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A plant producing chemical intermediates for manufacture of active drug ingredients experienced a runaway chemical reaction. On the night of the incident, the reactor temperature was climbing slowly and reached the upper limit of the temperature sensor range while the reactor was still at atmospheric pressure. The aniline had started to distil off by itself and quickly began boiling vigorously. The jacket was found to be operating at a higher pressure than normal but an attempt to depressure the jacket by opening the drain valve was aborted due to the deafening noise generated by the venting steam. Soon afterwards, the reaction mix was seen rising up the glass riser and a decision was taken to evacuate the building. Two bursting discs ruptured, releasing fumes and black particulate matter to atmosphere for around 20 minutes. Several joints on the glass riser failed relieving black, tar-like decomposed material to the floor of the reactor hall.
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