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Dr. Philip Cleaver Dr. Carol Humphreys BG Plc, Research and Technology Michel Gabillard Dominique Nedelka Gaz de France, Service Etudes Cryogeniques Roy Scott Heiersted Statoil Research Centre Jan Dahlsveen NTNU, MTF-Fluiddynamics Division

Increasingly, as more reserves of natural gas are discovered in regions remote from potential users, large quantities of LNG are being transported by sea from remote gas fields to distant markets. The transfer of LNG to and from an LNG carrier whilst loading or unloading, provides the potential for spillage of LNG onto water to occur. It has been demonstrated that under certain conditions, when LNG is spilled onto water, the vaporisation rate produced can be so high that physical explosions, termed rapid phase transitions (RPTs), can occur. These RPTs can generate air and underwater blast pressures which could damage adjacent plant or structures. BG and Gaz de France, both companies which were involved in the early development of LNG transportation technology, have been engaged in research into the factors influencing the occurrence and the possible consequences of RPTs. The majority of this research has been conducted on a collaborative basis with other organisations involved in the operation of LNG importation and exportation facilities including Statoil and the Gas Research Institute in the USA. As a result of this on-going research programme, it is possible to provide a description of RPT phenomena and an insight into the possible hazards presented by RPT events, during ship to shore transfer of LNG and other cryogenic liquids


Du fait des dcouvertes grandissantes de rserves de gaz naturel loignes des consommateurs potentiels, d'importantes quantits de GNL sont transportes par voie maritime, des champs de productions aux lieux de consommation. Lors des oprations de chargement ou de dchargement d'un navire mthanier, le dversement de GNL sur l'eau est potentiellement possible pendant le transfert du GNL. On a pu dmontrer que, dans certaines conditions, lors de tels dversements de GNL sur l'eau, le taux de vaporisation peut tre si lev que des explosions violentes, appeles communment Transitions Rapides de Phase (TRP), peuvent tre gnres. Ces TRP gnrent des ondes de pressions ariennes et sous-marines, qui pourraient endommager les quipements ou structures avoisinantes. Les deux compagnies gazires, BG et Gaz de France, qui ont t impliques dans les premiers dveloppements de la technologie du transport de GNL, se sont engages dans un programme de recherche sur les facteurs influenant l'occurrence et les consquences possibles des TRP. La majorit de ce programme de recherche a t men dans le cadre d'une collaboration avec d'autres organismes impliqus dans l'exploitation des terminaux d'importations ou d'exportations de GNL, en particulier Statoil et le Gas Research Institute aux U.S.A. De ce programme de recherche en cours, rsulte une description du phnomne deTRP, ainsi qu'un aperu des risques potentiels lis aux explosions durant le transfert de GNL ou d'autres liquides cryogniques.



Exploitation of reserves of natural gas in regions which are remote from potential markets, necessitates the transport of large quantities of LNG by sea bourne LNG carriers. Any future development of offshore liquefaction plant for the exploitation of smaller offshore gas fields will also increase the quantities of LNG transported by sea. The transfer of LNG to and from an LNG carrier provides the potential for spillage of LNG onto the water. It has been demonstrated that under certain conditions, when LNG is spilled onto water the vaporisation rate produced can be so high that physical explosions, termed rapid phase transitions (RPT), can occur. RPTs can, under some conditions, generate high air and underwater blast pressures which could damage adjacent plant or structures. Similar RPT phenomena have been observed in the nuclear, metal casting, and paper industries where liquids of widely differing temperatures and boiling points can come into contact. BG, Gaz de France and Statoil have been involved in research into the factors influencing the occurrence and the possible consequences of RPTs, as part of their interest in safety and development of LNG transportation technologies. The majority of this research has been conducted on a collaborative basis with other organisations involved in the operation of LNG importation and exportation facilities including the Gas Research Institute of America. As a result of this research programme it is possible to provide a description of RPT phenomenon and give an insight into the potential hazards associated with an RPT event. This relevant to any operation in which LNG (or other cryogenic liquid) could come into contact with water.


