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SPE 86601

Optimizing Fire Protection of pressurized Process Equipment

Jan Reier Huse,Scandpower Risk Management AS; Paul Skulstad Scandpower Risk Management AS;
Bjørn Hekkelstrand; Scandpower Risk Mangement AS

Copyright 2004, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

of systems and arrangements for fire protection of pressurized
This paper was prepared for presentation at The Seventh SPE International Conference on process piping and equipment.
Health, Safety, and Environment in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production held in Calgary,
Alberta, Canada, 29–31 March 2004. The guideline is valid for on- and offshore process
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in a proposal submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as The guideline has been developed in line with the
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any principles outlined in ISO 13702, Ref. /1/, and hence, also
position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at
SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of
represents an important contribution to the establishment of a
Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper Fire and Explosion Strategy, FES.
for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is
prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to a proposal of not more than 300 The guideline is applicable throughout the conceptual,
words; illustrations may not be copied. The proposal must contain conspicuous basic and detailed engineering stages of new plants. The
acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O.
Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435. guideline may also be used for modification projects of
existing plants. When key operational parameters affecting the
Abstract fire safety are to be modified on an existing plant, the
Protection of pressurized process equipment against fire and principles in the guideline should be applied. It is important to
thus reducing the risk of fire escalation is a key concern for all use this guideline as early as possible in a project
process plants both offshore and onshore. development.
The intention of the first version of the guideline was to
“Guideline for Protection of Pressurized Systems Exposed to develop an effective design tool mainly based on a
Fire”, referred to as the guideline, was developed by Norsk deterministic approach disregarding the fact that fire exposure
Hydro, Statoil and Scandpower Risk Management in 2002. of process plants is probalistic in nature.
The guideline has been applied in offshore development The Guideline for Protection of Pressurized Systems
projects. Based in the experiences gained from users, the Exposed to Fire was first issued in 2002. It was made
guideline is being revised December 2003. The procedures set available to the industry on the Scandpower web site
forward in the guideline, has pointed out several areas/topics .
where further research and testing should be implemented. The development of the guideline was funded by Norsk
One such topic is behavior of flanged connection during Hydro and Statoil. The guideline has been used by these
realistic hydrocarbon fire scenarios. Therefore, large scale companies in development of new projects and modifications
experiments on jet fire exposed flange connections under to existing installations.
pressurized conditions are carried out during the winter In total nearly 400 persons have visited the web site and
2003/2004. downloaded the guideline.
The responsible party for updating and maintaining the
The guideline is under continuous development and will be guideline is Scandpower Risk Management AS in close co-
updated when new knowledge is gained and available. operation with Norsk Hydro and Statoil.

Introduction Objective of the Guideline

The development of this guideline was initiated by the need The objective of this guideline is to achieve a safe and cost
for a comprehensive approach including all the main aspects efficient design of pressurized systems that may be exposed to
related to optimizing fire protection of pressurized process fire. This means a focus on fast depressurization instead of
equipment and systems. The results from the recent years fire using passive fire protection (PFP). PFP is considered as an
research on hydrocarbon fires in offshore like environments, effective measure that reduces the consequences of a fire.
also indicated that such fires can expose equipment more However, PFP also introduce problems relating to corrosion
severely than recognized in other guidelines that are and ultimately possible hydrocarbon leaks, reduced
commonly used. possibilities for inspection, space and cost. The guideline
The guideline defines the principles and a methodology directs the design to take full advantage of other measures
that should be adopted for design, construction and operation such as proper material selection, pressure rating, wall
thickness etc. that may reduce the need for PFP. The guideline
2 SPE 86601

provides a procedure that may be applied and supporting System and

background information pertaining to hydrocarbon fire information
characteristics, material data and failure criteria.
The content of the guideline is divided into three Estimate size
main parts. depressurization

- First part establish the main principles Calculate P(t)

- Second part discusses the key parameters for the process
segment and T(t)
- Third part introduces a specific procedure. for the steel

orifice size
The application of this procedure is considered to result in Is
adequate protection against realistic hydrocarbon fires. A No flare
supplement to the procedure is to use a risk based approach Improve utilised
design/apply PFP
for the fire scenarios, the heat loads and acceptance criteria for
rupture. It must be documented that the chosen solution is Yes

within the risk acceptance criteria. This approach is not Are the
followed any further in the current version of the guideline. No consequence Yes equipment/pipe Failure
of the rupture criteria
acceptable rupture
? ?
Description of the guideline
The guideline starts with establishing and discussing the main Yes

