Taiwan Refinery Fire Assessment

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“Gov’t furious over Formosa plant fire” shouts a headline in the May 14, 2011 edition of The China Post.

The government yesterday blamed insufficient safety inspection for the latest fire that hit the Formosa Plastics Group’s naphtha cracker complex in southern Taiwan—the third such accident there in 10 months,” states the newspaper report. “The economics ministry said the government task force formed last September in the wake of the fires at Formosa Plastics’ complex at Mailiao, Yunlin County was short of manpower to monitor the safety of operation there. Mailiao’s internal industrial safety staff was insufficient, the ministry said, as it made public preliminary findings of an investigation into the nine-hour fire that broke out Thursday evening.”

The Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) consists of Formosa Plastics Corp., Nan Ya Plastics Corp., Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp. and other subsidiaries engaged in oil refining, petrochemicals and other industries. Starting in 2010, several fire incidents occurred in FPG refineries, leading the Taiwanese governmental authority to order a shutdown of more than 50 plants within a year in the Formosa No. 6 Naphtha Cracking Project Mailiao industrial park.

Before production could resume at the closed plants, FPG needed to perform safety inspections under the supervision of an international third-party organization. FPG chose TÜV Rheinland Taiwan Ltd., a division of the140-year-old safety organization TÜV Rheinland, based in Germany. The goal: perform plant safety assessments for 13 petrochemical and power plants between December 2011 and September 2012 so the plants could be brought back online.

To accomplish this, TÜV Rheinland put together a team of more than 50 professionals pulled from its global organization, as well as from local and international partners. That gave FPG the personnel and the processes it needed to get its plants back online safely.
Assessment framework

According to TÜV Rheinland’s Mr. Andrew H.C. Kao, who was directly involved with the project, the framework for the plant safety assessment was provided by the U.S. OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.119 Process Safety Management (PSM) guideline, because this safety specification had already been established in the plants. Accordingly, the tasks of TÜV Rheinland covered all 14 elements of PSM including process hazards analysis (PHA) and mechanical integrity (MI) inspection during operation and shutdown, which was based on risk-based inspection guidelines of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

According to Kao, the assessment process was divided into three phases: the preliminary audit of the PSM system, on-site verification of MI implementation, and final compliance validation.

Since the initial fires were not caused by the automation systems, but by piping leaks and corrosion rupture on vessels, TÜV Rheinland inspectors conducted the necessary document reviews and inspection related to API 510 / 570 / 653 / 580 / 571.

Inspection for Mechanical Integrity (MI), which is one of 14 elements of PSM, covered key systems in MI including:

  • Pressure vessels and storage tanks
  • Piping
  • Relief and vent system devices
  • Emergency shutdown system (ESD)
  • Controls
  • Rotary machinery.

An inspection of electrical equipment was also added because the governmental committee requested this additional item, said Kao.

During the assessment, TÜV Rheinland experts witnessed the on-stream and off-stream inspections for three months at each plant, said Kao. “In addition, they reviewed all inspection plans and verified the improvements and corrections to the system management of PSM and the implementation of equipment inspection,” he said.
During off-stream (shutdown) inspections, “we witness the inspections and tests that plant engineers executed on all instruments and control systems (like DCS) according to prevention maintenance plans and overhaul plans,” said Kao.

During on-stream, operational inspections, “we witness their daily operation and trends in the control room,” said Kao. This also includes emergency shutdown system (ESD) or safety integrated system (SIS) on-line trip tests on critical process systems, he added.

Conclusions

The work was completed on schedule and more than 3,000 findings and recommendations were handed to FPG regarding the 13 plants.

“Based on these findings, the safety of pressure vessels, the piping, the safety control system and explosive-proof electrical equipment were improved to the acceptable level,” Kao said.

At the final review meeting in September 2012, the authority and the committee approved the future operation of the 13 FPG plants based on the reports and presentation prepared by TÜV Rheinland. Also, “because of the governmental agency’s trust in and satisfaction with the performance of TÜV Rheinland, the authority recommended TÜV Rheinland to the Taiwan Industrial Safety Association to address these extremely important issues to local petrochemical industry sectors, governmental officers and institutes in December 2012,” added Kao.

