The heat is on
Vitcom Engineering is a leader and innovator in the field of industrial heating products, producing technologically advanced designs to meet the needs of customers throughout the world.
It also offers a number of support services to accompany the technology, providing customers with a complete heating solution delivered by expert engineers.
Owner Dr Ioannis Antonas elaborates on how Vitcom was established: “In 1974 I started working for Air Products Ltd in London and, whilst it was a company cryogenically producing oxygen and nitrogen, it also ran a steam reformer for hydrogen and carbon monoxide production. I was in charge of optimisation of the reactor furnace and subsequently became an expert on the subject of furnaces. In 1980 I moved to Selas-Kirchner GmbH in Munich, a company dealing exclusively in fired heater designs. Realising that there were wider fields than just heater design, I left the company in 1988 to create Vitcom Engineering and used my expertise to develop a high technology heater design company, as well as diversifying into energy management and environmental protection projects.”
Experience and expertise are incredibly important assets to the company, as established by Ioannis himself, and the ability to apply this using state-of-the-art technology marks Vitcom out from its competitors. This means that every heater manufactured by Vitcom not only has the advantage of expert knowledge behind it, but also customised design down to individual nuts and bolts so as to optimise its performance. Nonetheless, clients still receive competitive pricing due to the efficiency of an operation that ensures no engineering time is wasted.
“Our main activities are in thermal engineering and the design and supply of direct fired heaters for refineries and petrochemical plants,” Ioannis explains. “Business areas range much further, however, from process, thermal and mechanical engineering to business administration and software development. We guarantee our heaters to be of the highest standard. They are designed to a quality that is both recognised and demanded by our clients, yet difficult to find in the current climate.”
He adds: “Since we have a strong association with a major steel structure business, we are the only heater company that does not subcontract out the manufacturing and can, therefore, provide turnkey solutions. In other words, Vitcom can provide any service from studies to revamps to grass root heaters. Unlike other heater companies, the delivered product encompasses not only thermal design but every stage of the process, including the supply of accessories.”
This complete package solution includes consultation and troubleshooting services. One recent example of this work is a case involving vibration within the tubes of a distillation column charge heater that prevented the operator from increasing production capacity. By carrying out vibration analysis, Vitcom was able to provide successful remedial steps that ultimately increased production profits by 50 million euros per year. In another contract, an operator needed to know whether the existing tubes in a heater would operate safely until the next plant shutdown in two years time. By using pseudo-random algorithms to calculate a huge number of different scenarios and results – a technique known as the Monte Carlo method – Vitcom confirmed the tubes would withstand two further years of operation, thereby saving the customer unnecessary loss of time and maintenance costs.
Vitcom is also able to provide extensive environmental management, acting as a consultant on subjects of toxic gases, particulate emission and carbon footprints. “One major factor that many oil refineries have not yet digested is that, whatever saves the environment also saves them money,” argues Ioannis. “In a refinery, heaters are the main consumers of energy and almost all refineries – partly due to poor design, partly due to poor maintenance – waste large amounts of energy. For example, we established that a large European refinery could save three million euros a year through a single one million euro investment. This works out to four months of payback time. Furthermore, loss of energy translates itself directly into CO2 production as well as toxic gases such as NOx and SOx.”
To ensure its customers are well situated for the future, Vitcom incorporates these environmental concerns into the designs of its own heaters. For example, the company is currently working on a crude heater for the Greek energy company Hellenic Petroleum. By using fuel-air ratio control (FARC) to manage combustion, pollutants are reduced whilst making the heater as operationally efficient as is possible.
Ioannis explains the innovation present in this project: “This control has been discussed in the industry many times but its proper implementation has not been successful until now. The other characteristic of this heater is the process control, which is based on Pass Balancing developed by academia in 2007. To our knowledge this has only ever been applied to one heater as a university research program.”
With this dedication to innovation and a roster of extensively experienced engineers, Vitcom’s own future looks set to prosper. Ioannis concludes with just such a positive note: “We hope to see more business from the Middle East over the next few years for grass roots heaters. In Europe the market is geared more to energy management and environmental aspects, such as pollution minimisation and carbon footprint reduction. By providing services in both areas, we hope to grow Vitcom further and make the company even more successful than we are today.”
Products: Advanced heating technology