442451 Explosions in SMPO Hydrogenation Unit

Wednesday, April 13, 2016: 4:35 PM
General Assembly Theater C (George R. Brown )
Tim Parsells, P&T, Shell, Houston, TX and Nick Gonzales, Shell Project and Technology

On June 3rd 2014, a Styrene Monomer and Propylene Oxide (SMPO) unit was in the pre start-up phase after the scheduled shutdown and replacement of catalyst in the hydrogenation reactors. The reaction system contained two fixed-bed adiabatic, trickle-flow reactors. Operations were heating up the hydrogenation unit in preparation for the catalyst reduction step. The heat-up was performed by the circulation of Ethyl Benzene (EB) through the reaction system under a nitrogen blanket and continuous nitrogen purge. During this heat up, one hydrogenation reactor and an additional upstream separation vessel suddenly exploded. Two contractor workers, who were in the immediate process area, were injured with burns from hot catalyst particles. The explosion caused extensive damage requiring over a year to repair.

This session will discuss lessons learned from this incident.



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