Refinery Fire Prompts Law

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Oil refineries and other large industrial operations may face steeper fines for air pollution under a new bill in the state legislature. The proposal from State Senator Loni Hancock could quadruple penalties for air pollution.

Hancock, who represents Berkeley, said she was inspired to raise fines after the fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery last August.

“If fines are just the cost of doing business and you have companies without a culture of safety, and you have repeated violations, something must be done,” she said.

Chevron has said it’s paid nearly ten million dollars to local agencies and hospitals, and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health levied nearly a million dollars in fines.

Hancock’s bill would raise the possible air pollution fine for a day-long violation from $25,000 to $100,000.

Assemblyowman Nancy Skinner also introduced a Chevron-related bill, which would require companies to address safety complaints from the state, even while pursuing appeals.

Deep Panuke Fire Probe

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HALIFAX — An investigation has been launched into an electrical fire that resulted in the evacuation of personnel from the Deep Panuke natural gas production platform off Nova Scotia on Saturday January 22.

A spokeswoman for SBM Offshore, the owner and operator of the platform, says the inquiry will include an examination of why the automatic fire suppression system failed to work.

Anne Guerin-Moens says firefighters still managed to quickly extinguish the small electrical fire.

She says the investigation will be carried out by the project’s owner, EnCana (TSX:ECA), and Dutch-based SBM and there is no firm deadline yet for when its findings will be available.

She says 46 people were temporarily evacuated from the platform, which is 250 kilometres southeast of Halifax, while firefighters extinguished the fire.

The offshore project had previously said it wants to produce natural gas by the middle of 2013, but Guerin-Moens says it’s too early to know if the fire will cause production delays.

Global Fire Code Synopsis

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When we consider fire safety codes, ordinances, standards, and similar legislation, we must consider the tremendous number of factors and interests involved, many favorable, yet many contrary. The following is very brief overview of the mountains of laws, standards, codes and so forth that generally help–or in some cases hinder–firefighters’ efforts in fire prevention and protection.

Generally, fire safety legislation exists in nearly every nation. Some are extensive and complete while others are extremely basic, if not primitive. The origins of nearly all of this legislation are as varied as the number of countries where it is applied. In the United States, for example, over the past hundred or so years, the federal government has enacted substantial legislation on fire safety and fire prevention. However, our country, by its very nature, namely a federal republic comprised of fifty states, is very fragmented when it come to establishing unified or all-encompassing legislation. Each state, county, and municipality creates and applies legislation tailored to its particular wants, needs and at times whims, often conflicting with that of a neighboring community. In many states you can exceed their codes at a local level. Also, standards and codes do not originate on Capitol Hill in Washington, but principally in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which coordinates the creation and diffusion of codes and standards related to nearly every activity in the country, including fire safety, created by more than 80 entities in the United States and other countries,. Many ANSI standards are referenced in the building codes (e.g., the International Building Code (IBC) references many ANSI standards that are driven for particular industries, such as elevator manufacturers).

The prime source of fire safety standards is, as we all well know, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which publishes and constantly updates the majority of codes that form the basis for national, state, and local legislation. Although the NFPA standards and codes are not legislation but rather documents of recommended good practice, they form the foundation on which nearly all United States fire safety legislation is based. A host of other entities exist in the United States which also contribute to the creation of fire safety legislation, either through documents or by serving as approval bodies for materials, equipment, systems, and so forth. These include the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the federal technology agency that develops and promotes standards, measurements, and technology; the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which also develops and produces standards for legislation; the Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) and Factory Mutual (FM), certification agencies for systems and components (both originated from the insurance sector); and the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), among many others.

All of these serve as sources for the specific fire protection requirements made by local public administrations, including building codes, municipal ordinances, and so forth. However, many of these requirements come face to face with real world realities which far too often conflict with other sectors’ interests. This is particularly the case where strict building codes conflict with the vested interests of builders or promoters. There have been far too many buildings designed and built supposedly in compliance with prevailing codes only to be found to be substandard. For example, sometimes during the cause investigation following a tragic fire or a routine inspection, supposedly fire-resistive materials are found to be easily combustible, detectors are found just glued to a ceiling and thus inoperable, sprinkler heads are just screwed into a ceiling as ornamentation, and firehose stations are mounted on walls with no piping connected.

