PLANT SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENT
Consider new analysis for flares
Applying dynamic models in designing safety systemscan reduce capital costs
, Process Systems Enterprise Ltd.,London,UK, and
, Softbits Consultants Ltd., Medstead, UK
pplication of dynamic modeling for relief system design can sub-stantially lower capital expenditure(CAPEX) while simultaneously improving plant safety. This article considers using dynamic analysis to two areas: vessel depres-surization (or “blowdown”) and flare net- work design. New modeling methods canaccurately quantify relief loads and metaltemperatures to enable informed safety andCAPEX decision support.
CASE HISTORY 1:VESSEL DEPRESSURIZATION
Detailed dynamic analysis of the rapiddepressurization (blowdown) of high-pres-sure vessels is a key element of the safety analysis of oil and gas facilities and otherhigh-pressure installations.
Depressurization of a vessel usually results in cold gas venting into the flare system. The cold gas can sig-nificantly lower the temperatures within theprocess equipment metal walls and pipe- work, as well as the relief system pipework immediately downstream of the blowdownvalves (BDVs). Low temperatures can leadto embrittlement of the equipment andpipework metal walls, and the differencein temperature between adjacent metal sec-tions can result in high thermal stresses.This condition has implications for theintegrity of process vessels, pipework andsections of the relief system, as well as forCAPEX. Accurate analysis of likely relief scenarios is essential to determine:•
Relief loads entering the flare net- work.
For new designs, accurate infor-mation is needed to achieve an optimaldesign that minimizes the piping diam-eters required to meet Mach number andback-pressure constraints. Minimizing thepiping sizes also provides benefits in termsof reduced support infrastructure, whichcan be particularly important in the caseof offshore platforms where additional weight is heavily penalized. For revampsor expansions to an existing process plant,accurate data can help determine whetherthe current flare system can handle the new loads acceptably. In either design scenario,CAPEX savings can be considerable.•
Temperature throughout the pro-cess and pipework metal walls
to identify areas of potential embrittlement, and where(and when) unacceptable thermal stressesare likely to arise. Such information can beused to mitigate potential problems eitherby controlling the relief rates or by rerout-ing the relief flows.•
Temperature of the relieving “gas”streams
(which may actually contain evap-orating entrained liquids). This providesessential information for choosing theappropriate material of construction for thecritical sections of pipework immediately downstream of the BDV.The effects of low temperature can usu-ally be addressed by using suitable materi-als of construction. Unfortunately, in somecases, such materials can be expensive, andit is highly desirable to minimize their use without compromising safety consider-ations. This requires accurate quantifica-tion of flowrates and temperatures of therelieving stream, as well as the minimumtemperatures reached in the metal walls.
Depressuriza-tion of a vessel involves a complex set of cou-pled physical phenomena that must be char-acterized accurately to understand behaviorand provide suitable design values.Current depressurization modeling isoften performed with off-the-shelf processflowsheeting simulators that use an equilib-rium thermodynamic approach. The latterprovides some indication of the flow andtemperature, but by no means adequately describe the complex thermodynamic andkinetic phenomena occurring as a result of rapid decreases in pressure. The fact thatmultiple phases can form within the vessel,and that these may not be in equilibrium with each other or with the vessel wall, canhave a significant effect on both the relief flows and metal temperatures of the vesseland relief system pipework.The sudden decrease in pressure in a gas-filled vessel results in a rapid change inthe thermodynamic state of the gas withinthe vessel. This can result in nucleationof liquids within the gas bulk to form a “droplet phase” as shown in Fig. 1. Someof the nucleated liquid leaves as entraineddroplets in the high-velocity gas exit stream(Fig. 2). Downstream of the vessel, and asthe pressure further reduces, this exiting entrained liquid evaporates into the bulk gas stream, lowering the temperature of the cold exiting stream even further. Thiscreates a risk of brittle fracture of the flaresystem pipework.Some proportion of the liquid remain-ing in the vessel drops to the vessel floor.
Nucleating liquiddropletsGas to relief system
Formation of droplet phase inblowdown event.