoking crew on a piece-work basis. Then the decoking crew cuts one coke drum and goes home. Typically, when the 12-hour cycle is being achieved, the decoking crew will spend four hours on the job site.

But it is somewhat unsettling to pay a person for eight hours of work and only have him on the job for half that time. In one refinery, management attempted to rectify this matter by assigning the decokers to general mainte­nance work after they completed cutting a full coke drum. Suddenly, the time to cut a drum of coke increased from four to seven hours.

Motivating operating personnel can be difficult. Adding labor-saving devices such as air operators on the large vapor valves will demonstrate to the process operators that refinery management is placing great emphasis on short cycles. A careful and honest review by first-line supervision explain­ing how increased coke production will enhance refinery profitability is also helpful.

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