This commentary presents the opinions of the author.
It does not necessarily reflect the views of DownstreamToday.
Staying on schedule with plant safety design is fundamental in the oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical industries. To be safe, compliant and meet project deadlines, eliminating safety issues as a project bottleneck means engineers can improve workflows and reduce project cycle time. There are currently advanced solutions available to address these issues that integrate multiple aspects of the process safety design activity into one holistic and rigorous design and optimization approach. By adapting the right tools, today’s engineers will have the ability to elevate their safety expertise and respond quickly, cost effectively and safely in any situation.
Minimizing Costs and Meeting Safety Standards
Saving cost is a main focus for any organization. With cutting-edge blowdown software, detailed analysis and protection of key process equipment can be performed more quickly and effectively, including rigorous and rapid depressurization studies. For example, with the right tools, performing the most accurate minimum design metal temperature (MDMT) analysis saves costs while ensuring materials of construction used in the system will not fracture. Determining the certainty of values is imperative to avoid unnecessary expenses and preclude the risk of over-conservative specifications. For a comprehensive end-to-end depressurization solution, robust blowdown simulation software enables oil and gas companies to help every process engineering project to design or rate blowdown systems that ultimately assure proper safety and are economically feasible.
Engineers need to pay close attention to factors involving the modelling of temperatures, pressures and maximum flow rates during the blowdown process in order to reduce overdesigns associated with the blowdown system and save enormous engineering costs. Accurately depressuring the system minimizes the risk of harm to the process equipment, product and personnel. It is also crucial to ensure the analysis determines not only safe materials of construction, but also provides the correct orifice sizes that depressure systems in accordance with leading industry standards, such as API and NORSOK for fire cases.
Therefore, effective safety analysis is vital to process design. With powerful simulations tools it is possible to create concurrent designs with simulation, which minimizes reworks and enables engineers to reuse and refine safety analysis at each stage of the design lifecycle. Reducing conservative assumptions also allows engineers to reduce capital expenditure. In addition, they have complete control to push assets to the limit to maximize throughput, troubleshoot efficiently with confidence and more accuracy while conducting safety analysis.
AspenTech recently integrated its proprietary BLOWDOWN, the industry leading software technology with its advanced process simulation tool that enables engineers to determine orifice sizes and pinpoint areas of low temperature concerns, providing less conservative MDMT values. In some cases, this can lead to three to four times cost savings resulting from less expensive materials of construction. The proven BLOWDOWN software technology, developed by Graham Saville and Stephen Richardson of Imperial College London has been used in more than 400 projects in oil and gas and chemical companies to model depressurization. It identifies specific locations in a system where temperatures can decline dramatically during depressurization. With these enhanced safety features, engineers can best serve workflows and safety projects easily as well as perform accurate safety analysis and leverage data from powerful simulators – all within one integrated engineering simulation environment.
Removing Barriers and Saving Time with an Integrated Solution
Saving time is another major focus within any organization. Safety often consists of a manual workflow that requires laborious data transfer between tools, such as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. One global engineering, procurement and construction organization recently reported using more than 20,000 individual spreadsheets on a regular basis. This is an extremely time-intensive organizational problem that can lead to inaccuracies in data collection.
With an integrated solution, companies have the tools to remove such barriers and make more effective use of their time. For example, many companies have adopted advanced engineering software solutions to rigorously improve front end engineering design (FEED) and perform revalidation studies to find capital savings and improve process safety and reliability. These software tools can offer multiple options to complete pressure relief analysis projects and easily conduct safety studies with the option to use simulation data from integrated engineering application environments.
By integrating safety analysis solutions within engineering software suites, engineers can leverage the rigorous thermodynamic engine when completing pressure relief analysis projects. Moreover, they can quickly add and size relief valves early in the design process while incorporating industry standards such as API 520, 521 and 2000, into calculations. Further, by automatically importing sized pressure safety valve results into flare analysis software, engineers can extend the pressure relief analysis to include discharging sized relief devices. Additionally, leveraging dynamic models in analysis helps to avoid the risk of overly conservative and potentially more expensive designs by taking a more rigorous look at your system.
Integrated software solutions improve relief load calculations for both FEED and revalidation projects. With these enhancements, organizations can reduce the time required to conduct pressure relief analysis workflows and improve the accuracy of the analysis by eliminating manual data transfer steps and subsequently transcription errors. Ultimately, with process safety software tools engineers gain enormous benefits including:
- Saving engineering time by up to 50 percent
- Reducing mistakes and manual transfer to ensure data accuracy
- An increased ability to integrate results into flare system models
- An increased scope of relief load calculations
- Avoiding unnecessary capital investment through under designs or overdesigns
- Avoiding the consequence of inaccurate pressure safety valve sizing
- Upholding quality safety standards
- The ability to model multiple scenarios
- Automated regulatory reports and documentation for compliance
- Tools that support engineering knowledge and ease of use
Moving Forward with Process Safety
Safety is the backbone of any sustainable business. As plants become increasingly complex, organizations can manage safety risks through the successful adoption of cutting-edge integrated safety engineering software. With the right engineering application environment, businesses will improve safety performance across their operations, increase accuracy to save both time and money and ultimately achieve the highest standards in operational excellence.
Ron Beck is engineering and construction industry marketing director with AspenTech.