Internationally, there are as many legislative bodies as there are countries. The 46 countries comprising Europe have each developed specific regulations for their own territories. The 27 countries of the European Union (EU) have consolidated much of their individual legislation and codes, often sacrificing particular national interests to a pan-European effort toward standardization, for example, making a particular standard on portable fire extinguisher classifications or fire detection system and component specifications commonly applicable throughout all the member countries.

This European standardization applies to hundreds of fire protection-related subjects such as extinguishing agents, smoke/flame detectors, sprinkler systems, fire-resistance characteristics of materials, testing procedures, and more. This European situation is similar to that of the U.S., although a number of these countries have retained many specific national laws and regulations. In these countries, the standards and codes apply to the entire nation, such as the British Standards (BS), the German Deutsches Intitut für Normung (DIN), and the Spanish AENOR. On this international level, the International Standards Organization (ISO) is the worldwide standards-producing body comprising the national entities of 157 countries, providing information, products, and services related to property and liability risks. The ISO standards meet and often exceed individual national ones. Many ISO standards have profound influence on national legislation and standards around the world.

During the past 15 years, a number of initiatives intended to improve fire safety in Europe have emerged from diverse forums. In the mid-1990s, most of these efforts met with stiff resistance and did not get much further than proposals. However, during the more recent years of this century, several of these initiatives have received support from the European Commission, the governing body of the EU. An example of these initiatives is the recently approved classification system for building materials known as EUROCLASSES, in which a rather complicated system of ratings for characteristics and properties of materials and components is applied to give architects and builders accurate information about the materials they intend to incorporate in the design and construction of a particular project or building.

In Central and South America, it’s often a different ball game. A great many of the 43 nations, republics, island states, and protectorates have based their fire protection legislation and standards on those of the U.S., specifically NFPA. Some others have created their own legislation based on their particular characteristics, and still others have looked to Europe for guidelines. Some countries such as Mexico and Peru have extensive national and regional regulations, providing ample information on materials or systems specifications, whereas a few countries make direct reference to specific NFPA codes. Unfortunately in most of these countries the legislation is more often than not given lip service, and when a disaster strikes, the authorities look fast and furiously for the nearest scapegoat. A recent example of this was the tragic 2004 commercial mall fire in Asunción, Paraguay, in which nearly 400 people died. It was found that the three-story complex had been built and fitted with highly combustible materials and lacked sufficient fire exits. Additionally, during the initial stages of the fire, security guards locked doors, impeding most of the victims’ escape. These guards even intimidated first responding firefighters with pistols. Many of these countries try to emulate the U.S., fall real short, and have no enforcement at all.

Australia and New Zealand both have extensive legislation covering building design and construction as well as standards for equipment, systems, and installations. Australia has a very high ratio of research and testing facilities in relation to its population, performing some of the world’s most advanced investigation and research projects in fire protection, such as smoke control in various types and sizes of buildings. One of the world’s leading fire protection industries began in the land of the kangaroo.

In Asia, Japan is probably the leader in fire safety regulations, in part because of the particular characteristics of most of the nation’s residential and small- to medium-business premises construction. The Philippines and China have recently made enormous strides in improving regulations on building characteristics and fire safety, principally because of public pressure in response to numerous recent multifatality fires. These two countries have limited fire suppression capabilities, however; China may have the manpower, but does not have the know-how.

In the continent of Africa, the Republic of South Africa has numerous fire prevention and protection codes in effect, followed by certain other countries in North Africa, such as Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, although these are far behind South Africa in regard to extensive or exacting legislation. However, they are still far ahead of other countries such as Rwanda, Congo Kinshasa, Chad, Nambia, and Mali, where fire prevention and protection is given little or no consideration.

As can be seen, much has been done in many regions and countries with the objective of reducing life and property losses due to fires, but in other areas there is still much yet to be done. Historically, the United States has probably been the world leader in fire prevention and protection. Although the U.S. may be a leader in fire protection systems, it does not come close to many European countries and Japan in fire prevention. This leadership has been and still is a result of foresightedness and motivation: up-to-date codes and standards, fire technology and research, public education, and many more actions, all oriented towards the common goal of reduced life and property losses.