An RPT is defined as the process that takes place when a liquid rapidly changes phase to vapour, the large increase in volume (due to the vapour generation) causes a localised pressure increase which can give rise to an air or waterborne blast wave. This may occur when a volatile liquid comes into contact with another liquid of a higher temperature. Energy is transferred from the hotter liquid to the colder volatile liquid. The rate of energy transfer, and hence rate of vapourisation of the volatile liquid, depends on the difference in temperature, the properties of the liquids and the nature of the contact, i.e. on the mixing process. These conditions can be such that the energy transfer is so rapid that an RPT can occur. The nature of RPT phenomena is a complex combination of thermodynamic and hydrodynamic effects, seemingly of a stochastic character [1]. A detailed knowledge of the governing physical laws and the magnitude of the parameters involved is necessary to model the occurrence and severity of an RPT. Only experimentally verified models of RPT 6.53

probabilities and severities will allow the development of suitable tools for the LNG industry, for the estimation of RPT hazards. In some ways a large scale propagating RPT can be regarded as analogous to a chemical detonation [2]. A chemical detonation of a solid explosive is caused by compression and heating of the medium by the passage of a shock-wave. The detonation analogy for RPTs assumes that the two liquids, water and LNG, are in a premixed geometry, and that the passage of the shockwave associated with the RPT can release sufficient energy from vapourisation of the LNG to sustain the propagation of the shockwave. Presently the specific physical mechanisms involved in an RPT, and especially the links between them, are not fully understood. Many different mixing conditions of LNG and water can be envisaged in which an RPT could be generated. Ranging from situations in which droplets of LNG are surrounded by the water medium, through stratified layers of LNG floating on water to the case of LNG droplets entrained into a LNG flow. For the case of an RPT in an LNG/water system, a model based on the Detonation Analogy has been developed to predict the energy yields in a given spill situation. The energy yields predicted by this model are controlled by phenomena, related to fragmentation and heat transfer effects. In the case of cryogen droplets and water, when the shock-wave propagates through the mixture a relative velocity between the droplets and the host liquid is induced due to the density difference of the two liquids. The relative velocity causes the liquid droplets to break down into smaller fragments, increasing the interfacial area and thus the heat-transfer rate from the water to the cryogen. A qualitative description of a molten metal/water system given by Board and Hall [2] assumes a three phase medium. It addresses the case where the hot liquid is present as drops surrounded by a colder, volatile liquid. The temperature difference between the two liquids is high, and because volatility of the cold liquid, the hot liquid drops are encapsulated in vapour pockets. When a strong shock front arrives, the rapid pressure increase leads to a decreased volume of the vapour pockets and more efficient heat transfer between the two liquids. It also accelerates the phases at different rates, due to density differences. Sufficiently large relative velocities set up between the phases, will cause the hot liquid drops to break up into smaller fragments, and in this way reach thermal equilibrium with the cold liquid in a short time. The pressure induced fragmentation, suggested in the Board and Hall model, arises from hydrodynamic instability of the surface of the hot liquid drops. In addition to fragmentation, the pressure rise and relative velocity between the species causes an increased heat transfer rate. In the case when the initial cryogen release entrains water droplets into its interior, the heat transfer rate between the hot liquid drops and the surrounding cryogen, is assumed small due to the insulating effect of the vapour pockets. During the heat transfer and fragmentation at high pressure the state of the cryogen immediately adjacent to a hot fragment may be high pressure vapour, or liquid, all dependant upon the magnitude of the pressure and the types of liquid. For the small time constants and dimensions involved, heat transfer by conduction provides a first approximation for estimating the heat transfer coefficient. 6.54

The superheat limit theory is based upon the notion that a cold volatile liquid contacting a hot liquid will become superheated instead of boiling. In contrast to a hot solid surface, a liquid surface lacks the microscopic irregularities necessary to promote nucleate boiling. The superheat limit temperature, which is also termed the homogeneous nucleation temperature, is the maximum possible temperature at which a liquid phase may exist at a given pressure, according to thermodynamic theory [3]. For a pool of liquid hydrocarbon mixture boiling on water, a contributory factor in RPT initiation is that the normal boiling point will increase over time due to preferential evaporation of the most volatile components. Although the temperature difference between the hot and the cold liquid will be high enough initially to maintain stable film boiling and thus prevent the water from freezing, eventually it will reach the point where film boiling breaks down, allowing the liquids to touch. Experimental measurements carried out in order to measure this temperature reveal that the superheat limit temperature is important. Experiments have shown that the resulting evaporation is explosive, once the superheat limit temperature is reached [4].

