The Monitor

Production Process Insights

How a sample transport innovation protects from H2S exposure

Posted by Kevin Kirst on 5/17/16 3:36 PM
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Petroleum refining is one of the largest global industries. The products produced in refineries fuel our transportation systems and are the feedstock used to produce a wide variety of petroleum-based products. Refinery operations involve processes and equipment that operate at elevated pressures and temperatures, as well as process feedstock and chemical additives detrimental to human health. Additionally, some byproducts of the processes also are hazardous to humans.

Because of the high potential for harm, petroleum refineries place a priority on safe operation, thoroughly examining process procedures, revisions and equipment selections to ensure that they completely satisfy safety concerns. Refinery management and staff are focused on maintaining safe and efficient operations.

Reducing exposure to H2S key to operator safety

In one example, a major oil and gas refining and marketing corporation with a global reach has a refinery operation on the U.S. west coast. The refinery originally was built before 1900 (!) and as such, features a long history of improvements, expansions and updates.

Most recently, a specific challenge facing the refinery was to reduce or eliminate operator exposure to hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Hydrogen sulfide is considered a broad spectrum poison, meaning it can poison several different systems in the body, although the nervous system is most affected. The refinery had implemented a sampling upgrade program to minimize operator exposure to hydrogen sulfide through the use of needle and septum type sampling systems. Because of the possibility of exposure to hydrogen sulfide, refinery personnel are required to wear monitors that sound an alert when in the presence of H2S concentrations of 10 ppm or higher.

One of the areas examined for improvement was the transporting of samples to the laboratory. Because they were being exposed to vapors and odors while handling and transporting samples to the laboratory, this refinery’s operators were experiencing periodic monitor alerts. Just as importantly, they were describing the odors and vapors they encountered as excessive, even with the sampling system upgrade. Due to these safety concerns, the refinery initiated a project to reduce the number of alerts and thus, better protect operators.

How a small double cap protects operators

The engineering staff at the refinery evaluated several options for a specific operating unit in the refinery. They contacted Israel Gamboa, Sentry Equipment Corp regional sales manager, for input into Sentry® product options that could better protect operator safety. As a solution to the issue, Gamboa worked with the customer to develop the Sentry No-E Double Cap as a solution, which met the project requirements of the refinery’s safety and engineering experts.

The No-E Double Cap provides operators with an added layer of safety by ensuring that process fluids or gases cannot escape during sample transport.

The cap-on-cap design features external threads on the existing sample bottle cap to allow placement of another cap on top of it, so the bottle can be completely sealed even though the original cap septum is pierced. This allows the user to cap the bottle without removing the original cap with its pierced septum – protecting operator and environmental safety while preserving the sample integrity. The cap can be used with any bottles used with Sentry manual low-emission samplers for refinery, petrochemical and chemical processes.

This solution was implemented in October 2015. Since implementation, no refinery operators have experienced a monitor alert or hazardous vapors or odors while obtaining, transporting or handling samples.

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Topics: Upstream & Midstream

Written by Kevin Kirst

As industry manager for the refinery market, Kevin employs his 25-plus years of experience in engineering, application support and sales to develop new ways to sample, monitor and measure customers’ processes, with a primary focus on the crude oil refining industry. Like all our company employee-owners, Kevin is committed to developing technologies and equipment that allow customers to operate their processes at optimal efficiency while maintaining high levels of safety and product quality.

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