Case Study of Steam Hammer Event in an Ethylene Plant

Source: AIChE
  • Type:
    Conference Presentation
  • Conference Type:
    AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
  • Presentation Date:
    April 2, 2019
  • Duration:
    25 minutes
  • Skill Level:
    Intermediate
  • PDHs:
    0.40

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A steam explosion incident occurred on a Steam Line in a Gulf Coast Ethylene Production Facility. A detailed review of the third party failure analysis, along with a site visit and field walk down of the equipment determined that the cause of the failure was a condensation induced water hammer. This is a rapid condensation event, sometimes known as a "rapid steam bubble collapse". If conditions exist, a steam pocket becomes totally entrapped in subcooled condensate. When the steam gives up its heat to the adjacent condensate and pipe walls, steam changes from a vapor to a liquid state. As a liquid, the volume formerly occupied by the steam shrinks by a factor of from several hundred to over a thousand times the pressure. A review of one such incident will be discussed with attention on Root Cause and preventative measures.
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