Korean Petrochemical Plant Boosts CRU Efficiency with Innovative Coating Technology


A prominent petrochemical company based in South Korea, was seeking ways to enhance the efficiency of its Catalytic Reforming Unit (CRU) heaters. Faced with scepticism from plant personnel about the potential benefits of advanced coating technology, the company decided to conduct a proof-of-concept trial to evaluate its effectiveness.

The Challenge: Improving CRU Heater Efficiency

Catalytic reforming is a crucial process in petroleum refineries, where naphtha is converted into high-octane gasoline components. The CRU heaters play a vital role in this process, as they provide the necessary heat for the catalytic reactions to occur. However, inefficient heat transfer can lead to higher energy consumption and increased operating costs.

The plant recognized the need to address this challenge and sought a solution that could improve the efficiency of their CRU heaters without compromising operational integrity.


The Solution: High Emissivity Coating Technology

An American multinational energy corporation, a majority shareholder in this petrochemical plant, had extensive experience with high emissivity coating technology and its ability to enhance heat transfer efficiency in refinery heaters. Leveraging this knowledge, corporate headquarters recommended the plant conduct a trial run to evaluate the technology’s potential.

The Trial: Proof-of-Concept in a Single CRU Cell

To address the scepticism from plant personnel, they decided to conduct a proof-of-concept trial on a single CRU cell. This approach allowed them to assess the technology’s performance and potential benefits without committing to a full-scale implementation.

During the trial, the high emissivity coating was applied to the CRU cell, and its performance was closely monitored.

Exceeding Expectations: The Results

The trial yielded remarkable results that exceeded the plant’s initial expectations. While the initial estimate projected a 2.5% efficiency improvement, the actual performance demonstrated a 4.4% increase in efficiency.

The Cetek ceramic coating application has increased fired heater efficiency and protected process tubes from corrosion and oxidation, thereby prolonging tube service life. Average process data under the same throughput of ca. 290 m3/h was analyzed for the cases before and after the coating application. This project provided an economic benefit and long-term reliability as 4.4% of fuel savings under the same throughput were achieved.

Process data analysis before and after Cetek application (Table 1) demonstrates improved radiant efficiency.

Process data analysis of Cetek application demonstrates improved radiant efficiency

Table 1 – Post-Project Evaluation

The Results: Bridgewall Temperature Trend

The fuel savings percentage was calculated using a direct approach of apparent radiant efficiency calculation, which is based on the calculated absorbed duty divided by measured fuel consumption for both scenarios. The bridgewall temperature trend is shown in Figure 1.

Bridgewall Temperature Trend Before and After Cetek Application

Figure 1 – Bridgewall Temperature Trend for the Cases «Before» and «After»

This outcome not only validated the effectiveness of the high emissivity coating technology but also highlighted the potential for significant energy savings and reduced operating costs for the plant.

Building Confidence

The successful trial helped to prove its effectiveness to plant personnel and build confidence in the technology’s capabilities. By demonstrating tangible results, the plant was able to overcome the initial resistance and pave the way for future implementation.



The collaboration between the plant and the HQ showcased the power of innovative technology and cross-organizational knowledge-sharing. By conducting a targeted proof-of-concept trial, the plant was able to evaluate and validate the benefits of high emissivity coating technology, ultimately leading to improved CRU heater efficiency and substantial energy savings for their refinery operations.

This case study serves as a testament to the importance of embracing innovation and being open to new technologies that can drive operational excellence and sustainable practices in the energy industry.


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Larry Emch

IGS Subject Matter Expert


Fired Heater