6 Tips to Identify Refinery Risks | RefinerLink

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6 Tips to Identify Refinery Risks

By Steve Pagani

Nov 07, 2017

Tips to help refinery organization successfully and efficiently identify personnel and process risks.


Refiner risk management is the highest priority for each downstream oil facility; however, it’s hard to manage risks that you haven’t even identified.

Compiling an accurate and


comprehensive list of vulnerabilities is extremely time consuming and takes a lot of effort from all parts of the organization.



So how can you ensure that what your site has is sufficient? Here are some things to consider as you validate your identification process.



1.  Consider all types of risks


The consequences of a failure could be safety, environmental, or financial. A list of risks should be created for each category and prioritized.


2.  Establish a list of mechanical failure mechanisms for consideration


Is each vessel and piping circuit evaluated for different degradation mechanisms? Under-deposit corrosion, corrosion under insulation, high temperature sulfidation, stress corrosion cracking, and hydrogen attack are among the potential vulnerabilities. A probability should be assigned for each individual failure mechanism for each piece of equipment.


3.  Understand over-pressure potential scenarios


There are many different scenarios that can create an overpressure risk for a given piece of equipment. Ensure that a safe relief path exists for each of those scenarios. Failure of a valve, loss of liquid level, fire case, and total power loss are just some of those cases that should be considered.


Identify cases where operating pressure has the potential to exceed design pressure. It could be a little used jumpover that brings high pressure material into a line that’s rated for a much lower pressure. This could turn into a significant safety incident in the future.


4.  Consider process related risk scenarios


These could range from impurities in your unit feeds to potential for damage to distillation columns to loss of chemical injections that are critical to operations.

Other examples include the potential for flooding a furnace with fuel gas, over-speeding a turbine, liquid carryover to a gas compressor,

and hydrocarbon entrainment in amine.  A certain amount of probability exists for each scenario and it must be quantified prior to determining whether it’s acceptable to the site or not.



5.  Engage the workforce in identifying vulnerabilities


Ask the personnel that work with the equipment each day about what concerns them the most.


There may be a sample point that isn’t up to standards and has exposure potential; or it may be a set of valves at height that are difficult to reach. If there is equipment that isn’t operating as designed and creates a significant risk that should be included as well.


6.  Never be afraid to identify a risk


It’s better to consciously make a decision not to address a risk than not know about it at all. Getting surprised by a risk typically will result in severe consequences. If you have a good program to identify risks, you can better prioritize where to spend money and also where to implement temporary or partial mitigation steps.

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