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Commissioning of Two 50,000 MT Ammonia Storage

This paper will discuss in briefQAFCO's ammonia storage systems, selection of the unique tank
design (steel tank surrounded by a fill/height concrete wall) and in detail the commissioning process
of the two recently installed anhydrous ammonia storage tanks from planning to commissioning and
handover o/the tanks to production.

Iftikhar Hussain Turi

Qatar Fertilizer Company, Mesaieed Qatar

torage tanks are an integral part of the

S industrial landscape. In Urea fertilizer

plants surplus ammonia is stored in large
cryogenic storage tanks at -33°C (-28 OF) as it is
the most cost effecti ve method of ammonia
Figure J. Single or double waif tank with concrete wall
Selection of ammonia storage tank design can
and sand support
be: a l:hallenge due: to the hi gh cost and the
potential of hazards (release of large quantity of
ammonia) associated with storing a high volume
of toxic material. While selecting the new tank
des ign, QAFCO adopted a Risk Based
Approach (REA) and set up a task force team to
come up with the safest design. The most
common design alternatives were evaluated,
single containment (single wall) with dike (Fig-
I) double containment (double wall) with full Figure 2. Double containment with filII dyke concrete
dike concrete wall (Fig-2) and single wall
containment with full dike concrete wall (Fig-
3). It was concluded that new storage tanks
should have a single wa ll surrounded by an
independent self-supporting concrete outer
protection wall (Fig-3) capable to withstand
external impact of blast. The unique design was
the best fit for QAFCO's requirement to choose
the safest design while keeping in mind the Figure 3. Single containment wilhfull dyke concrete wall
space constraint in QAFCO because selecting
first option will take much more space
compared to the third option.


QAFCO ammonia storage facility Before QAFCO-5 expansion, the company had
two refrigerated ammonia tanks with a
Qatar Ferti lizer Company (QAFCO) located in combined capacity of 65000 tons to store
the industrial town of Mesaieed is operating six surplus ammonia. Recently, the storage capacity
ammonia and six urea plants. Its average annual in QAFCO has increased to 165000 tons by
production is about 3.8 million tons of anunonia adding two new storage tanks T6003 (Tank 3) &
and 5.6 million tons of urea making QAFCO T6004 (Tank 4) having a storage capacity of
world's largest single site producer of ammonia 50000 metri c tons each. This gives QAFCO the
and urea. In QAFCO surplus ammonia is stored flexibility to keep all the urea plants in service
in four refrigerated storage tanks to be used depending on the avai labili ty of carbon dioxide
internally to make Urea and the rest is sh ipped produced by the a mmoni a plants even when any
to externa l consumers for further processing. of the ammonia pl ant goes down.
With the increase in production capacity The new tanks are of single wall design
QAFCO onsite anhydrous ammonia storage surrounded by a full height independ ent
capacity has also increased gradually by adding concrete outer protection wall. The inner shells
more tanks. The fi rst anhydrous ammonia of the tanks are fu ll integrity, self-supporting,
storage tank (T 120 I) was constructed in 1972 to and open top with suspended decks with dome
store excess anhydrous ammonia produced by roofs. To avoid freezing of the tanks foundation,
QAFCO- I ammonia plant. The storage capacity the tanks are elevated on piles for air
of thi s tank was about 20,000 metric tons of circ ulation. These two tanks are the biggest in
ammonia with an interna l design pressure of 0.8 the world.
psig. The tank was a re fri gerated single wall
with suspended deck des ign. The second Tank design selection
anhydrous ammonia storage tank (T 1202) was
constructed in 1977 as a part of QAFCO-2 In order to select the location and safest ta nk
expansion. The storage capacity of this tank was des ign a team was nominated to study the pros
about 28,000 metric tons of anhydrous ammoni a and cons of different tank design a nd
with an internal design pressure of 0.8 psig. This recommend the most suitable scenario by taking
tank was also refrigerated single wall with into consideration the environmental impact,
suspended deck design. These two tanks were operation safety, external risk facto rs (blast over
decommissioned and demolished later after pressure waves), stress corrosion cracking . tank
installing bigger tanks due business requirement over pressuri zation and tank inspection without
and safety iss ues (single wa ll vs double wa ll decommissioning. For the Quantitative Risk
tank design). The third ammonia storage tank Analysis (QRA) study on ly three tank des igns
(T600 I) was constructed in 1997 as a part of i.e., single wall w ith independent concrete wall
QAFCO-3 expansion project to store surplus and double integrity tank with low and hi gh
ammonia produced by ammonia -3 plants. The bund wall were taken into consideration. After
storage capacity of this tank is 20,000 metric considering the pros and cons of the three
tons of liq uid ammonia at atmospheric pressure. designs, a single wa ll tank with independent
The fourth ammonia storage tank was concrete wall was recommended, because it was
constructed as a part of QAFCO-4 expansion concluded that it could withstand the impact of
proj ect in 2004. This tank when built was the debris from expl os ions in nearby facilities. As
second largest ammonia storage tank in the the outer wall wi ll not be linked to the inner
World, with storage capacity of 45000 metric pressure shell , hence the outer wall will not
tons. Both the storage tanks are of double wall sustain damage in case of inner shell damage
suspended deck design elevated on piles for air due to sudden pressure increase caused by
circulation. ingress of warm ammoni a. Also, there are


