July 7, 2016 - 3:51 PM EDT
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Patent Issued for Modular Processing Facility (USPTO 9376828)

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Technology -- From Alexandria, Virginia, VerticalNews journalists report that a patent by the inventors Haney, Fred (Calgary, CA); Donovan, Gary (Canmore, CA); Roth, Todd (Calgary, CA); Lowrie, Alan (Calgary, CA); Morlidge, George (Okotoks, CA); Lucchini, Simon (Calgary, CA); Halvorsen, Sean (Calgary, CA), filed on October 29, 2014, was published online on June 28, 2016.

The patent's assignee for patent number 9376828 is Fluor Technologies Corporation (Sugar Land, TX).

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Building large-scale processing facilities can be extraordinarily challenging in remote locations, or under adverse conditions. One particular geography that is both remote and suffers from severe adverse conditions includes the land comprising the western provinces of Canada, where several companies are now trying to establish processing plants for removing oil from oil sands.

"Given the difficulties of building a facility entirely on-site, there has been considerable interest in what we shall call 2nd Generation Modular Construction. In that technology, a facility is logically segmented into truckable modules, the modules are constructed in an established industrial area, trucked or airlifted to the plant site, and then coupled together at the plant site. Several 2nd Generation Modular Construction facilities are in place in the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and they have been proved to provide numerous advantages in terms of speed of deployment, construction work quality, reduction in safety risks, and overall project cost. There is even an example of a Modular Helium Reactor (MHR), described in a paper by Dr. Arkal Shenoy and Dr. Alexander Telengator, General Atomics, 3550 General Atomics Court, San Diego, Calif. 92121.

"2nd Generation Modular facilities have also been described in the patent literatures. An example of a large capacity oil refinery composed of multiple, self-contained, interconnected, modular refining units is described in WO 03/031012 to Shumway. A generic 2nd Generation Modular facility is described in US20080127662 to Stanfield.

"Unless otherwise expressly indicated herein, Shumway and all other extrinsic materials discussed herein, and in the priority specification and attachments, are incorporated by reference in their entirety. Where a definition or use of a term in an incorporated reference is inconsistent with or contrary to the definition of that term provided herein, the definition of that term provided herein applies and the definition of that term in the reference does not apply.

"There are very significant cost savings in using 2nd Generation Modular. It is contemplated, for example, that building of a process module costs US$4 in the field for every US$1 spent building an equivalent module in a construction facility. Nevertheless, despite the many advantages of 2nd Generation Modular, there are still problems. Possibly the most serious problems arise from the ways in which the various modules are inter-connected. In the prior art 2nd Generation Modular units, the fluid, power and control lines between modules are carried by external piperacks. This can be seen clearly in FIGS. 1 and 2 of WO 03/031012. In facilities using multiple, self-contained, substantially identical production units, it is logically simple to operate those units in parallel, and to provide in feed (inflow) and product (outflow) lines along an external piperack. But where small production units are impractical or uneconomical, the use of external piperacks is a hindrance.

"What is needed is a new modular paradigm, in which the various processes of a plant are segmented in process blocks comprising multiple modules. We refer to such designs and implementations as 3rd Generation Modular Construction."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The inventive subject matter provides apparatus, systems and methods in which the various processes of a plant are segmented in process blocks, each comprising multiple modules, wherein at least some of the modules within at least some of the blocks are fluidly and electrically coupled to at least another of the modules using direct-module to-module connections.

"In preferred embodiments, a processing facility is constructed at least in part by coupling together three or more process blocks. Each of at least two of the blocks comprises at least two truckable modules, and more preferably three, four, five or even more such modules.

"Contemplated embodiments can be rather large, and can have four, five, ten or even twenty or more process blocks, which collectively comprise up to a hundred, two hundred, or even a higher number of truckable modules. All manner of industrial processing facilities are contemplated, including nuclear, gas-fired, coal-fired, or other energy producing facilities, chemical plants, and mechanical plants.

"Unless the context dictates the contrary, all ranges set forth herein should be interpreted as being inclusive of their endpoints, and open-ended ranges should be interpreted to include only commercially practical values. Similarly, all lists of values should be considered as inclusive of intermediate values unless the context indicates the contrary.

"As used herein the term 'process block' means a part of a processing facility that has several process systems within a distinct geographical boundary. By way of example, a facility might have process blocks for generation of electricity or steam, for distillation, scrubbing or otherwise separating one material from another, for crushing, grinding, or performing other mechanical operations, for performing chemical reactions with or without the use of catalysts, for cooling, and so forth.

