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ENVIRONMENTAL RISK

ASSESSMENT TERM PAPER


RISK ASSESSMENT OF SULPHUR RECOVERY (SRU) IN
THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY

Members of the group


Precious Eledu – 201693242
Tejas Shah- 201690213
Terrence Ijeomah – 201793756
Table of Content
Abstract………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Sources of risks involved in process of sulphur recovery …………………………………………….
Risk assessment (Routes of exposure)……………………………………………………………………..
Adverse human and environmental effect …………………………………………………………….
Statutory standards of sulphur content level………………………………………………………………
Risk characterization and risk management ………………………………………………………………….

Risk assessment of Sulphur recovery (SRU) in the Oil and Gas Industry
Abstract
This paper discusses the sources of risks involved in the process of sulphur recovery such as leakage of
hydrogen sulphide from the equipment required for the processes. It also talks about the risks
assessment involved, and the environmental and adverse human health effects.
In the Oil and Gas Industry, there is a sulphur content level in fuelwhich is considered as a dangerous
pollutant and refineries need to upgrade their processes to meet the statutory standards so that
emission of it could be reduced. The Claus process is majorly used to convert the produced hydrogen
sulphide to elemental sulphur.
This paper would also entail the advantages and applications of Sulphur Recovery Unit in the Oil and
Gas Industry as well as therisk characterization and risk management involved in the processes.
Introduction
Sulphur recovery refers to the process of converting hydrogen sulphide (H2S) to elemental sulphur.
Hydrogen sulphide occurs naturally as an impurity in natural gas. Gases which contain sulphur
elements are referred to as sour gas. It is also a by-product of refinery processes such as gas
treatment units for crude oil containing sulphur. It is important to remove sulphur bearing
compounds from the gas to reduce corrosion in pipelines and to preserve public safety. Several
guidelines have been set by government bodies around the world for the maximum sulphur level
allowed in diesel, fuel, kerosene and other crude oil products.
The Claus process is the most common method used for sulphur recovery. 90 to 95 percent of
recovered sulphur is produced by the Claus process. Sulphur recovery unit (SRU) is sometimes
referred to as the Claus process. The Claus process is a two-step chemical reaction as shown in the
equation below.
2 H2S +3 O2 → 2 SO2 + 2 H2O  4 H2S +2 SO2 → 3 S2 + 4 H2O
A portion of the total H2S is burned in the reaction furnace to form SO2. The rest of the H2S then
reacts with the formed SO2 at a 2:1 ratio to form elemental sulphur. The Claus process involves a
three steps; thermal, catalytic and thermal reactions.
Hazard Identification and properties of contaminant
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a clear, colorless, extremely toxic gas that has a rotten egg smell at low
concentrations that also cause irritation of eyes. The human nose can detect H2S at concentrations
below 100 parts per billion.
Hydrogen sulfide has a Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Number of 7783-06-4. It has a boiling point is
-60.2oC and a density (liquid) of 0.995 g/ cm3.
Sulphur gas has a boiling point of 445oC and a melting point of 120oC (amorphous). It has a density of
2.1 g/cm3 and is not soluble in water. It has an auto-ignition temperature of 232oC.
Find CAS Number or sulphur
Statutory standards of sulphur content level
The typical sulphur content level usually ranges between 5 ppm to 15 ppm in the Union Gas system,
including the 4.9 mg/m3 of sulphur in the odorant (mercaptan) added to gas for safety reasons. By
2007 in Canada, the new regulations for ultra-low sulphur diesel was set a maximum limit of 15 ppm
of sulphur in on-road diesel fuels [10]. A recent review of the sulphur content carried out by the US
EPA came out with the following limits; Distillate fuel oil (15 ppm (0.0015%) by weight), Residual
oil/residual oil-biodiesel blend (3000 ppm; (0.3%) by weight), Aviation fuel (3000 ppm; (0.3%) by
weight), Kerosene (15 ppm; (0.0015%) by weight) [11]. These new limits are to be in effect from July
1, 2018.
Advantages of Sulphur recovery unit.
 Recovery of Sulphur from Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) reduces the amount of sulfur oxide (SO2) that can
be emitted when end users burn the refined petroleum products that contain the compound. This
helps reduce the chances of acid rain as Sulphur oxide is a precursor to acid rain. (2)
 Sulphur recovery units are inherently low energy consumers and can be a net producer of medium
pressure steam which can be used in other parts of the plant. (2)
 The elemental Sulphur produced from a traditional Sulphur recovery unit can be used for commercial
and industrial applications and is used in rubber products, detergents, paints, pharmaceuticals,
fertilizers, tyres etc. (2)

