An industrial heater used to heat a naphtha-hydrogen mixture developed a small leak in one of its finned tubes. The leak resulted in a 2-ft long torch flame, which was eventually noticed by an employee. Upon discovering the fire, the hydrotreater was shut down by cutting off the flow of naphtha and the flow of fuel to the burners in the heater. The hydrogen flow was maintained in order to cool and sweep the reactor during the shutdown operation.
A facility experienced a major fire in its Resid Hydrotreater Unit (RHU) that caused millions of dollars in property damage. One employee sustained a minor injury during the emergency unit shutdown and there were no fatalities.
The RHU incident investigation determined that an 8-inch diameter carbon steel elbow inadvertently installed in a high-pressure, high-temperature hydrogen line ruptured after operating for only 3 months. The escaping hydrogen gas from the ruptured elbow quickly ignited.
Overview: A pipe end containing fuel oil corroded at the outlet of a heat exchanger on the outlet side of a desulfurization reactor. The corroded pipe end leaked hydrogen gas, which exploded, causing oil to leak from the heat exchanger. The leaking oil developed into an oil fire, and the damage spread. The causes of the pipe end corrosion include the following:
A hydrogen leak occurred from a 1-inch gate valve on a makeup gas line in an oil refinery gas oil hydrotreater unit. When the leak was discovered, the gas oil hydrotreater unit shutdown procedures were immediately implemented and emergency response was requested. The refinery response team along with county response teams responded, and after approximately 1/2 hour, the gas oil hydrotreater unit was fully shut down.
A hydrogen reformer furnace at a refinery was shutdown for maintenance to remove and cap the inlet and outlet headers of some radiant tubes that had previously developed hot spots and been isolated by externally pinching them off at the inlet. A decision was made to leave steam in the steam-generating circuit during this maintenance operation to prevent freezing. After maintenance was complete, the startup procedure required the furnace to be first heated up to 350°C (662°F) prior to introducing 4136 kPa (600 psig) steam into the radiant tubes.
A refinery hydrocracker effluent pipe section ruptured and released a mixture of gases, including hydrogen, which instantly ignited on contact with the air, causing an explosion and a fire. Excessive high temperature, likely in excess of 1400°F (760°C), initiated in one of the reactor beds spread to adjacent beds and raised the temperature and pressure of the effluent piping to the point where it failed. An operator who was checking a field temperature panel at the base of the reactor and trying to diagnose the high-temperature problem was killed.
Hydrogen Explosion due to Failure of an Incorrectly Sized Spirometallic Gasket at a Refinery Hydrodesulfurization Plant
Overview: A hydrogen leak and explosion occurred due to the installation of an incorrectly sized gasket at the suction line of a hydrogen compressor in a refinery hydrodesulfurization plant. The incorrectly sized gasket was mounted during the startup of the plant in 2001 and had never being inspected nor replaced.
The incident occurred in the catalytic hydrotreatment plant of an oil refinery. The plant, which began operations in September 1997, has a capacity of 1650 tons/day of light fuel oil and 1450 tons/day of heavy fuel oil. The plant was designed to desulfurize the light and heavy fuel oil fractions produced in the refinery by treating them with high-pressure hydrogen over a catalyst to remove sulfur (producing hydrogen sulfide as a byproduct).
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