"As used herein the term 'truckable module' means a section of a process block that includes multiple pieces of equipment, and has a transportation weight between 20,000 Kg and 200,000 Kg. The concept is that a commercially viable subset of truckable modules would be large enough to practically carry the needed equipment and support structures, but would also be suitable for transportation on commercially used roadways in a relevant geographic area, for a particular time of year. It is contemplated that a typical truckable module for the Western Canada tar sands areas would be between 30,000 Kg and 180,000 Kg, and more preferably between 40,000 Kg and 160,000 Kg. From a dimensions perspective, such modules would typically measure between 15 and 30 meters long, and at least 3 meters high and 3 meters wide, but no more than 35 meters long, 8 meters wide, and 8 meters high.

"Truckable modules may be closed on all sides, and on the top and bottom, but more typically such modules would have at least one open side, and possibly all four open sides, as well as an open top. The open sides allows modules to be positioned adjacent one another at the open sides, thus creating a large open space, comprising 2, 3, 4, 5 or even more modules, through which an engineer could walk from one module to another within a process block.

"A typical truckable module might well include equipment from multiple disciplines, as for example, process and staging equipment, platforms, wiring, instrumentation, and lighting.

"One very significant advantage of 3rd Generation Modular Construction is that process blocks are designed to have only a relatively small number of external couplings. In preferred embodiments, for example, there are at least two process blocks that are fluidly coupled by no more than three, four or five fluid lines, excluding utility lines. It is contemplated, however, that there could be two or more process blocks that are coupled by six, seven, eight, nine, ten or more fluid lines, excluding utility lines. The same is contemplated with respect to power lines, and the same is contemplated with respect to control (i.e. wired communications) lines. In each of these cases, fluid, power, and control lines, it is contemplated that a given line coming into a process block will 'fan out' to various modules within the process block. The term 'fan out' is not meant in a narrow literal sense, but in a broader sense to include situations where, for example, a given fluid line splits into smaller lines that carry a fluid to different parts of the process block through orthogonal, parallel, and other line orientations.

"Process blocks can be assembled in any suitable manner. It is contemplated, for example, that process blocks can be positioned end-to-end and/or side-to-side and/or above/below one another. Contemplated facilities include those arranged in a matrix of x by y blocks, in which x is at least 2 and y is at least 3. Within each process block, the modules can also be arranged in any suitable manner, although since modules are likely much longer than they are wide, preferred process blocks have 3 or 4 modules arranged in a side-by-side fashion, and abutted at one or both of their collective ends by the sides of one or more other modules. Individual process blocks can certainly have different numbers of modules, and for example a first process block could have five modules, another process block could have two modules, and a third process block could have another two modules. In other embodiments, a first process block could have at least five modules, another process block could have at least another five modules, and a third process block could have at least another five modules.

"In some contemplated embodiments, 3rd Generation Modular Construction facilities are those in which the process blocks collectively include equipment configured to extract oil from oil sands. Facilities are also contemplated in which at least one of the process blocks produces power used by at least another one of the process blocks, and independently wherein at least one of the process blocks produces steam used by at least another one of the process blocks, and independently wherein at least one of the process blocks includes an at least two story cooling tower. It is also contemplated that at least one of the process blocks includes a personnel control area, which is controllably coupled to at least another one of the process blocks using fiber optics. In general, but not necessarily in all cases, the process blocks of a 3rd Generation Modular facility would collectively include at least one of a vessel, a compressor, a heat exchanger, a pump, and a filter.

"Although a 3rd Generation Modular facility might have one or more piperacks to inter-connect modules within a process block, it is not necessary to do so. Thus, it is contemplated that a modular building system could comprise A, B, and C modules juxtaposed in a side-to-side fashion, each of the modules having (a) a height greater than 4 meters and a width greater than 4 meters, and (b) at least one open side; a first fluid line coupling the A and B modules; and a second fluid line coupling the B and C modules; and wherein the first and second fluid lines do not pass through a common interconnecting piperack.

"Various objects, features, aspects and advantages of the inventive subject matter will become more apparent from the following description of exemplary embodiments and accompanying drawing figures."

For additional information on this patent, see: Haney, Fred; Donovan, Gary; Roth, Todd; Lowrie, Alan; Morlidge, George; Lucchini, Simon; Halvorsen, Sean. Modular Processing Facility. U.S. Patent Number 9376828, filed October 29, 2014, and published online on June 28, 2016. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=9376828.PN.&OS=PN/9376828RS=PN/9376828

Keywords for this news article include: Fluor Technologies Corporation.

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