Observations of large scale spills of LNG into sea water, e.g., at China Lake, 1980 [5] and at Lorient, 1983 [6] show that RPTs can occur spontaneously when LNG is mixed with water. Such mixing, can be caused either by the momentum of the LNG release when it impacts with the water surface or by water waves breaking up the otherwise stable pool of LNG that spread over the water surface. In these cases, the mixing process seems to have initiated the RPT event. It has been shown that the nature of the premixing prior to the initiation strongly influences the RPT propagation. Experiments performed by BG and GdF [6] have shown that RPTs can occur in or close to the region where the jet impacts the water surface, where cryogen/water mixing is initiated. Controlled premixing experiments performed by GdF have clearly demonstrated a close correlation between the amount and scale of the premixing and the resulting severity of the RPT produced. Studies of RPTs in cryogen-water systems have also shown that the composition of the LNG is one of the factors that influence the likelihood of RPT occurrence. When LNG containing approximately 90 % or more methane is brought into contact with water in a gentle way, it will not undergo a spontaneous RPT. However the composition of the boiling LNG will change with time, lowering the methane content, and at these later times a spontaneous RPT may eventually be possible. Enger and Hartman [7] showed that vapour explosions did not occur when LNG containing over 95 % methane was spilled onto water, but spontaneous RPTs occurred if the LNG contained less than 40 % methane. The volume flow rate of the spill has been observed as another significant parameter and it is believed that it influences the RPT occurrence through the effect of increased inertia confinement and the conditions at the spill-point. Porteous and Reid [8] stress the importance of the way the LNG is spilled on the water surface, since they observed vapour explosions when high methane content LNG was impacted onto water. A high release 6.55

velocity may cause the vapour layer that develops around the cryogen droplets to be weakened and thus make closer contact between the cryogen and water possible, resulting in increased heat transfer. In addition to inducing perturbations on the water surface, a high volume flow rate results in a thick layer of cryogen on the water surface, which acts as an inertia confinement of the mixture of water and cryogen that may undergo an RPT. In RPT hazard assessment it is important to be able to specify and quantify the parameters that may directly influence the severity of a given LNG spill. Important release parameters are: Location, diameter and direction of the release Release flow rate and pressure Duration of release Typical release scenarios identified in safety assessments of LNG terminals as referred to by the EN1160 standard can be grouped into two categories: Small (1-2 m3) instantaneous releases from the transfer arms. This type of release could occur when unusual movement of an LNG carrier relative to its berth causes the fast release mechanism on the transfer arm to activate. Large releases (450-600 m3) with volume flow rates of up to 11,000 m3/hr and a duration of a few minutes. This type of release would be the result of a full rupture of an LNG flowline. It is envisaged that the release scenarios for any future Floating Production, Storage and Off-loading (FPSO) installations are likely to be of the same nature as for LNG terminals. However, the probability of an RPT occurring, given a particular spill, may be increased if the location of the FPSO is not as sheltered as an LNG jetty.


This section lists RPT incidents which have occurred during the operation of LNG plant and also during experimental programmes which were not intended to produce RPT events. This list is not intended to be exhaustive but to illustrate the fact that RPTs can occur in real life situations and not just in experiments specifically developed to study the RPT phenomena 4.1 RPT events during LNG plant operations Canvey, England, May 1973: RPTs after failure of discharge line. During a normal LNG carrier off-loading operation, a 100mm bursting disc on a 350mm discharge line failed. LNG was released into one of the LNG tank bunds where water had collected from recent rain. Three explosions were heard, but the only damage was a broken window in an adjacent building. Arzew, Algeria, March, 1977: RPTs after valve rupture. Due to the rupture of an aluminium valve several thousand cubic meters of LNG were released over a 10 hour period. The leakage took place on the ground, near a frozen soil tank, the LNG pool spread onto the sea and several RPTs were observed. Shockwaves and/or projectiles broke a number of adjacent windows. 6.56

