During his career at Honeywell UOP, he has blended the skills from conducting detailed materials failure analyses with developing a true understanding of the technical issues in order to perform root cause determinations which included modify/improve production processes or development of new products. For example, he was instrumental in the development of an on-line monitor for resistance welding of stainless steel to fabricate profile wire screens and for the development of an on-line monitor for the cure of epoxy laminates. The profile wire screen on-line monitor system development required extensive failure analyses of well and poorly welded joints and for the on-line monitoring for curing epoxy laminates necessitated substantial research in order to identify the root cause of poor curing. Both of these systems were transferred to the business units and resulted in improved product quality and subsequent cost savings.
The commercialization of a proprietary refining or petrochemical process requires a thorough understanding of potential sources of problems. Steve regularly participated in internal FMEA analyses in order to improve the reliability of such process designs with such units costing from 30 to 150 million dollars to erect and with downtime causing a potential loss of a half to several million dollars per day. Thus the criticality of that thorough understanding and identification of the root cause is often developed through analyses of pilot plant or similarly related commercial failure analyses. For example, he developed after an in-depth failure analysis a passivation procedure to prevent metal catalyzed coke formation in a commercial unit operating in reducing conditions at elevated temperature. Without such a fundamental understanding of the passivation chemistry, a procedure to prevent the metal catalyzed coke from forming during operation would not have been developed and several petrochemical complexes could not have operated. Based on these trade secrets the Technical Service engineers of Honeywell UOP were able to implement the technology and UOP has subsequently sold a substantial number of these process units and the catalysts used in them bringing in over several billion dollars in revenue. Several years later for a different proprietary process, when the passivation procedure could not be utilized because of the poisoning of the catalyst, a fundamental understanding assisted in developing a root cause analysis which resulted in process modifications for successfully operating the process. More recently another proprietary process had premature corrosion failures and an integrated diagnosis revealed the cause with a recommended solution, which allowed the customer to operate more reliably. Honeywell UOP has commercialized two processes utilizing the corrosion prevention concepts that Steve has developed. Again, these were based on detailed root cause failure analyses of internal pilot plants.
Root Cause Analysis for External Customers
In addition to the contributions to the commercial success of Honeywell UOP designed processes, he was responsible for conducting and solving complex failure analyses for customer units. For example, he was able to conclude that the tube ruptures in a combined feed exchanger were a result of crevice coke formation between the exchanger tube and tube sheet. Based on his conclusions the exchanger and all new designs were modified to prevent future occurrences. In another instance, he was able to identify the cause of reactor internal plugging and appropriate design modifications were made to mitigate such occurrences. Although these commercial units are many meters in size, sometimes samples received are only mm in size and he has successfully performed analyses that identified the root cause of the failure. Such was the case when chips of metal from a regenerator internal was provided and he was able to determine the failure mechanism of thermal fatigue caused by the cycled introduction of catalyst into the top of the regenerator. Subsequent process modifications eliminated the problem.
Internal Failure Analyses
Failure analyses are also conducted for Honeywell UOP internal pilot plants. Conclusions from these analyses are critical for safe operation of the plants but also are translated into commercial designs. Since Honeywell UOP utilizes these pilot plants for commercial development of new and improved processes, the results of these in-depth failure analyses are incorporated into commercial operational procedures, design modifications or materials changes. Some of the conclusions learned have included how to use kinetics of oxidation to beat the long-term thermodynamics by rigidly maintaining the timing of the oxidation regeneration cycle with the reducing process cycle. This is the basis of a recent commercial process where several of these units are successfully operating.
Assistance to other Honeywell Business Units
In addition to the metallurgical analyses performed for Honeywell UOP, Steve also routinely performed metallurgical work and consultations for other Honeywell units. He received the Honeywell Chairman’s award for solving a major problem for one of these sister units.