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Deethaniser reboiler catastrophic failure

Published on 28/09/23 148 Views

A gas processing plant was taken off-line following a major upset. A few hours later, the rich oil deethaniser reboiler had become intensely cold and failed catastrophically when warm lean oil was re-introduced during restart. The failure released more than 10 tonnes (22,000 lb) of hydrocarbon vapour to the atmosphere. The vapour cloud drifted 170m (560 ft) to a set of fired heaters and ignited. The flame front from the resulting deflagration burned through the vapour cloud without causing an explosion. When it reached the ruptured exchanger, a fierce jet fire developed beneath an elevated pipe rack junction and flame impingement caused 3 more leaks. The resulting fire burned for more than 2 days.

Ask yourself and your crew:

  • How can something like this happen here (e.g. on our site)?
  • What safety measures (i.e. procedures, controls/barriers) do we have in place to mitigate the risk?
  • How do we know the risk controls/barriers are working?
  • What improvements or changes should we make to the procedures, controls/barriers or the way we work?

Original content courtesy of IChemE Safety Centre