inspection possibilities with ultra-sonic and modelling the following configurations
equipment on inner tank due to access to the were used.
annu lar space. Also, it will occupy less plot Single wa ll with low bund wall (100 x 100m)
space compared to double integrity tank with (bund height ~ 7.5 m)
low bund, since no bund is required. Single wall with concrete bund wall (A = 2500
Location selection, emission Double integrity tank, without bund (concrete
calculation, physical effect and wall)
individual risk Sin gle wa ll tank, with concrete wall (A ~ 2500
m 2) and sand/gravel support.
For physical effect calculations the following
To select the location of the tank the prevailing were considered.
wind direction were taken into consideration by Temperature: -33.43 °C (-28. 17°F) @ atm
using emission calculations and individual risk Pasqual stabi li ty class (atmospheric turbulence):
curves. (Appendix A. Fig- l1 &12) For each different
tank option a gas dispersion calculation were Wind speed: 3 mls at 10m height
done for the case of instant collapse of inner Ambient conditions (summer / winter) 20 & 50
tank. The total area for evaporation from a bund °C (68 &122°F)
is the total surface area in contact with liquid, Capacity / tank inventory: 60,000 metric tons
except inner tank. Two types of bund walls i-e Dimensions: H: 36 m, D : 54 m. Distance to a
low bund with the surface area of 107 10 m 2 and concentration of 4500 mg/m' (5929 ppm)
high bund wall surface area of 255 m2 were Distance to a concentration of 300 mg/m3
simulated. Emission calcu lations were
(395ppm) Distance to a concentration of 30
performed by YARA international wi th the help mg/m 3 (39 ppm). (Appendix B.Fig-13&14)
of TNO the Netherlands with the following
conditions: Based on the team feedback it was decided to
build two 50,000 mc:LTit: Lons ~Loragc: tanks dose
Weather stability E, temperature 20 degrees C to the sea. The tanks should be built as per API
and 80% relative humidity and alternative 620 APP. R. Each tank should have an
temperature 50°C (122°F) (and 30% relative independent pre-stressed reinforced concrete
humidity. From the probability of wind outer wall to minimize the consequence in case
direction in the different directions a risk of inner tank leak or rupture. As in this case the
contour map can be constructed for each tank secondary containment cannot be lost if the
type at the distance affected LCd50 in the case inner tank collapse due to pressure increase, the
of total sudden collapse of inner tank for emission of ammonia gas will be limited
ex isting case with two double integrity tanks compared to other scenarios.
with low bund wall and the new cases high bund
wall. Construction of new tanks
For emission scenarios blast explosions curves
that are based on 1O-4/yr probabili ty explosion After awarding the contract to CB&I the
cases were used and for tank damage scenario a construction work for both the tanks started on
normal standard case of rupture equivalent to 50 Marc h 2008 and completed in October 20 I O.
mm diameter and 5 minutes release of inventory It took about 41 months to complete the proj ect.
was considered. For each configuration Construction was done in parallel for the both
instantaneous released amount of 60,000 tons of the tanks. The civil work including erection of
liquefied ammonia was considered. For concrete piles and external co ncrete wall s and
dispersion study and consequence calcul ations roof fixing took about 20 months to complete.
The roof was li fted pneumatically, welded to the