Badak, Indonesia, December 1992: LNG Leakage into drainage system. An LNG leak occurred when starting a liquefaction train, it was decided to continue to operate the train despite the leak. Protective water curtains were operated to reduce the effects of the vapour cloud produced. About 11 hours after the plant had been started RPTs occurred in a drainage channel covered by a concrete slab. The drainage channel and concrete slab were broken, adjacent pipework was damaged and some concrete blocks were thrown about 100m. No personnel were injured as the area had been evacuated because of the leak. Fos-sur-Mer, France, September 1995: RPT during fire extinguisher demonstration. During a demonstration of using a lorry mounted dry powder extinguisher to extinguish a 25m2 LNG pool fire an RPT was caused because the contents of a water puddle was blown into the LNG pool, by the flow from the extinguisher. A fireball was produced doubling the size of the flame for a few seconds. The demonstration was continued and the fire was successfully extinguished. Montoir terminal, France, October 1995: RPT resulting from a vapouriser leak. A leak occurred on the stuffing box of a high pressure at the top of a water falling film vapouriser unit. Water runs down the outside of the vapouriser tubes into a basin where it is collected to be returned to the river. The leaking LNG was at high pressure (about 100bar) and came into contact with water. An RPT occurred followed by a few minor pops; the only damage was to the corrugated plastic structure which surrounded the vapouriser and acted as wind protection. 4.2 RPT events during experimental programmes Nantes, France, 1971: RPT during Gas Dispersion Tests. During an LNG vapour dispersion test conducted at the GdF test facility at Nantes, LNG was released onto a 100mm deep layer of water. The LNG was released from a 3m3 tip tank. Several RPTs were observed several seconds after the LNG was released. As a result of the RPTs the wooden structure intended to retain the water and LNG was broken, the stainless steel tip tank was bent and some ice was ejected outside the pool. China Lake, U.S.A., 1980: RPTs during Burro gas dispersion experiments. The Burro tests were carried out by LLNL at China Lake between 1978 and 82 to study vapour cloud dispersion. The vapour clouds were produced by releasing LNG onto water. During tests carried out with high LNG flowrates (720 to 1080 m3/h) severe RPTs were produced both on immediate contact between the LNG and water, and at some time after the spill. The LNG released during these experiments was of high methane content (>83%). The most severe RPT event produced air overpressures which were estimated to have a TNT equivalence of 3.5kg.


Nantes, France, March 1982: RPT during LNG pool fire experiment. During an LNG pool fire suppression test, conducted at the GdF test facility at Nantes, where a new emulsifier product was under evaluation. The product was unsatisfactory and a heterogeneous mixture of foam and water was produced and poured onto the ignited LNG. About 11 minutes after ignition the fire had still not been effectively suppressed so it was decide to stop application of the foam. After a further 6 minutes a violent RPT occurred, the massive increase in vapourisation rate produced a fireball which reached a height of 40m, about four times the previous flame length. The fireball caused a significant increase in the radiation produced by the fire and was estimated to have lasted between 5 to 10 seconds.


The major problem facing safety engineers is the prediction of the risks and hazards associated with a given RPT scenario. Although the phenomenon is now better understood (see section 2), the quantification of the severity and pressures generated by RPT still remains approximate. In addition, there is, as yet, no method available to estimate the probability of initiating an RPT for a given release scenario. In this section, an overview of the methods for RPT prediction are given, built up on the results of the collaborative research programmes conducted since the early 1980s (RPT1, RPT2, RPT3) involving BG plc, Gaz de France, Statoil, the Gas Research Institute of America and other companies. There are different methods of estimating the energy yield of RPTs. These various methods will be described briefly, stating the underlying assumptions for each method. It is now commonly understood that the severity of an RPT is directly related to the properties of the mixing zone between the cryogen and the water (volume, composition, mixture). Thus, two calculations will be necessary before assessing RPT overpressure effects, the potential cryogen/water mixture characteristics and the energy yield if initiation occurs. 5.1 Estimating of the Cryogen/Water Mixing Volume Under a Spill Different theoretical and experimental approaches were carried out to estimate the volume of the mixing zone produced by a spill of cryogen, onto water. Experimental Correlations. Experimental correlations were obtained on a laboratory scale for the mixing volume of a liquid nitrogen jet impacting a pool of water, and on a medium scale for an LNG jet released vertically downwards onto a water surface [9]. The following relation between the volume of the mixing zone and the spill characteristics was obtained at small scale with liquid nitrogen : Vm = (/3) tan2(a/2) H3


