Top 10 tips for processing plants to survive extreme conditions

The conditions in which oil, gas and chemical companies now operate have become increasingly complex in the quest to find and exploit reserves, as well as refine the outputs, placing increasing demands on pipes, valves and hot structures within processing plants.

Here are 10 tips for surviving extreme conditions, including high temperatures, corrosion, cryogenic operations and fire.

1. Prepare roads and protect pipelines in cold weather

For refineries to mitigate against risk of reducing runs and halting operations due to power outages, ensure roads for tanker trucks with deliveries of petroleum product and propane are gritted and pipelines have a protective coating against subzero temperatures.

2. Do use correct fireproofing

Industrial fireproofing is an important facility safety measure that is recommended by external auditors. You will need to look at the different types
of passive fire protection. Using mesh-free epoxy passive fire protection eliminates one risk element from the facility.

3. Plan for steam outs with higher than operating temperatures

One of the challenges of process piping is that over time there can be build-up of contaminants inside the pipelines. This buildup reduces the internal pipe diameter, thereby limiting production capacity. Regular steam outs to remove such build-up ensures that production capacity is maintained. When selecting a coating, ensure that it can also withstand the higher temperatures of a steam out to avoid coating degradation and premature coating failure.

4. Look out for stress induced corrosion cracking

Processing plants and facilities are often near sources of chlorides. While pipes and valves can often be made from stainless steel, the combination of high temperatures and mechanical strain can give rise to chloride induced stress corrosion cracking. Choosing coatings that prevent chlorides from migrating to the steel surface can help mitigate this risk.

5. Know your critical areas

On facilities where there are thousands of kilometers of pipes, hundreds of pressure vessels and a multitude of processing operations, doing inspection work is a challenge. Doing a risk assessment to determine what are the most critical areas means inspections are more focused, ensuring that potential threats can quickly be identified and dealt with.

6. Store standard sections pre-painted with zinc silicate

During a shutdown, time is of the essence. Having standard sections pre-painted with a temperature resistant zinc silicate in the warehouse means that these can quickly be replaced should the need arise. Since
the sections are coated with a zinc silicate they will not corrode prior to installation. Depending on the usage conditions, the section can then be overcoated with a suitable coating system or left as it is.

7. Marking your pipes may save time in operation

Coloured top coats can be used for marking pipes. This can make installation faster and allow for quick identification of the pipe contents. These coatings are also UV-resistant, allowing for protection of epoxy coatings that suffer from UV degradation.

8. Plan with safety margins in your choice of coatings

During the lifetime of a facility, things change. The value and cost of feedstocks
and finished products change. Parts of the facility might not go into operations
and other parts might need to be more efficient. These types of changes can alter operational parameters such as pressure and temperature. While steel structures are generally engineered with ample safety margins to allow for this, this tends not to be the case for coatings. Why not design some safety margin into the coating system as well, to future proof your facility? Remember, upgrading the coating system is a fraction of the cost compared to staging, preparation and going off-line.

9. Be prepared for CUI

In extreme conditions, moisture gets into insulated areas and cannot readily escape. This creates hidden corrosion problems in the form of corrosion under insulation (CUI). Using a suitable coating system that has been tested and approved by third parties for CUI conditions means you can prevent the water from reaching the steel substrate, greatly reducing the risk for hidden corrosion problems under thick layers of insulation and cladding.

10. Select coatings that minimize transportation damages, or choose a zinc silicate

Generally, when a facility is being built, or if maintenance is being carried out in remote areas, coated structures need to be transported to the construction site. Often this creates transportation damages on the coated sections. Applying coatings that minimize transportation damages, or a zinc silicate as the first coat, reduces or sometimes even removes the need for recoating.


For more information, please contact our customer service specialist Kevin:

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