principles for achieving an optimum fire protection of the

process system. These are OK

- Maximum utilisation of the flare system

Figure 1: Simplified Procedure for optimising Design of the
- Selection of material quality Depressurising and Passive Fire Protection Systems for Process
- Selection of material thickness/pressure classes Equipment
- Sizing of process segments/location of sectionalising
valves (inventory/volume) The guideline discusses several hydrocarbon fire scenarios
- If necessary, application of passive fire protection that can occur and suggest typical initial incident heat fluxes
- Active fire protection systems. to be used for the different fires (“initial” means toward a cold
segment). The proposed initial incident heat fluxes from jet
An illustration of the procedure outlined in the guideline is fires are significantly higher (350 kW/m2) than earlier applied,
given by the flowchart presented in Figure 1. at least by the Norwegian industry. The higher heat loading is
justified from the findings from recent years of fire research
The guideline has a strong focus on fast depressurisation in on hydrocarbon fires in offshore like environments.
order to meet the objective of minimized use of PFP, and this The transient variation of the fire is of importance for jet
is also reflected in the second part of the guideline that fires. The transient behaviour due to decreasing leak rates will
discusses the key parameters of relevance. both influence the size of the fire exposed area, the total heat
flux to the process segment and also the varying heat load to
- Depressurisation any specific point on the process segment. The guideline
- Passive fire protection discusses and presents simplified formulas for calculation of
- Deluge/water spray systems jet-fire duration from leaking segments with immediate or
- Pressure safety valves delayed depressurisation. For a more accurate calculation of
- Selection of process equipment/materials jet-fire duration, a depressurisation simulation tool should be
- Limitation of process inventories used.
- Fire scenarios (dependent on layout, ventilation, The guideline refers and discusses acceptance criteria that
drainage, nature of combustible fluids, and nature of are widely used in offshore design in terms of:
release (time dependent leaks/duration)). - Hydrocarbon quantity that will be released as a result
of the rupture
The third part of the guideline introduces a specific - Hydrocarbon leakage rates
procedure that should be applied for achieving an optimum - Whether the released hydrocarbons are in gas or
fire protection. The procedure requires that rigorous liquid form
calculations should be performed including thermodynamics, - Pressure in the system at the time of the rupture (risk
heat and mass transfer etc. Figure 3 shows the detailed of missiles, risk of critical damage to neighboring
iteration procedure that summaries the procedure. pipe when a pipe bursts)
- Location of the rupture compared to systems/
equipment/functions at risk
- Risk of endangering personnel outside the immediate
vicinity of the area of the initial fire
- Time to rupture.
SPE 86601 3

The guideline focuses on minimising the use of PEP, i.e. The flange connection is in the test exposed to a propan jet
the prime focus should be to design a depressurisation system fire. The fire is designed to give a high heat loading (>250
with capacity to reduce the pressure in the system fast enough kw/m2), as uniform as possible over the test object. In order to
to avoid critical escalation of the fire. The main concerns achieve this high heat loading the environment for the test is
relating to the use of PEP are increased corrosion of materials based on the jet fire test procedure developed by the
covered by PEP, reduced possibilities for inspection and Norwegian Fire Research Laboratory.
maintenance of equipment covered with PEP, increased The first part of the test program comprises a 10”
weight, increased need for space, increased need for pipesegment, with an ANSI RTJ flange connection being
maintenance of the PEP and increased cost. exposed to the propane jet fire. The pipe segment is
The guideline also focuses on the importance of keeping pressurized to 150 barg with methane prior to the tests. The
the integrity of the flare system during a fire situation. Rupture pressure is maintained during the tests until an eventual
of parts of the flare system during a fire might result in leakage starts and continues as long as practicable possible.
massive release of hydrocarbons (e.g. due to an ongoing The temperatures, pressures and displacements are
depressurisation) and, hence, cause a severe escalation of the measured in the pipe itself, flanges, and the bolts.
accident. If fire exposed, the flare piping is most vulnerable to The first tests indicate that, when exposed to a gas-jet fire
rupture just after start of depressurisation due to high mass a flange connection is a weak link in a piping system.
rates/highest pressure in the system. Delayed depressurisation The tests are carried out at Norwegian Fire Laboratory,
should therefore be avoided. Trondheim, Norway.

Further development of the Guideline Material tests

It was acknowledged early in the development of the guideline Another aspect is material behavior during fires. Most data
that although considerable efforts and large budgets have been from steel manufactures are verified through material testing
spent on research during the last years, there are still dark and at ambient or relatively low temperatures compared to
grey areas to be further investigated. material temperatures plausible in a fire situation (up to 1000-
Figure 2 illustrates some recognized issues that need further 1100 deg C.). Material data for steel at temperatures above
investigation. Some of these have materialized in ongoing 500 deg. C are normally not verified from representative tests.
research/test programs. Others will be addressed at a The objective of the material testing is to establish reliable
later stage. high temperature data (tensile strength and yield stress) for all
commonly used steel materials in the oil and gas industry.
Material tests at elevated temperatures are on the program
for further research.
Acceptance Effect of deluge Probabilistic The objective is to define material rupture criteria based on
criteria for pipe water spray handling of fire
rupture and leakage material tests at temperatures that may occur during a
hydrocarbon fire.

