Revamp Operations Now!

An explosion at an ammonia plant exposes serious safety-management flaws

revamp operartions now mn

This Month’s Puzzler At our ammonia plant, a carbon-steel CO2 pipeline exploded during a shutdown. The CO2 gas typically contains 1–3% H2. Our two H2 analyzers, which rely on thermal conductivity, are used to trip valves on the transfer line closed if the H2 concentration rises above 8%; such a concentration poses a risk downstream because it becomes an explosive mixture if combined with air. We use N2 to purge the ammonia plant before a plant outage. We’ve never had an explosion before. My investigation turned up several issues: 1) operators rely on the trip to close the valves — they’re using a trip as an active control; 2) N2 has twice the conductivity of…

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    This Month’s Puzzler At our ammonia plant, a carbon-steel CO2 pipeline exploded during a shutdown. The CO2 gas typically contains 1–3% H2. Our two H2 analyzers, which rely on thermal conductivity, are used to trip valves on the transfer line closed if the H2 concentration rises above 8%; such a…

    Full Story
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