Accident Example 1

Consultancy and Engineering of Infrared Monitoring Systems for the Chemical Plant Industry


Avoiding Accident: Example Burner Deck of a POX Reactor

I participated an accident of a pipe rupture/explosion, as after a shut down rest of oxygen entered into the hot oil pipe towards the burner tip of a POX Gasifier. That time in 1976 design, no N2 purge was yet installed and no continuous infrared camera systems were available yet. The pipe arrangement at the burner deck is not provided with any outside temperature detection/measurement. The pictures below are no actual pictures of 1976 but taken from similar reactor used as reference here only to explain the accident:

The burner deck of a gasifier is a very dangerous place. Hot oil, hot oxygen, and hot steam flow together into one burner nozzle into the gasifier reactor. You can feel strong vibrations from the platform you are standing on. Together with the heat of the not insulated pipes at burner inlet give you a dangers feeling, also remembering many incident stories and accidents happened near this area.

During first startup of such plants no one is allowed to enter or to be near the reactor. The instructions not to be near the reactor, especially at top dome and burner, show that still today there is a possibility of explosion or disturbances in danger. The last explosion of part of a reactor was in 2008, as far I came to know.

However, today the plant user pay high insurance instead of lowering the risk of explosion. Operators are still afraid and management stand between production and safety which in many cases is contrary (I read one big sign/plate in India POX plant once: ”Production Must! – Safety First!”. After 36 years of experiences in the chemical plant engineering and commissioning and of today available technology there is one proper way to avoid and to lower such risk for possible explosions:

Install continuous monitoring infrared cameras with automatic detection of deviations.

The infrared cameras can detect and alert all different temperatures to normal. If personnel enter the area the camera system will alert and show the ongoing disturbance, stored also on hard disk for history records.

The infrared cameras can detect deviations from normal operation or against exceeding temperatures of all incoming pipes at the burner deck. The pipes of O2 and Oil into the burner are not insulated and can show in high resolution all temperatures. You can set maximum limits, you can set deviations of temperature developments and you can show graphs of developing temperatures during start up, shut down, operation, etc.

Burner Deck-cut80 Picture: Land Instruments

The infrared cameras can overlook big areas and still have high resolution to identify deviations to alert. Infrared cameras are used in many places for area supervision and detection of deviations, such as by Police, forest fire detections, gas detection in big areas, platforms, etc. Unfortunately, the chemical plant industry is not aware of their benefits though they are in urgent need to lower risk and insurance fees.