Refining and engineering companies are searching for additional sponsors for a sour-water study.

Sour water is a corrosive product resulting from sulfur removal in refineries. It has cost an estimated $50 million per incident in lost production and damages to several U.S. refineries during the past five to 10 years. Now, 15 refiners and engineering service companies have launched an industry-wide study to determine causes and solutions to refinery sour-water corrosion.

The program is lead by InterCorr International Inc., Houston, a corrosion solutions provider, in association with Equilon, Houston, a refinery operation owned by Houston-based Shell and Texaco. The study and resulting data are expected to improve refinery sour-water system design and unit operations.

According to Dr. Russell Kane, president of InterCorr, "Refinery sour-water systems now contain significantly higher levels of corrosion-causing ammonium bisulfide because of new environmental regulations. Additionally, increased refinery unit throughput, unit upgrading and construction of new units support the industry-wide need for the joint program."

Sour water program participants will benefit by:

  • Minimizing major plant incidents.

  • Expanding the use of limits of carbon steel and the use of corrosion inhibitors.

  • Optimizing alloy selection, which will result in millions of dollars saved in capital expenses.

  • Reducing inspections and reoccurring overall plant expenses.

During the past 25 years, a number of individuals and companies have conducted qualitative studies about alkaline sour-water corrosion in petroleum refineries. Sour-water systems commonly are found in refinery hydrocracker and hydroheater applications and relate to reactor effluent air cooler systems. Study participants belive, precise, quantitative information is necessary to develop unit-design and operational guidelines on ammonia bisulfide corrosion for a range of materials and service conditions. "Our goal is to improve the prediction of ammonium bisulfide corrosion for use in selecting materials, controlling process unit operation and assessing chemical treatments," said Kane.

The two-year joint industry sponsor program will provide corrosion data in ammonium bisulfide environments that closely simulate conditions found in refinery sour-water systems. A proprietary laboratory flow loop will simulate sour-water service conditions, focusing on the effects of velocity on corrosion and the performance of commonly used alloys. This information will be used to develop a computer model and predictive software tools that address real-time refinery design and operational problems.

Additional sponsors are being sought. All sponsor companies will have proprietary use of the program data and software developed. For more information, contact Dr. Russell Kane at (281) 444-0500 or