Juries award damages, CSB releases report for fatal Williams Olefins explosion
Nov30

Juries award damages, CSB releases report for fatal Williams Olefins explosion

Costs are mounting for Williams Olefins following a 2013 fire at a plant in Geismar, La., that killed two workers—Zach Green, 29, and Scott Thrower, 47—and injured 167 others. In the past few months, juries have awarded eight injured workers a total of $26.9 million after attorneys “argued that Williams, key management figures and others had known for years that one of two reboilers used in the refinery process was isolated from pressure relief—which meant there was a risk of over-pressurization and explosion,” the Baton Rouge Advocate reported. A reboiler is a heat exchanger that supplies heat to a distillation column. Last month, the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board released its investigation findings. Reported Jeff Johnson for C&EN: The reboiler that failed was one of two in the system that provided heat to the propylene fractionator—a distillation column that separates propylene and propane. The second reboiler was a backup and had been off-line for 16 months. Plant officials assumed the backup reboiler was clean and available for use. When the operating reboiler appeared to have fouled, plant operators began to shift operations to the idle reboiler. The plant operators did not know that the standby reboiler contained hydrocarbons and its pressure relief system was not in proper order, CSB found. As the reboiler’s heat increased, the confined liquid hydrocarbons expanded, resulting in a quick and dramatic pressure rise within the vessel. The shell ruptured, causing a release, an expanding vapor explosion, and a fire. A series of process safety management program deficiencies over the 12 years before the accident allowed the reboiler to be unprotected from overpressure problems, according to CSB. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) also investigated the incident. The agency initially cited the company for six safety violations fined the company $99,000, but that was negotiated down to $36,000. The case remains open pending abatement of violations, according to the OSHA inspection database. Another inspection in the fall of 2013 resulted in one citation and a fine of $7,000. That case is closed. OSHA appears not to have inspected the facility since then. Williams Olefins is a subsidiary of the Williams...

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Explosion kills at least two workers at BASF site in Germany
Oct19

Explosion kills at least two workers at BASF site in Germany

From C&EN’s story: A huge explosion and fire at BASF’s Ludwigshafen, Germany, site—one of the world’s largest chemical complexes—killed two company firefighters. Another employee is missing. Eight other BASF staffers were seriously injured and 17 slightly injured from the fire, which broke out on the morning of Monday, Oct. 17. The explosion and resultant fire occurred among pipelines that connect the firm’s harbor on the Rhine River to the Ludwigshafen complex. Maintenance work was being carried out on the pipelines, some of which carry ethylene and propylene, at the time of the explosion. The fire burned for more than 10 hours before it was extinguished. Go read the story for...

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EPA to require chemical companies to consider inherently safer technologies
Mar02

EPA to require chemical companies to consider inherently safer technologies

“Chemical companies and refineries would have to consider inherently safer technologies and, in some cases, undergo third-party, independent safety audits under a new Environmental Protection Agency proposal,” writes Jeff Johnson at C&EN this week. EPA’s proposal would, for the first time, require a subsection of companies, including refiners and chemical makers, to consider using alternative, safer technologies as they regularly update their [risk management plans], which is required at least every five years. Consideration is all that would be required; implementation of safer technologies would not be, stresses Mathy Stanislaus, EPA assistant administrator for land and emergency management. EPA would have access to a company’s assessment of safer technologies but the public would not, Stanislaus tells C&EN. … Also, the proposal would require companies that have chemical accidents to hire an independent third party to conduct compulsory safety audits, rather doing these audits themselves, as they do now, says Stanislaus. And after an accident or a near-miss incident, companies would have to conduct root-cause analyses and prepare incident reports for EPA. The story notes that EPA’s proposal comes out of a re-examination of EPA regulations ordered by President Barack Obama following a 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion at West Fertilizer that killed 15 people. But facilites such as West won’t be covered by the regulation because EPA is not adding ammonium nitrate to its risk management plan...

