Improving Combustion Safety Through Preventive Measures and Maintenance
Industrial process heating operations often involve high temperatures and pressures that — if not properly managed and maintained — can put processes and personnel at risk.
Being cognizant of safety can prevent injury and loss of life. In the larger scale of a business, it can prevent expensive repercussions while at the same time improve efficiency and production. This is especially true in the oil-and-gas industry, particularly on the riskier side of combustion management.
Preventive measures and maintenance are key to avoiding safety issues altogether. A proper preventive measures program can:
- Increase uptime.
- Improve efficiency.
- Reduce lost-time incidents.
- Result in less financial and physical risk for a company.
Preventive measures include safety training and suitable field training for employees. Implementing a comprehensive maintenance plan also will help. For combustion safety, a good maintenance plan will include:
- Flame arrestor cleaning.
- Shutdown and emergency shutdown checks.
- Burner cleaning.
Proper burner selection, installation and alignment as well as regular preventive maintenance can reduce the possibility of safety issues such as this damaged pipe.
Obtaining a proper burner-management system (BMS) for the process or application in use is critical to combustion safety. The BMS is the brain of combustion management safety. It helps to manage settings and temperatures to maintain maximum efficiency. It also ensures that temperatures do not exceed or drop below acceptable and safe levels.
Burner-management systems on fired units are essential to maintain safe, controlled firing and to monitor all safety shutdowns on fired units. They require stringent approvals and certifications that ensure that they run safely. Using a BMS allows for proper shutdowns that minimize risk to facilities and processes as well as to the people who maintain and work around them.
Failure to implement adequate preventive and safety measures can result in catastrophic incidents such as firetube ruptures. Localized overheating weakens the firetube over time. The tube rupture or collapse occurs when the pressure of the vessel causes the weakened area to fail.
Proper burner alignment also is a key component of both prevention and safety. Poor burner alignment or positioning is a common occurrence in heated natural-draft process and production equipment. It can be caused by improper installation, poor structural design or field error. Correct commissioning will help reduce this occurrence. Burners must be aligned so that flame impingement is kept to a minimum. This prevents firetube fatigue, firetube failure and poor combustion that results in soot, smoke and odors.
Failure to implement adequate preventive and safety measures can result in catastrophic incidents such as firetube rupture. A firetube rupture is caused by localized overheating on the firetube. Over time, the metal becomes fatigued and weakens. The tube can rupture or collapse when the pressure of the vessel pushes on this weakened area. This usually only occurs in pressurized vessels. The consequences range from mild to extreme. Mild consequences can include unplanned downtime and loss of production. Extreme consequences can include vessels exploding and burning down, possibly resulting in loss of life. Proper burner selection, installation and alignment as well as regular preventive maintenance can reduce the possibility of this occurrence.
A burner-management system (BMS) helps to manage settings and temperatures to maintain maximum efficiency. It also ensures that temperatures do not exceed or drop below acceptable and safe levels.
Fuel-air ratio control also can help to improve combustion safety. Systems that monitor fuel-air ratio control allow greater safety because they carefully monitor and measure crucial levels and pressures. On one hand, too much fuel leads to incomplete combustion and increases pollution. The partially burned and unburned fuel can appear in the exhaust stack, often revealing itself as smoke or soot. On the other hand, too much air wastes valuable fuel and can increase the cost of running a system. Maintaining a system that provides appropriate combustion readings can limit pollution, maximize efficiency and improve the overall safety of the heater.
Combustion safety is a complex prospect and involves many necessary elements to adequately implement. Many tools are required to safely operate, troubleshoot, inspect and maintain fuel-fired equipment. Some of these tools include knowledge of combustion basics, equipment and fuel trains, shutoff valve maintenance and testing, safety interlock testing, combustion control and tuning, gas piping and repair, furnace efficiency basics and hazard recognition. Combining all of these elements into an effective preventive measures and maintenance plan will improve overall safety and efficiency as well.