H = CH U D

with CH (sm-1) empirical coefficient, U (ms-1) the liquid nitrogen discharge velocity, D (m) the diameter of the discharge pipe, H (m) the depth of penetration of the liquid 6.58

nitrogen cone, and a the experimental angle of the mixing cone. This correlation which is given for a mean value of H subjected to large time variations (up to 60%) gives excessive mixture volume when extrapolated for large scale continuous spill. Computer Prediction. Many models [10,11,12] for the assessment of the characteristics of the mixing zone, were proposed in the nuclear industry for the fine modelling of sodium/water interactions. All of these models solve unsteady equations of conservation of mass, momentum and energy, based on a multi-phase approach with various levels of sophistication. The different phases (water, LNG, LNG vapour, air) are assumed to form a continuous medium. The CHYMES model [11] was adapted within the RPT3 programme, to model the interaction of a cryogen liquid with water in a cylindrical geometry. This model describes the formation of cryogen/water mixing zones following the impact of a jet of cryogen vertically downwards onto a water surface. Estimation of the secondary mixing zones (induced by breaking waves, interaction of the resulting stratified LNG/water interface with obstacles) was not addressed. For a given spill scenario, the resulting CRYOMIX computer code provides an unsteady and localised description of the mixing zone (ratio of the different phases) which may be used to obtain precise estimation of the reactive mixture volume, to remedy the inadequacy of experimental correlations. The reactive volume can thereafter be used in a general estimation of the recoverable energy. 5.2 Estimating Energy Yield 5.2.1 Experimental Approach at Large Scale The early 1980s large scale tests were perform by a group of organisations including GdF and BG at a test facility at Lorient [13], that allowed releases of LNG onto the sea. These tests, performed within the RPT1 research programme, had the largest volumes (1 to 9 m3) and LNG flowrate (average flow up to 2300m3h-1) test as yet conducted. During this test programme RPTs were generated with TNT equivalents of up to 4.2 kg. These RPTs occurred within the well mixed LNG/water zones either in the vicinity of the spill point or in the region of breaking waves. These tests are reasonably representative of a release scenario corresponding to rupture of a pressurised unloading arm. They are less representative of scenario such as rupture of a transfer line, because in this case, the spillage conditions (larger, long duration flow) are very much different from the Lorient tests. No experiment has yet been conducted which fully reproduces possible industrial scale releases. 5.2.2 Experimental Approach at Small Scale In small scale experiments [14] conducted at the GdF test site at Nantes, propagating RPTs were initiated (typically 2 meters propagation) with controlled premixed conditions. Because these experiments were conducted at relatively small scale, measurements of overpressure could be made within the RPT reaction zone so that the maximum overpressures generated could be measured. Magnitude and overpressure time histories are essential for evaluating the load on the structures in contact either with the reactive cryogen/water mixture or with the air or the water close to an RPT.


The results obtained from these small scale experiments conducted with a water/nitrogen mixture can be summarised as: Propagation velocities of up to 300 ms-1 were observed in the reactive mixture Very high overpressures were measured in the reactive mixture. The duration of the pressure pulse inside the reactive medium is in the range of 1 ms, with a rise time of approximately 0.1ms. It has not been possible to validate these results with more realistic scale experiments. 5.2.3 Methods Based on Released Specific Energies Methods based on specific energies (energy released per unit volume or mass of cryogen within the mixed cryogen/water zone) can only be used for estimating the severity of an RPT in the zones located immediately below the LNG spill or for a mixing zone due to a breaking wave, for which the characteristics are known. They cannot be applied without knowledge of the extent of the premixing zone, the calculation methods for which were previously described. Two methods based on this concept of specific energy can be used : Hicks & Menzies model. This model gives the thermodynamical upper limit of the recoverable expansion work in a water/cryogen mixture. According to this theoretical model, the maximum mechanical energy which can be recovered is 480 kJkg-1 of methane, for a methane/water mixture. Shell Experimental Correlations. During the first studies regarding RPT, an experimental value of the specific energy was measured by Shell during small scale experiments. The values obtained were 5.6 kJ/litre of LNG and up to 7.4 kJ/litre of Nitrogen in the mixture zone. There is no guarantee that this value is an upper limit for larger scale releases. However, it appears to be consistent with the maximum explosion energies encountered during the large scale Lorient tests. 5.2.4 Method based on a 1D Detailed Propagation Approach. Calculations of RPT propagation rely essentially on the local characteristics of the mixed zone. Based on a two-dimensional description of the mixed zone provided by the previously mentioned CRYOMIX code, a calculation of the propagation can be considered either in a one-dimensional or in a two-dimensional geometry. In the first case, the 2D characteristics of the mixed zone need to be homogenised in order to arrive at a one-dimensional description. In the second case, a simple link between CRYOMIX results and the initial conditions of the propagation code is needed. The propagation model developed under RPT3 program is based on works for the nuclear industry [15,16], and in particular on the CUL-DE-SAC code which Gaz de France adapted to water/cryogen mixtures. This code is currently operational for a onedimensional plane geometry. It is expected that this code will be used either to compute a global equivalent energy or to describe the evolution of the pressure wave at the boundaries of the reactive 6.510