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OPRD’s safety notables from the literature
Feb24

OPRD’s safety notables from the literature

Organic Process Research & Development has just released its 13th annual compilation of safety issues from scientific literature. It covers: Accidents Fire and Explosion Disasters in Aftermath of Great East Japan Earthquake Lab Explosion during Distillation of Propargyl Thiocyanate Lessons Learned from Process Safety Incidents Zinc Plant Explosion Methyl Mercaptan Accident Tianjin Blast Thermal Hazard Evaluations Decoupling Heat Absorption and Generation from Azobis(isobutyronitrile) Decomposition Ammonium Nitrate Thermal Decomposition with Additives Thermal Hazard Assessment for Synthesis of 3-Methylpyridine-N-oxide Analysis of Safety and Kinetic Parameters for Organic Peroxide Decomposition Prediction of Self-Accelerating Decomposition Temperature for Organic Peroxides Math Methods for Application of Experimental Adiabatic Data Vent Sizing of Cumene Hydroperoxide System under Fire Scenario Differential Scanning Calorimetry Analysis of Liquid Sodium-Silica Reaction Beyond the Phi Factor Thermal Stability of Propylene Oxide Hazard Assessment Methodology Systems Theoretic Accident Modeling and Processes (STAMP)—Holistic System Safety Approach or Another Risk Model? Decisions and Decision Support for Major Accident Prevention in Industry Process Safety Management for Managing Contractors in Process Plant Laboratory Safety Culture What Does “Safe” Look and Feel Like? Methods for Identifying Errors in Chemical Process Development and Design Methods and Models in Process Safety and Risk Management: Past, Present and Future Chemical Reactivity in PHA Scale-up and Scalable Reaction Conditions Application of Safety by Design Scale-up of Epoxide Ring-Opening Scale-up of Alkoxyamines Scale-up of Processes using DMSO Alternative Reagents Trifluoromethylation with Sodium Trifluoromethanesulfinate Iodonium Ylides as Safe Carbene Precursors Improved Method for Generation of Ohira–Bestmann Reagent Nonafluorobutanesulfonyl Azide as a Shelf Stable Oxidant Additional Trifluoromethylation with Sodium Trifluoromethanesulfinate Deoxyfluorination of Phenols with PhenoFluorMix New Reagent for Synthesis of CF3-Substituted Arenes and Heteroarenes A New Deoxyfluorination Reagent Dust Hazards Influence of Inert Materials on Flammable Dust Self-Ignition Hazard Evaluation Method for Dust Collector Explosions Dust Explosions in Process...

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Overheated nitrocellulose ignited to set off Tianjin explosion
Feb09

Overheated nitrocellulose ignited to set off Tianjin explosion

Chinese officials released on Feb. 5 a report into a 2015 explosion at a hazardous materials warehouse in Tianjin that killed 165 people. C&EN’s Jean-François Tremblay reports: The immediate cause of the accident was the spontaneous ignition of overly dry nitrocellulose stored in a container that overheated, according to the report, issued on Feb. 5. Wetting agents inside the container had evaporated in the summer heat, investigators found. Flames from that initial fire reached nearby ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which exploded. … Investigators found that Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics, the operator of the warehouse, illegally stored hazardous materials and that its “safety management procedures were inept.” It also assigned varying degrees of blame to 74 government officials from agencies at the municipal, provincial, and national levels. Some officials, investigators found, were guilty of “taking bribes and abusing power.” To prevent a similar catastrophe, investigators issued a list of recommendations, including the creation of a national system for monitoring hazardous chemicals storage. They also recommended that firefighters be better equipped. First responders accounted for 110 of the...

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CSB approves final report on West Fertilizer explosion
Feb02

CSB approves final report on West Fertilizer explosion

The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) on Jan. 28 approved its final report on the 2013 ammonium nitrate fertilizer explosion in West, Texas, that killed fifteen people and injured hundreds of others. CSB found that key factors that led to the severity of the accident were: Poor hazard awareness Proximity of the facility to nearby homes and businesses Inadequate emergency planning Limited regulatory oversight Here’s CSB’s video about the incident: CSB issued a total of 19 recommendations relating to the explosion, to the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, International Code Council (responsible for the International Fire Code), Federal Emergency Management Agency, Texas Commission on Fire Protection, State Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Services, Texas Department of Insurance, West Volunteer Fire Department, and El Dorado Chemical...

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