Shell's Ukrainian Shale Deal

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KIEV — Ukraine and Shell will sign a landmark multibillion-dollar agreement to develop unconventional gas resources, government and company officials said, as the former Soviet republic tries to reduce its dependence on Russian gas supplies. The $10 billion production sharing agreement will be signed at the World Economic Forum in Davos by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Shell CEO Peter Voser, officials said. Ukraine is trying to wean itself away from costly Russian gas, as Moscow for months has refused its pleas for a discount. Russia has demanded closer economic and political ties in return for lower prices.

Ukraine has Europe’s fourth-largest shale gas reserves of about 1.2 Tcm, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Ukraine estimates its reserves are much larger.

Shell won a tender last year for the Yuzivska deposit in eastern Ukraine, which government officials say holds 2 Tcm of gas and could produce up to 15 Bcm of gas per year by 2020. Chevron won the rights to develop the slightly smaller Olekse deposit in western Ukraine, where nationalist politicians are opposing the project.

Ukraine’s upcoming deal with Shell comes as it tries to diversify its energy sources away from Gazprom. Ukraine imported around 32.5 Bcm of Russian gas last year, paying an average of $430/Mcm, a price that officials say is stifling the economy. Ukraine plans to extract up to 2 Bcm of gas on its Black Sea shelf, and buy up to 5 Bcm of gas from western Europe.

Gas Turbine Fire Safety

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This article was originally published in Turbomachinery International Magazine’s Blog

The two main fire hazards affecting gas turbine generators are fuel and lubrication, and hydraulic oil. Even the best protected fuel arrangement can cause an external ignition of the fuel, resulting in a fire. Similarly, mineral lube and hydraulic oils can result in a fire in the event of a leak or an oil spray which ignites on hot turbine parts.

The most popular fire suppression agent used for gas turbines today is carbon dioxide (CO2). In general, CO2 systems have a good track record of effective operation. CO2 works primarily by removing the oxygen component from the fire triangle and its advantages comprise the lack of any residue, low cost and its electrical non-conduction properties. One of the main disadvantages is its asphyxiation hazard.

The current design and installation standard for CO2 systems is the 2011 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 12, Carbon Dioxide Extinguishing Systems. The CO2 supply can be either from individual high-pressure cylinders or from a refrigerated low-pressure storage tank. Cylinders offer the advantage of off-site filling, and also cost less. One of the major storage tank advantages is that there is no need for hydrostatic pressure testing, and there is the availability of a larger CO2 supply. As the need for larger CO2 volumes increases, the price difference between cylinders and storage tank decreases.

Total-flooding mode for gas turbines

For gas turbines, CO2 is typically applied in a “total-flooding” mode, which requires a tight enclosure around the turbine to build up the necessary concentration. Although CO2 can also be applied using a “local application” method without an enclosure, this is not a preferred approach because there is the risk of the CO2 getting re-ignited after dissipation. Per NFPA 12, the minimum acceptable design concentration for liquid fuels is 34 percent by volume.

If the fuel is natural gas, the minimum concentration is raised to 37 percent to provide inerting, in addition to extinguishing the flame. NFPA 12 further breaks down total-flooding systems into two sub-categories of surface fires or deep-seated fires. From here on, the requirements are more difficult to find, mainly because they are contained in standards other than NFPA 12. Turbine fires can either be surface fires which assume prompt extinguishment (i.e. pools of burning fuel or oil) or deep-seated fires which assume that the fire is not immediately extinguished (i.e. insulation materials, smoldering conditions). Therefore, the more conservative approach should be used from both sub-categories.

The requirement for surface fires is that the design concentration must be reached within one minute from the start of discharge. In accordance with NFPA 12 for total-flooding systems, the concentration “…shall be achieved and maintained for a period of time to allow effective emergency action by trained personnel.” The following standards specifically address the duration of the retention time for total-flooding systems as they relate to gas turbines.

In accordance with NFPA 850, the concentration “…should be held as long as the hazards of hot metal surfaces above the auto-ignition temperature [of fuel and/or oil] and uncontrolled combustible liquid flow exist.” Unless this information is known and published by the manufacturer, which is unlikely, this performance-based statement is of little use to fire protection system designers.

Minimum retention time

NFPA 850 further suggests that this duration is at least 30 minutes for large industrial type turbines, but does not give a quantitative value for aeroderivative turbines. However, NFPA 37 requires a minimum duration of 20 minutes for any type of turbine. Similarly, Data Sheet 7-79 establishes that the duration should be either 20 minutes, or the turbine rundown time plus 10 minutes, whichever is more.

