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PT Notes

Process Safety Incidents in Aging Plants

PT Notes is a series of topical technical notes on process safety provided periodically by Primatech for your benefit. Please feel free to provide feedback.

Many process safety incidents have been attributed to aging plants. Of course, the longer a process operates the more exposure there is to risk. However, there are various factors that need to be addressed by process safety programs for aging plants.

Equipment deteriorates over time and this has played a role in some incidents. Damage mechanism reviews can help to address this issue. Use of old equipment must be subject to close review. As time passes, industry standards and best practices evolve but the designs of processes are frozen in time. Thus, gaps between current industry standards and best practices and existing company standards and practices may exist. Use of dated standards and practices and outdated technology have played a role in several incidents. Process safety programs should require periodic formal reviews to identify and evaluate the feasibility of adopting current standards, best practices, and technology retrospectively. Current standards, best practices, and technology should be addressed when developing recommendations to reduce risk, for example, in process hazard analysis studies, management of change reviews, and incident investigations.

Examples of process safety incidents that have resulted from plant aging factors are provided in the article:

Insights into process safety incidents from an analysis of CSB investigations, Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, Volume 43, pages 537–548, September, 2016.

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