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Two men wearing safety gear looking at a hand-held tablet-sized video screen
New high-tech acoustic imaging equipment is used to detect and address potential leaks at the CHS refinery in Laurel, Mont.
C magazine
Refined fuels

Tapping technology at the Laurel refinery

New high-tech acoustic imaging equipment is used to detect and address potential leaks at the CHS refinery in Laurel, Mont.
Megan Gosch
Sep 7, 2023

Refinery maintenance is a constant task, but every few years, an extensive round of technical tune-ups and upgrades — called a turnaround — is precisely planned to perform a choreographed sequence of mechanical steps that improve efficiency and output.

This spring, as thousands of employees and contractors arrived at the CHS refinery in Laurel, Mont., to complete more than 50,000 work activities in a 30-day marathon of rotating shifts, a key industry technology enhancement helped aid the colossal effort.

During a turnaround, parts of the refinery are taken offline, and achieving a leak-free startup is one of the most important objectives as work wraps up. Detailed procedures and audits guide disassembly and repair of refinery equipment, while field tagging and checklists ensure each component receives a quality assurance check.

This year, as a final step, new acoustic imaging equipment was used to detect and address potential leaks in the facility’s infrastructure before each operation was brought back online.

The tablet-sized gadget employs ultrasound testing to pinpoint where otherwise undetectable leaks might be occurring.

“Leaks have the potential to not only cause costly downtime, but also threaten the safety of our staff, which is our number one priority. Ensuring no leaks is our key to a safe startup,” says Jim Irwin, Laurel refinery manager. “Turnarounds are designed to ensure our facility can run safely and reliably for years to come. Investments in technology set us up for success as we meet CHS owners’ need for high-quality diesel and other energy products.”

Check out the full summer 2023 C Magazine with this article and more.

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