Therefore, the retention time should be at least 20 minutes for the lighter aeroderivative turbines and 30 minutes for frame turbines. The minimum required concentration at the end of the retention time varies according to the source. In accordance with NFPA 12 and NFPA 37, the design concentration must be maintained for the required duration, which can be estimated to be either 34 or 37 percent, from the discussion above. FM Global, meanwhile, requires that the concentration should be at least 30 percent for the extinguishing period after the initial design concentration has been achieved.

Single-shot design

A system that discharges a predetermined quantity of CO2 and then counts on an initial higher concentration to decrease gradually (hopefully not less than the minimum concentration at the end of the required duration) is adequate for short retention times (i.e. 10 minutes or less). This is referred to as a “single-shot”. However, experience has shown that most turbine enclosures do not offer the level of “tightness” required for a single-shot concentration to last 20 minutes or more. Therefore, an extended discharge is a prudent method. This consists of a smaller secondary CO2 system that continues to “trickle” a smaller quantity of CO2 into the enclosure after the initial discharge is exhausted. The quantity of CO2 provided for the extended discharge should take into account the required duration.

As mentioned above, CO2 carries a unique personnel hazard – the potential for asphyxiation, or death due to lack of oxygen. NFPA 12 has taken an aggressive stance, beginning with the 2005 edition, by making stringent personnel safeguards mandatory for both new and for existing systems. These include a proliferation of ANSI Z535-compliant warning signs, manual lockout valves, and audible and visual alarms.

Winter Fire Safety Tips

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As we near the close of 2012, KEVTA wishes all of our customers, suppliers, friends and family a happy holiday season. The following are some tips related heating to help make sure your holiday season is safe as well. Heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported home structure fires in the last 12 months, resulting in 490 civilian deaths, 1,530 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. As one would expect, more than half of heating fires occur during the months of December, January and February.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions. This should be done every 12 months.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Install and maintain CO alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly.
  • Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Install and maintain CO alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.

MPSA Buys Pratt & Whitney

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has concluded an agreement with United Technologies Corporation (UTC) of the U.S., under which MHI will acquire Pratt & Whitney Power Systems (PWPS), the small and medium-size gas turbine business unit of Pratt & Whitney (P&W), an aero-engine manufacturer.

MHI and UTC, P&W’s parent company, signed the agreement earlier this week. MHI, which has focused its gas turbine business principally on large-capacity, high-efficiency systems, will diversify its power generation product portfolio with the acquisition of PWPS.

PWPS’s aero-derivative gas turbines, widely used for emergency power generation applications, have a compact design and rapid start-up time. Over 1,700 units have been delivered to date, worldwide. Going forward, growth is anticipated in applications requiring a flexible power source complementary to a renewable-energy power source. Robust market demand is also expected as small power sources for application in emerging markets.

The industrial gas turbine FT8 from PWPS is economical, and consists of a gas generator GG8-3 and the power turbine PT8. The gas generator delivers energy rich exhaust gas power turbine, where it is the mechanical connection turbine through a flexible coupling to the driven load (generator), performs useful work. Other products offered by PWPS are the Swiftpac30 and Swiftpac60. While the Swiftpac30 includes one unit GTU, the Swiftpac60 includes two gas turbine units.

PWPS engages primarily in the engineering, assembly and sales of aero-derivative gas turbines and also provides gas turbine services and engineering, procurement and construction services of related power generation systems. The company has approximately 430 employees and owns a majority share of Turboden s.r.l. of Italy, a manufacturer of Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) turbines, which will also be included as part of the acquisition.

PWPS US operations will be aligned with Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, Inc. (MPSA), headquartered in Lake Mary, Florida. With the addition of flexible and reliable small and medium-size offerings to its product portfolio through the acquisition of PWPS, MPSA will now be able to meet broader customer needs through combinations of those units and high-efficiency machines.

Turboden’s ORC turbines have the capability to generate power or supply hot water using a relatively low-temperature heat source, e.g. biomass, factory waste heat or geothermal energy. Until now the company has sold more than 300 units in 20 countries, primarily in Europe. In Japan, increasing opportunities are emerging to use this technology in biomass and geothermal applications.