Plant winterisation programmes

It was last January when CSB Chairman John Bresland urged process plants to ensure that they had effective plant winterisation programmes, to prevent major chemical and refinery process accidents. With many plants making operational and process changes, it is particularly important to ensure there are no unused sections of pipework that might still be connected to the process, but where lagging might be less effective and collected condensation can freeze. Bresland quoted two examples where ice formation had cracked pipework,

leading to a major escape of flammable gases and explosions. This is all the more relevant this year, as plant operators have had to quickly adapt to changing market demands in the current market conditions. Operators must ensure that management of change techniques are implemented when plant modifications are made and that winterisation programmes are always included. ‘Process Plant Safety and Security’ is one of the topics covered in a review article in the UK Process Engineering magazine this month. Another thought arises, as further extremes of winter (and summer) temperatures can be expected. Possibly more of the plant instrumentation with outside mounted electronics and displays will need to be reviewed to assess the operating temperature limits. While the electronic components these days probably are suitable for -40C, it’s not only diesel fuel that struggles at temperatures below -10C, liquid crystal displays will certainly stop operating in the cold. So more units may need protection, or even heated enclosures, with added sun shades to prevent cooking in the summer. Experience with home smoke alarms bleeping in the night shows that ordinary batteries pass out when the temperature drops a few degrees in winter. Even the advanced lithium batteries in digital cameras have limited life in the cold, so maybe even the new battery-powered sensors, such as those using wireless communications, will need careful watching as winter approaches.

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