Editorial: Adding Pizazz to Process Safety | AIChE

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Editorial: Adding Pizazz to Process Safety


Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) released their newest safety video in June detailing the explosion that took place in April 2018 at the Husky Superior Refinery in Wisconsin (www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFhkzK7jkKg). If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out the video, I highly recommend it — not only for the technical content, but also for the dramatic animated introduction that marks the agency’s 25th birthday. The video opens with a bald eagle soaring over a refinery, spreading ribbons of color through towers and storage tanks, before landing at the top of an American flag.

The production quality of the CSB safety videos gets better every year. The videos explain complex technical concepts in a way that is easy to understand, which makes them appropriate for nearly everyone interested in safety — not just chemical engineers. What struck me after scrolling through some of the YouTube comments on the Husky Superior Refinery video is the number of people who watch and follow the CSB safety videos, but who admit that they don’t work in the chemical process industries (CPI). The CSB has shown that adding some pizazz to technical content isn’t a bad thing — in fact, it’s a great way to capture the interest of a wider audience.

The safety video reviews the key factors that caused the explosion and fire at the Husky Superior Refinery, which occurred during a planned shutdown. Animations and diagrams show how an eroded slide valve in a fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) allowed air to flow backward through the reactor unit and into process piping, forming a flammable mixture with hydrocarbons present in the system. When the flammable mixture ignited, debris from the resulting explosion punctured a nearby asphalt tank, releasing 17,000 barrels of hot asphalt that spread through the refinery and caught fire. Overall, the incident injured 36 workers and caused $550 million in property damage.

The CSB identified emergency preparedness as one of six key safety issues that may have contributed to the severity of the Husky Superior Refinery incident. This month, we cover the importance of emergency preparedness in our cover story. The article, “Mapping an Evacuation in Real Time,” on pp. 29–33 discusses plant evacuations and how new digital tracking technologies are enabling facilities to keep better tabs on personnel during emergency scenarios. “When seconds matter, there is no time to take a manual roll call or scan badges at a muster point,” writes author Jacob Tardoni, a global product manager at Emerson. The article gives advice for implementing a new digital mustering system in existing facilities, emphasizing the importance of change management and gaining operator buy-in during the deployment process.

Like the CSB, the upcoming Global Congress on Process Safety (GCPS) will also celebrate an important anniversary. Abstracts are now being accepted for the 20th GCPS, to be held alongside the 2024 AIChE Spring Meeting in New Orleans, LA (Mar. 24–28, 2024). Those who attend the 20th GCPS will have the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics following five unique tracks. If you are considering submitting an abstract this year, don’t be afraid to add a bit of pizazz to your presentation.

Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief


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