medium. This pressure wave will then be used as the source term for propagation in inert media (air or water) surrounding the reactive medium. A first industrial application of this code can be achieved with simplifying assumptions. The different water/LNG mixing zones resulting from the spillage, the spreading or the breaking waves, can be characterised by the maximum distance along which an RPT can propagate. Using this geometrical variable representative of the mixing zone, the available 1D modelling will give results less pessimistic than the global thermodynamical approach of Hicks and Menzies. Moreover, more pessimistic values of the mixing zone parameters (water/LNG premixing ratio, void fraction, ...) can be used in order to keep a conservative modelling approach to predicting hazards. The 1D approach is the first step in the development of models to predict the severity of RPTs; improving and extending the mathematical modelling techniques will improve the predictions produced. Any models produced should be validated against experiment conducted in geometries representative of full scale release scenarios.


In section 5 the various techniques which can be used to estimate the severity of an RPT event were described. The consequences of an RPT event depend on the severity of the event and the vulnerability of surrounding plant and structure the main potential for damage from an RPT is from the resulting overpressures generated. There is the potential for RPTs to generate high overpressures in the reaction zone, but they are generally of short duration. This initial pressure field produces different effects in the air and water: Water Overpressures. High peak overpressures can be generated in the water close to an RPT. Overpressures of the order of tens of bar have been recorded in the water close to an RPT event but these overpressure pulses are generally of short duration (<10ms). These overpressures have the potential to damage adjacent structures, but as the water overpressures produced are attenuated rapidly with distance, the damaging effects would be highly localised. Air Overpressures. The airbourne blast waves produced are generally of longer duration but lower magnitude, typically in the large scale experiments [6] overpressures of less than 1 bar were recorded, these pressures would only be damaging to less robust structures close to an RPT event but could cause injury to personnel in the immediate vicinity. In addition to the air and waterbourne blast waves an RPT could also produce a high velocity water jet which could have damaging effects. There is also a potential for projectiles to be produced, particularly ice that is formed at the cryogen water interface, although significant ice formation would tend to preclude the occurrence of RPTs. In the case of an RPT event occurring during a loading or unloading of a LNG carrier the structures which would be vulnerable to the underwater overpressures generated would be the LNG carrier and the jetty. Jetties are generally very robust structures supported from the seabed by a number of members. Due to the localised nature of an 6.511

RPT event it is unlikely that more than a few of these members would be damaged so that an RPT is unlikely to impair the integrity of a jetty. In the case of the LNG carrier it may be possible that the localised very high overpressures could rupture the outer hull which could have significant consequences. If the damage to a LNG carrier also extended to the LNG tanks within the carrier there is potential for escalation of the event. In the case of an LNG carrier operation involving an FPSO type installation the comments on the possible effects on the LNG carrier would also apply to the FPSO.

The paper provides a brief description of the RPT phenomenon the hazards associated with an RPT. It is based on the results of considerable collaborative research. The factors affecting the occurrence, severity and consequences of RPT events have been discussed, with information provided on the various techniques which exist for estimating the severity of RPT events. It has been demonstrated that RPT events can occur when LNG is spilt onto a water surface and as such they should be considered along with other the other hazards associated with the operation of import/export facilities or FPSOs.

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