A distillate dewaxing unit at an oil refinery was undergoing hot hydrogen regeneration of the catalyst when an explosion occurred. Catalyst regeneration is a periodically performed procedure, in which the normal liquid hydrocarbon feed is stopped and a hydrogen-rich gas mixture is fed through the catalyst bed for which the normal operating temperature is raised from 700F to 800F. During the catalyst regeneration process the reactor pressure is increased from normal operating levels just below 600 psig to about 640 psig. A pipe failure occurred as a sudden and complete rupture of the 10-inch diameter line at the exit of one of the two reactors. Security video revealed that the release rapidly exapnded and the hot gas mixture ignited shortly after rupture. A shock wave from the resulting view more


The catalyst in a dehydrogenation reactor, which was usually operated under a hydrogen atmosphere, was changed while the reactor was isolated from the peripheral equipment by closing a 20-inch remotely controlled valve. The hydrogen pressure in the peripheral equipment was set at 20 KPaG, and the reactor was opened to the atmosphere. Anticipating some hydrogen leakage, suction from the piping was accomplished with a vacuum device and, nitrogen sealing was performed. When the piping connections were restored after changing the catalyst, flames spouted from the flange clearance and two workers were burned. One cause of the fire was poor management of the catalyst replacement process.

Incident Synopsis

A catalyst exchange was carried out in a dehydrogenation view more