Probabilistic method for determining dimensioning

The guideline version 1 fire scenarios
issued June 2002 The current approach in the fire protection design is deter-
ministic. A fire is defined as a jet fire or a pool fire, open or
enclosed and then the ruleset of fire loads (heat flux values)
is applied.
Flanged Material
It is evident that for a plant, the maximum fire load will be
connection strength at high much higher than the average, and that there are arguments for
without PFP temperature
not always designing for the maximum.
Scandpower is developing a method for a probabilistic
Figure 2: Illustration of issues for further development of approach to meet this design challenge. The method also
the Guideline includes introduction of advanced simulation tools (CFD-
codes) for prediction of heat loading and fire exposed areas
Large scale fire tests of flanged connections based on selected fire-scenarios.
One area of particular importance to the guideline is the There are some parallels to the probabilistic methods now
behavior of process piping systems exposed to high fire loads. being applied for explosion load determination. These
Most efforts in this respect has been on the piping itself, methods were developed as a necessity as it was evident that
whereas e.g. the flanged connections have been less focused there is not practicable possible to design against the
by the industry. maximum explosion pressure on typical large offshore
A research program was defined where the flanges in production installation.
particular were focused. The test program started in November The probalistic fire analysis is subject to further
2003. As the tests are carried out at the time this paper is development by Scandpower Risk Management. This
written, the results can not be included. The intention is to development is funded by Statoil and Scandpower Risk
present some result at the conference. Management.
4 SPE 86601

Conclusion References
The guideline issued in 2002 provides a comprehensive /1/ ISO 13702: "Petroleum and Natural Gas Industries - Control
approach for optimum fire protection of pressurized process and Mitigation of Fires and Explosions on Offshore Production
equipment. The guideline introduces a specific procedure for Installations - Requirements and Guidelines", 1999.
design of fire protection with focus on fast depressurization as
a key factor for minimizing the need for PFP. /2/ Norsk Hydro: "Best Practice Depressurization and Fire Relief
Design", NHT-0101512, December 2001
The guideline realize that there are lack of knowledge on
several topics, and has therefore initiated research programs /3/ NORSOK Standard S-001: "Technical Safety", Rev. 3, January
and testing to start closing these gap. Large scale fire 2000.
experiments are carried out to determine the effect on flanged
connections under realistic conditions. Material data at high /4/ ASME VIII: "Boiler and Pressure Vessel Codes".
temperatures will be established through material testing in
fire situations. /5/ NPD: "Forskrift om utforming og utrasting av innretninger med
The guideline is under continuous development, and when mer i petroleumsvirksomheten (Innretningsforskriften)",
new knowledge is available new versions will be issued. 3 September 2001.
Results from experiments will be implemented in new
SPE 86601 5

Required information prior to depressurisation iteration

- Description of the fire scenarios (type of fire, duration, heat fluxes, size)
- Process segment geometry (system volume, area, weight etc.)
- Ultimate tensile strength at elevated temperature of materials
in the process segment
- Manual or automatic depressurisation, i.e. time delay for
start of depressurisation
- Acceptance criteria for rupture

Step 1:
Step 2: Estimate the size of all orifices and calculate the
Reduse the size pressure profile and flare rates for all segments.
of the orifice Use the global average heat load with the largest
heat input (kW). No PFP in this initial iteration.

In case
Step 2: of any of
Is the flare Step 2: the "OR's"
system capacity Evaluate to increase the depres-
NO surisation rate, preferrably for the
utilized (when adding all of the
simultaneous blowdown most hazardous process segment.
rates together)?
Step 8:
Add insulation if required. Calculate the process
segment pressure profile. Use the fire with largest
YES heat input (kW).
Tip: Do several calculations with varying amount
of fire insulation.

Step 2: Step 3:
NO Is the YES Calculate the wall temperature profile for all pipes
blowdown rate less and equipment.
than maximum Use the local peak heat load (kW/m2).

Step 4:
Use the temperature profiles from step 3 to calculate the rupture
pressure for all pipes and equipment.Compare with the pressure
profile from step 1 or 8.

Acceptance criteria: Step 6:

Decide which pipe/equipment to fire insulate OR
- Pipe burst pressure Step 5: increase orifice diameter if available capacity in
- Equipment burst pressure Is the NO the flare system OR reduce system volume by
- Released flammable acceptance criteria relocation of sectionalisation valves OR increase
fluid at rupture for rupture the flare system capacity OR change material
- Time to rupture met ? quality OR increase wall thickness.
- No rupture
Step 7
Calculate the minimum design temperature of
the blowdown section and the flare system tail pipe.

Is the
minimum NO Define start depressurisation
design temperature at a higher temperature
acceptable? (or change material).

The design of this section's blowdown orifice and fire insulation requirements is finished

Figure 3: Flowchart for specific procedure for optimizing fire

protection of pressurized systems exposed to fire