Sources of risks and Risk Management


Sources of risks
Leakage through the tube in the condensers:Porosity from welding defects between joints and tubes
might lead to leakage of H2S gas. This can be as a result of the gasket not properly placed or the
flanges stud bolts not tightened properly. This leads to the possible mixture of condensed
water/steam with H2S or sulphur elements which is undesirable in the recovery process.
Sulfur fire:The main known risk is sulfur fire due to accumulated liquid sulfur and fire take place if the
concentration of air or oxygen is higher (>10%). A sulfur fire can also lead to corrosion that is higher
than normal condition. It might result in higher pressure and equipment failure and contaminant
release to the air or soil through different pathways.
Risk management
 Perform hydro test pressure at the time of erection and after regular interval and monitor
shell or tube side pressure
 Auto ignition temperature of sulfur is 232 °C so monitor the temperature of the process
through temperature element.
Risk assessment
Routes of Exposure
Inhalation - The major route of hydrogen sulphide exposure is through inhalation and it is readily
absorbed by the lungs. The odour can be identified but at high concentrations and at continuous low
concentrations olfactory fatigue occurs. This means odour is not a reliable indicator of H2S. H2S is
heavier than air so it will accumulate in enclosed and low-lying areas. For this reason, children are
exposed to higher levels of H2S since they are closer to the ground.
Skin and eye contact – Long exposures to H2S leads to dermatitis and burning eyes even at low levels.
Direct contact with the liquefied gas can cause frostbite.
Ingestion – Ingestion is unlikely to occur because it is a gas at room temperature
Standards and Guidelines
Table 1: Standards and guidelines for H2S exposure through inhalation [1, 3, 4]
Human Rat Mouse
OSHA ceiling 20 ppm - -

OSHA maximum
peak 50 ppm for 10 minutes - -
Immediately dangerous
NIOSH IDLH to life at 100 ppm - -
LC50 (ppm) - 713 ppm for 1 hr 673 ppm for 1 hr
LCLo(ppm) 800 for 5 minutes - -
NOAEL 13.9 mg/m3 (10 ppm)
LOAEL 41.7 mg/m3 (30 ppm) - -

4.0% (10% LEL, 4,000


LEL ppm) - -
RfC 2E-3 mg/m3 - -
UF 300 - -

Adverse human and environmental effect


Acute Exposure – Acute exposures to H2S leaves the cardiac tissues and the nervous system
vulnerable to oxidative metabolism which often leads to death resulting from respiratory arrest. It
also causes irritation to the respiratory tract, mucous membranes eyes and skin.
Chronic Exposure –Prolonged exposure can lead to low blood pressure, headache, chronic cough,
nausea, weight loss, loss of appetite as a result of chronic exposure.
Table 2: Effects and Toxicity of H2S in the human body
Concentration Percentage Symptoms Effect
(ppm) (%)
1 0.0001 Detected by odour N/A
10 0.001 Occupational Exposure Level, N/A
Threshold Limit Value (TLV)
100 0.01 Kills sense of smell in 3 to 5 minutes. Slight symptoms after
May burn eyes and throat several hours exposure
200 0.02 Kills sense of smell rapidly. Burns 1 hour without serious
eyes and throat after one hour. effects
500 0.05 Dizziness, loses sense of reasoning, Dangerous after 30
breathing ceases in few minutes. mins to 1 hour
Needs prompt artificial resuscitation.
700 0.07 Will become unconscious quickly. Fatal in less than 30
Breathing will stop, death will result if minutes.
not rescued promptly. Immediate
artificial resuscitation
1000 0.1 Unconscious at once; followed by Death
death.

Conclusion

References
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Hydrogen Sulfide, (2014). Toxic Substances Portal - Hydrogen Sulfide.
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https://www.chem.info/article/2014/04/qa-benefits-sulfur-recovery
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Protection Agency.
4. Hydrogen sulphide, (1994). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Centers for
disease control and prevention.
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10. Environment Canada, (2001). Reducing the level of sulphur in Canadian on-road diesel fuel. A
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11. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, (2014). Fuel Sulphur Content
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