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Relief Valves in Parallel

Relief Valves in Parallel

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A potential for significant damage and/or injury exists in the misapplication of parallel relief valves.

This topic has been selected to be in the Program at the 2010 Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center International Symposium to be held in College Station, Texas October 26-28, 2010.

I will be preparing an expanded and updated version of this paper for this forum.

http://psc.tamu.edu/symposia/2010
A potential for significant damage and/or injury exists in the misapplication of parallel relief valves.

This topic has been selected to be in the Program at the 2010 Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center International Symposium to be held in College Station, Texas October 26-28, 2010.

I will be preparing an expanded and updated version of this paper for this forum.

http://psc.tamu.edu/symposia/2010

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Published by: James R. Lawrence Sr. on Aug 16, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/07/2013

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Relief Valves in Parallel
James R. Lawrence Sr. Page 1
Introduction
It is apparently becoming common practice to install parallel, 100%-sized relief valves and leaveboth valves in service. During a recent engineering design effort, block valves under dual reliefvalves were shown as CSO and CSC
1
on the P&ID's
2
with the intent to keep a fresh spare thusfacilitating maintenance and testing. No comments were received based on this design practice.During a HazOp
3
, an operator was overheard stating they routinely did not follow the design asshown on the P&ID; they opened both valves to the process because they felt it was safer.Apparently the Operating company's technical authorities agree with this philosophy and thus thecommon practice. Further discussion on this issue revealed other facilities with a similar design; adesign ignored.A historical look implies a simple morphing of the practice of providing a 'cold' spare relief valveinto the practice of opening both block valves to the process thus leaving parallel valves in servicewith nominally the same setpoint. This is done without regard for the intent of the original design.In all fairness, it is being done in the perceived interest of safety. Also, in a desire to ensure thecustomer is always right, this issue is often not brought to the attention of an Operating companyby a design contractor.Here are the reasons we use relief valves:
Protect our personnel
Prevent the destruction of capital investment
Conserve the product
Minimizing downtime
Comply with codes and standards
Avoid civil suits
Obtain favorable treatment from Insurers
Protect the environmentLooking at this bullet list, I can not think of any reason why the proper application of relief valvesshould not be one of the highest priorities of an Operating company for any process facility.
Piping & Instrumentation Diagrams
The P&ID is the base line document for a process facility. It defines the facility more succinctlythan any other document. It is the document reviewed in HazOp studies. It is the documentreviewed and approved by government authorities.The P&ID must always represent the facility. P&ID's rule, full stop.
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Car-Sealed Open and Car-Sealed Closed – typically accomplished with wire and a lead seal.
2
Piping & Instrumentation Diagram
3
Hazards and Operability Study
 
Relief Valves in Parallel
James R. Lawrence Sr. Page 2
If a change is recommended by facility operations, the change must be reviewed by Engineeringand Safety personnel. If the change is approved, then the P&ID, (and any other relevantdocuments), must be revised. There must always be a management of change procedure withappropriate approvals.
ASME
4
Code
The primary code we apply to relief valves does not have a lot to say about all of the engineeringrequired, but here is what is says about dual relief valves.UG-125(c)(1): "When multiple pressure relief devices are provided and set in accordance withUG-134(a), they shall prevent the pressure from rising more than 16% or 4 psi,whichever is greater, above the MAWP."UG-134(a): "When a single pressure relief device is used, the set pressure marked on thedevice shall not exceed the maximum allowable working pressure of the vessel.When the required capacity is provided in more than one pressure relief device,only one pressure relief device need be set at or below the maximum allowableworking pressure, and the additional pressure relief devices may be set to open athigher pressures but in no case at a pressure higher than 105% of the maximumallowable working pressure except as provided in (b) below."Note - UG134(b) allows for 10% overpressure.If relief valves are installed in parallel, the set-points should be staggered. Relief valvemanufacturers will agree with this recommendation although their salesmen will occasionally notchallenge the practice of a good customer.UG-134(a) allows for the required capacity to be provided in more than one device. This implieseach device provides less than the required capacity. It seems logical to assume the code'sauthors did not envision 200++% of capacity or they would have addressed it. After all, whyshould this be addressed – everyone knows you don't oversize relief valves, right?
Relief Valve Issues
Assuming the intent is to provide parallel relief valves with the same setpoint, there is typically anerror in setpoint accuracy of up to 3%. With parallel valves, this can move the onset of reliefoperation up to a 6% differential between the two valves. This differential may be unknown orunrecorded or not actionable based upon the operations & maintenance policy in force.Depending upon the type of relief valve, there can be a number of different scenarios of interactionbetween the valves.Setpoint accuracy is also exacerbated over time – this is why set-point is periodically checked. Itcan readily be seen that the differential between set-points intended to be the same is never reallyknown to an accurate degree.
4
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
 
Relief Valves in Parallel
James R. Lawrence Sr. Page 3
Conventional Valves and Pop-acting Pilot Valves
As with a single oversized valve, interaction between two 100% sized valves can be manifested asvalve chatter due to flow starvation. As a rule of thumb, relief capacity of more than 140% canresult in chatter
5
. Even if both valves have a very close setpoint, operation at this setpoint couldeasily 'over relieve' the system causing the valves, or a single valve, to slam shut. Pressure thenincreases and the cycle starts again.This reaction to overpressure would not provide the required relief capacity and would almostcertainly cause damage to the valves, or even worse, to the connected pipe.
Pilot Operated – Modulating
This valve type offers less of an issue but an issue remains nonetheless. A pilot operated valveobtains full lift between 5% and 7% of overpressure. Depending upon the actual setpointdifferential, it is conceivable one valve might never open. It is also conceivable interaction couldcause chatter within a narrow band of overpressure where the valves begin to open.
Relief System Piping Design
Pipe size is confirmed for relief valve inlet and outlet by the engineering design contractor.Calculations are completed in accordance with codes, standards, and recommended practices.Pipe supports are then designed based on the expected reaction moments generated from therelief valve as shown on the approved P&ID's and in accordance with data received from the valvesupplier.Increasing the relief capacity without consideration for associated pipe supports is not acceptable.Oversized capacity introduces unwanted and unexpected stress in pipe and pipe supports.Rapid cycling of parallel valves may introduced failure in pipe supports or even in the piping itself.In addition to relief jet moments, there is stress induced into the pipe by typically high SPL
6
. Thesound pressure level produced during relief is a function of flow rate and pressure drop. Increasedflow rate translates to increased sound which induces increased vibration in pipe. Additionally, thisvibration can become resonant. There are design limits for relief system piping based on expectedSPL. Opening an extra valve to the relief header may exceed SPL design limits especially if it isdone at multiple inlets to the relief header system. The results of this mechanical stress arecumulative.
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Relief systems should not be expected to operate more than a few hours in the entiredesign life of a facility. Exceeding design parameters reduces relief system life expectancy.Relief fluid velocity is also a factor. Excessive velocity may occur in the header and set up astanding sonic wave at the first increase in pipe size. Care is normally taken during design to usea not-to-exceed velocity in piping design to guard against fatigue failure.It should be readily apparent to all what the opening of a second 100+% valve to the process cando to the relief header system.
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Safety Relief Systems, Bhisham P. Gupta, Saudi Aramco Journal of Technology, Spring 1996, Page 32.
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Sound Pressure Level, (measured in dBa (decibels adjusted or corrected to the human ear)).
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Gupta: ibid Page 32

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