Pipeline safety – How gasket choices can mitigate health and safety risks
Geir Otto Amundsen on Case Studies · Jan 31, 2020
Nothing is as important as health and safety when it comes to industrial facilities. However, a critical component in piping systems is often overlooked, viewed as a consumable rather than a key to security, integrity and operational peace of mind. When it comes to avoiding dangerous emissions, leaks and related accidents and incidents, you have to ‘seal your safety’.
Pipeline and process leakages are the bane of industry. Unplanned loss of liquids and gases impact upon productivity, profitability, efficiency, the environment and, as a result, operational reputation and success. But arguably their most serious impact is their potential for harming people and property.
To put it bluntly: leaks kill, leaks destroy.
As a result of exposure to harmful substances or environments
Attributed to explosions or fire
Leakage of gases, liquids and hazardous chemicals are responsible for significant contamination, fires and explosions at process facilities worldwide contributing to global deaths and injuries every year, .
As an example, at the time of writing, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration had just issued a USD 132,000 fine to Philadelphia Energy Solutions following a leak that resulted in a catastrophic fire, explosions and five injured workers last year. The incident led to the release of a significant quantity of (the deadly) hydrofluoric acid into the atmosphere, not to mention the closure and bankruptcy of the refinery.
It’s an incident that is far from exceptional.
But, thankfully, it is eminently preventable for forward-thinking facility owners and operators.
The devil is in the detail
By focusing on ensuring complete pipeline integrity it is possible to stamp out potential leakage and ensure optimal health and safety standards for your workers, the environment, and all your business stakeholders. Seals are the key.
Gasket seals are often an afterthought. Pipelines are designed to suit their purpose, environments and requirements and sealing solutions are selected at the last moment as the ‘glue’ to hold the structure together. However, seals are commonly regarded as the Achilles Heel of any system due to the potential for degradation, the need for maintenance and their propensity to leak (even with advanced systems of checks and precautions).
As such they shouldn’t be seen as simply ‘consumables’ but critical components with the potential to make or break (quite literally) any pipeline design. These may be relatively small items, but their value for your facility could be enormous.
So, what do you need to look for when sealing the safety of your piping?
A perfect (long-term) seal
Ideally, you want to install and forget - choosing a solution that mates with the pipe flanges, filling any irregularities for complete, reliable long-term integrity. A vibration resistant seal will ensure that it doesn’t loosen over time, eliminating the need for costly, and inefficient, maintenance requirements.
Corrosion is a major cause of leaks and accidents, with deteriorating seals releasing high-pressure liquids and gases, often with deadly consequences. However, by choosing a seal that is manufactured from the same metal as the flanges it connects to, this galvanic corrosion can be avoided… keeping your workers, and your facilities, safe.
Global cost of corrosion
of Global GDP
The seal is often the weak link in any flange assembly, meaning it can be quickly compromised under demanding conditions. However, by selecting a solution capable of creating a perfect seal (with metal-to-metal fusion) it will not degrade or change properties over its operational lifetime, keeping your crucial pipe connection blow-out safe.
Fires are public enemy number one at a broad range of industrial facilities, particularly those dealing with large quantities of highly flammable liquids and gases. In these environments’ seals must be able to withstand extreme conditions, maintaining the full integrity of pipe infrastructure. Check that your seals are independently certified to the highest industry standards for complete assurance.
Control the release of flammable gases, mists or vapors, and prevent sources of ignition, and facility owners and operators can eliminate ATEX zones. By utilizing certified gas-tight seals this can be accomplished, allowing for the construction of piping networks through potentially sensitive areas without the risk of explosion, leakage, or contamination. This can greatly impact on overall infrastructure design and cost while ensuring that workers, facilities and their surrounding environments are kept safe… for the long-term.
Remember, seals should be front of mind when it comes to safeguarding the integrity of your piping, your business, your reputation, the environment, and the health and well-being of your workers. Saving money in the short-term by opting for the cheapest solutions can be a very costly mistake. Choose quality, choose safety, choose long-term peace of mind and operational success.
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