Steam generation is an integral part of most chemical process plants; however, the steam plant often is or can be overlooked in the area of hazard analysis. The reasons for this oversight are obvious: steam generation is considered to be an old and well understood process, and steam boiler systems are often not considered to pose the same hazards as other plant units. However, modern steam boiler systems are fueled with natural gas, pulverized coal, and/or fuel oil; each of which poses significant fire and explosion hazards. For example, a moderately sized chemical plant's boiler house may have two or three boilers operating at 240 MMBTU/hr, with each using approximately 11 tons/hr of subbituminous pulverized coal feed. Chemical plants rely upon equipment design and installation, maintenance practices, operating procedures, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to operate safely. Steam plants rely on these same safety mechanisms as well. Thus, the same process safety management objectives should be applied to these systems as to the balance of the chemical plant.
Several hazard analysis techniques can be applied to existing designs, management of change, and new designs of steam power plants in chemical facilities. A method that we have found useful to apply to these systems is that of a safety checklist based upon relevant standards and good engineering practice. More than just identifying the hazards and required safeguards for such a system, if implemented effectively, the checklist will enhance training and staff knowledge of boiler operation and safety mechanism. This paper aims to provide guidelines for when it is appropriate to implement a checklist and for reasonable alternatives for developing such a checklist. We will also discuss typical hurdles in implementing such a hazard analysis program for existing boiler systems.
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