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News Room

This page contains previous items from our Latest News feature.

CSB Issues Final Report on 2015 ExxonMobil Refinery Explosion

Publish Date: 2017-05-09
Category: Industry News

On May 3, 2017, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued its final report on the explosion that occurred at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California, on February 18, 2015. The blast caused serious property damage to the refinery and scattered catalyst dust into the nearby community. Four contract employees sought first aid for injuries sustained while fleeing the area. The incident caused the refinery to be run at limited capacity for over a year causing gasoline prices to rise in California. The CSB investigation also discovered that a large piece of debris from the explosion narrowly missed hitting a tank containing tens of thousands of pounds of modified hydrofluoric acid which is highly toxic.

The explosion occurred in the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit. The CSB determined that on the day of the incident a slide valve that acted as a barrier between the hydrocarbon side and air side of the FCC unit failed and ultimately allowed hydrocarbons to flow into the air side of the FCC where they ignited in the electrostatic precipitator causing the explosion.

The CSB investigation found:

  • Multiple gaps in the refinery’s process safety management (PSM) system which allowed for operation of the FCC unit without proper procedures, pre-established safe operating limits, and criteria for shut down.
  • The refinery relied on safeguards that could not be verified and reuse of a previous procedure variance without a sufficient hazard analysis.
  • The slide valve was degraded significantly. This safety-critical safeguard did not work as intended when needed during an emergency and hydrocarbons were able to reach an ignition source.
  • In multiple instances leading up to the incident, the refinery directly violated ExxonMobil’s corporate safety standards. For example, during work leading up to the incident, workers violated corporate lock-out / tag-out requirements.

The CSB concluded that a more robust PSM system should have been in place.

Resources

Read the CSB news release.
Read the CSB report.
View the CSB animation of the explosion.

Primatech completes a dust hazard analysis project

Publish Date: 2017-04-28
Category: Primatech News

Primatech recently facilitated a Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA) study for a power generation client. The project supported the client’s program to comply with NFPA standards 652 and 654. The study team identified recommendations for improvements to enhance safety and mitigate potential dust hazards. For more on Primatech’s DHA-related consulting services, please click here.

Primatech to Exhibit at the 30th Annual Environmental, Health and Safety Seminar

Publish Date: 2017-04-25
Category: Primatech News

Primatech will be exhibiting at the 30th Annual Environmental, Health & Safety Seminar, June 5-8, 2017 in Galveston, Texas. Please be sure to stop by our booth at the Moody Gardens convention center.

Shawn Metzler from Primatech will be available to discuss how Primatech's consulting, training, and software can assist in meeting your organization's process safety objectives.

Be sure to drop off your business card at Primatech's booth for a chance to win a Bose SoundLink Mini II Bluetooth Wireless Speaker!

EPA Further Delays the Effective Date of the RMP Rule Amendments

Publish Date: 2017-04-24
Category: Industry News

On April 3, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule to further delay the effective date of the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule amendments for 20 months until February 19, 2019. This action is intended to allow EPA to consider several petitions for reconsideration of the RMP rule amendments and take further regulatory action. EPA held a public hearing regarding the proposed effective date on April 19, 2017. Written comments must be received by May 19, 2017.

For further information, see:

Final Amendments to the Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule

Primatech's Dr. Paul Baybutt authors article on process safety incidents, cognitive biases, and critical thinking

Publish Date: 2017-04-24
Category: Primatech News

The article was published in Hydrocarbon Processing, Vol. 96, No. 4, pages 81 - 82, April 2017.

Abstract

Process hazard analysis (PHA) is a key tool for identifying hazard scenarios for processes to help prevent process safety incidents. PHA poses numerous technical challenges but also it depends on decisions made by practitioners during the performance of studies. Human decision making is influenced by many cognitive factors that may bias decisions. This article describes how cognitive biases may have influenced decisions made during a reactive hazard assessment where a process safety incident occurred subsequently.

Primatech's Dr. Paul Baybutt authors article on the need for creative thinking in process safety

Publish Date: 2017-04-13
Category: Primatech News

The article was published in Chemical and Engineering Progress, pages 56 - 60, Vol. 113, No. 4, April, 2017.

Abstract

Creative thinking is needed when addressing many process safety elements. It is essential in process hazard analysis studies where people brainstorm what can go wrong. Also, it is important for other elements such as incident investigation, procedure writing, management of change reviews, and developing emergency response plans.

Formal education usually discourages creative thinking and most people don’t need to be creative for much of what they do in daily life. Consequently, the ability to think creatively is not common. However, creative thinking is a skill that can be learnt and guidance can be provided for ways in which creative thinking can be approached by anyone when the need arises. This article provides guidelines for creative thinking that can be used to address the challenges of process safety.

Environmentalists act in support of EPA RMP rule amendments

Publish Date: 2017-04-13
Category: Industry News

The Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club and Earthjustice plan to jointly file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by industry organizations in March that asks the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay or reconsider amendments to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule. The industry organizations include the American Chemistry Council, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute.

Primatech's Dr. Paul Baybutt authors paper on overcoming challenges in using LOPA to determine SILs

Publish Date: 2017-04-10
Category: Primatech News

The paper was published in the Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, Volume 48, pages 32 – 40, July 2017.

Abstract

The international standard on safety instrumented systems (SISs), IEC 61511 / ISA 84, requires the determination of safety integrity levels (SILs) for safety instrumented functions (SIFs) in SISs. Arguably, this is the most important requirement in the standard. Various methods are used for SIL determination including risk matrices and risk graphs, although layers of protection analysis (LOPA) is used increasingly. In employing these methods, a determination must be made as to whether existing risk levels for a process are tolerable by comparing risk estimates with risk tolerance criteria. If a risk gap is found, the SIL required to close the gap is specified. This determination requires setting risk tolerance criteria and making risk estimates.

LOPA is used to calculate the risk of individual hazard scenarios. Consequently, in order to simplify the determination of SILs using LOPA, overall risk tolerance criteria often are allocated to individual hazard scenarios so that risk estimates for scenarios can be compared with the allocated criteria. Sometimes hazardous events are used and the risks of scenarios that involve the same hazardous event are aggregated. Unfortunately, allocation of facility risk tolerance criteria to scenarios or events is fraught with difficulties and use of LOPA with allocated risk tolerance criteria can produce inaccurate results within a facility and inconsistent results across facilities.

A procedure is provided in this paper for SIL determination using LOPA in which facility risk tolerance criteria are used meaningfully and justifiably. The procedure entails the calculation of overall facility risk and an examination of contributions to the risks to individuals and groups of people from sources of risk such as different types of hazards, different modes of process operation, and different units and processes. The procedure is illustrated with an example.

The article can be accessed for free on ScienceDirect until May 28, 2017 by clicking on the link below. No sign up or registration is needed.

https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1UrQx3O6UQLIh3

New OSHA Publications on PSM

Publish Date: 2017-04-04
Category: Industry News

OSHA has released three guidance documents to help employers comply with the Process Safety Management standard (PSM). The new documents are:

  • OSHA 3908, PSM for Small Businesses
  • OSHA 3909, PSM for Storage Facilities
  • OSHA 3912, PSM for Explosives and Pyrotechnics Manufacturing

They are available at:

https://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/publication.html

Budget Proposal to Eliminate the CSB

Publish Date: 2017-03-17
Category: Industry News

The President’s FY 2018 budget proposes eliminating funding for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) along with a number of other independent government agencies.

Click here to see a statement from the CSB's Chairperson, Vanessa Sutherland.

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