Lee Melvin, Applications Engineer
For this month’s “Employee Spotlight,” we would like to introduce you to Lee Melvin of Gasket Resources Inc., La Porte, Texas, USA. For the past 3 years, Lee has utilized his vast amount of technical knowledge of over 30 yrs experience within our group of companies that share the Durlon brand.
How did you get started working in your field?
In the bolting service business where I worked for 20 yrs. providing flange joint solutions which encompassed flange history research, on-site evaluations, flange analysis, field machining procedures, flange assembly procedures, and bolting procedures.
What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?
I like working with customers to solve their application issues whether they are gasket material related or fall under the almost endless list of variables surrounding a bolted flange application.
What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?
Make as much effort as possible to get acquainted and involved in the field applications in all industries to gain a true understanding of how gasket applications work.
Can you talk about a project you recently worked on?
Well, it wasn’t recent, but years back when I was in the bolting service business, there were a pair of piggyback (stacked on top of each other) heat exchangers that were catching on fire on a frequent basis and this refinery had a large flange clamp (estimated cost was 800 to 900K) designed and installed on the bottom channel head. This refinery reached out to us to come up with a solution so they could remove the costly flange clamp and have a channel head joint with a reliable gasket. We did a flange analysis and come up with a gasket solution and put together machining procedures to check flange runout and machine if necessary. We also put together flange disassembly and assembly bolting procedures along with gasket installation steps to be taken. Part of this process included being on-site for the disassembly and inspection of the flange joints to see if we could identify any root causes. The channel heads were disassembled and the tube bundles pulled, but we did not find any glaring root causes.
It did not sit well with me that we did not find the “smoking gun”, so I continued going out to the exchanger area while I was on standby for the machining crew to show up, looking at everything as thoroughly as I could. Then I spotted something, I was looking at the top and bottom shells from a side view where the tube bundles were removed earlier and they did not look to be even, almost like the top exchanger shell was sticking out further than the bottom. I went and found a long straight edge and lo and behold the top shell was sticking out 3/4 to 1 inch further than the bottom. This explained why the bolt holes were not lining up on the inlet/outlet nozzles between the channel heads on the tube side. And it also explained why the bottom channel head was the one catching on fire because it was not allowed to be pulled in all the way to seat the gaskets properly on the tube sheet assembly. Long story short, the refinery resolved this problem by rerouting the tube side inlet/outlet nozzles between the channel heads so they were not a straight rigid fit up utilizing 90-degree elbows and a piping loop. We performed our machining, gasket installation, and bolt up as planned and the piggyback exchangers went online with no leaks and went through several cycles and unit shutdowns with no leaks.
Funny thing is, these exchangers were nicknamed by the refinery as “the twisted sisters” because they caught on fire so frequently. I told the engineering staff when we were through, they could change their name to the “obedient brothers” and the rest was history!
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