Challenges in Process Safety Assurance of a Hazardous Epoxidation
Older, existing plant processes are not immune from a requirement to demonstrate that a safe system of work exists. Often, they present the greatest risks as process safety knowledge and regulatory expectations evolve over time. This case study summarizes the retrospective process to assure safety of an energetic epoxidation process following regulatory intervention action. The critical role of reaction calorimetry (and reaction characterisation) in the assurance of safe processes id highlighted.
The process involves a number of hazardous materials and process safety risks. The presentation focuses on the integration of various disciplines required to construct the safety case taking in to account reaction thermochemistry and kinetics, identification of hazardous scenarios, experimental quantification of the consequence of hazardous scenarios, layers of protection analysis, safety instrumented systems and relief system design - all of which are required to construct a sound safety case. Taken together - and with several changes to the plant/process - a tolerable residual risk can be demonstrated.
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The presentation focuses on the criticality of good calorimetry data to characterize and understand the reaction, as well as the consequence of deviation scenarios. Without good calorimetric data, you cannot have a reliable basis of safety. The case study concludes with the requirement for engagement of laboratory chemists in process safety, including an engineering contribution to the chemical development process. Overall, there are a number of lessons to be learned by those developing new processes and those operating older processes.