Like a pro baseball team signing a veteran pitcher to pick up extra wins, IHI E&C now has a subject matter expert in steam methane reformers (SMRs) on the mound attracting more furnace business.
Steve Lancaster, IHI E&C Senior Technical Manager, Reformer Technology, has built his career by becoming an SMR expert. IHI E&C is already capitalizing on that expertise to attract business in the Syngas and Derivatives market.
Over his 30-year career Steve has worked on the design, revamp and operation of steam methane reformers, steam cracking furnaces and other fired heaters around the world. He holds U.S., Canadian and European patents for process furnace design for synthesis gas projects.
Steve is sought after for his expertise and known for delivering quality. As one example, a Russian company requested that he be the project manager for the revamp of its methanol plant reforming furnaces. He received his company’s “MVP Award” for the successful proposal and project award. The lump sum project came in more than 15 percent under budget.
“I joined IHI E&C because IHI E&C and its legacy companies have a strong history in methanol plants and a reputation for building robust reformers, among other things,” he said.
Since joining the team more than a year ago, Steve said, “I’ve been working with the Business Development/Technology team to reestablish IHI E&C as a leader in the reforming field, both in new construction and revamps.”
IHI E&C has attracted a number of SMR projects since Steve joined the company, and that work has led to other potential projects.
Here’s a summary of the SMR work Steve has led for IHI E&C to date:
· Conducted a study to troubleshoot reformer furnace issues at a CF Fertilizers UK ammonia plant in England
· Reviewed and recommended modifications to an SMR for a small-scale gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant for INFRA Technology in the U.S.
· Provided input on a turnaround at the Point Lisas Nitrogen Limited ammonia plant in Trinidad
· Troubleshot SMR issues at a Caribbean Nitrogen Company ammonia plant in Trinidad
· Participated in a Root Cause Analysis investigation to address SMR failures at a Brunei Methanol Company plant in Brunei
He’s also supporting SMR design for IHI E&C’s other projects, including Sundrop Fuels and Standard Alcohol.
A big part of the job that Steve enjoys is going to the plants and doing hands-on evaluations of the equipment.
“It really helps me better understand what our client needs once I get into the plant, talk to the operators, climb on a furnace and see what needs to be done.”
Seeing and doing is how Steve built his expertise after graduating with a chemical engineering degree from Vanderbilt University.
“I got a good position with a good company (M.W. Kellogg Company) at the right time. I had a good boss who helped give me the foundation that I needed. But, I had to do this for ten years before I didn’t feel like an idiot talking to people about furnaces.”
Now Steve plans to share his knowledge to benefit teams and build expertise at IHI E&C. For example, when the ammonia plant in England needed to replace its SMR tubes, Steve led the project and had an engineer help with the calculations to gain experience.
SMRs are the heart of methanol, ammonia, hydrogen and GTL plants. If they aren’t running reliably, neither are the rest of plants. It’s also the most expensive piece of equipment in the plant, and needs routine maintenance, Steve explained.
“It’s not something you want to buy based on just the lowest price. If you go cheap you’ll spend a lot of money trying to fix it. Plus, we often have guarantees depending on the performance of the furnace. We want to differentiate IHI E&C as the company that can deliver the best design and highest value.”
“Highly qualified subject matter experts like Steve, who help us to grow the business, are an important part of our overall strategy and Vision of providing value,” said Mo Islam, Senior Vice President – Technology.