shell and tanks were preserved with nitrogen. Tanks specifications and general
Tanks commissioning activities lasted for about description
30 days including air nitrogen exchange,
nitrogen-ammonia exchange, and tanks cool Capacity (each) 50,000 mt
down. The total commissioning period including Gross Capacity 80,500 m'
refrigeration system (BOG) and utilities was Dimension (ID/H) 50 m /40.5 m
three and half months. About 100,000 m3 of Design Pressure -0.6 /15 Kpa (g)
nitrogen was used in the process of nitrogen (-0.08/ 2.17 psi)
purging. Operating pressure 2.5 / 4.0 Kpa (g)
All the phases of the project from construction, (0.36/ 0.58 psi)
pre-commissioning and commissioning were Operating temp; -33 ' C (-28' F)
carried out without any lost time accident. Design code API 620 App. R
Both the tanks are single wall (carbon steel)
with outer pre-stressed concrete wall. The inner
metallic tank containing the liquid ammonia has
suspended insulating cover deck and made of
steel suitable for the design temperature. The
outer wall is designed to contain the entire
liquid ammonia in case of leakage from the
inner tank. The space between inner tank and
outer container is. around 15m. The foundations
of the tanks are on piles approximately 75 feet
deep and have about 250 piles per tank.

Figure 5. Construction of tank I side walls.

Figure 7. Tank/oundation piles.

Commissioning approach

The construction activItIes for both the tanks

were planned in two phases. In the first phase
tank T6003 (Tank I) and T6004 (Tank2) were
constructed, hydro tested, cleaned and preserved
Figure 6. Tank I and 2 after completion 0/ constrllction under N2 atmosphere by reducing the oxygen
content below 4% in the tanks. In the second
phase associated piping, transfer pumps and


BOG equipment (set of three, shared by both the with respect to the chances to develop stress
tanks) were installed and commissioned. Afte r corrosion cracking, all the steps of the
commissioning and testing all the required commissioning phase including purging with
equipment including the ammonia flare, it was nitrogen, tank cooling and charging ammonia
decided to purge tank (T6004) with vapor were fo llowed diligently without any deviation
ammonia to replace nitrogen and finally to cool from the pre defined procedures.
down the tank by charging liquid ammonia.
The same procedure was fo llowed for tank Hydro test and fina l inspection
After successful completion of all the civil and
Major constr uction activities timeline mechanical work, both the tanks were cleaned,
inspected and prepared for hydro testing. The
Site handover May 08, 2008 tanks were filled up to 70% with desalinated
TK I pi ling completed April 26, 2009 water and after hydro test the tanks were drained
and made ready for fina l inspection. The hydro
TK 2 piling completed April 29, 2009
test was conducted only for the inner tanks.
TK I foundation completed May 27, 2009
TK 2 foundation completed June 24, 2009 F un ctional test a nd commissioning
TK I concrete wall completed Dec 19,2009
TK 2 concrete wall completed Feb 11 ,2010 Before starting next step all the accessories
including safety valves, isolation valves, BOG
TK I shell erection completed Feb 11,20 10
system, flare system and control system were
TK 2 shell erection completed Mar 16,20 10 tested and made ready to be taken in service.
TK I roof air raise Marl I, 20 10
TK 2 roof air raise Apri l 03, 2010 Air - nitroge n exchange
TK I hydro-test completed June 14,2010
The first step after completion of the mechanical
TK 2 hydro-test completed June 24, 2010
and civi l work to prepare the storage tanks for
TK I mechanical completion Oct2 1,20 10 receiving ammonia was to replace air with inert
TK 2 mechanical completion Oct2 1,20 10 media (nitrogen) and isolate the tank from
outside by installi ng man ways covers, and
Commissioning team installing all the relief valves, level indication
system and other instrumentations.
A commissioning team compnsmg of vendor Nitrogen purging for both the tanks were
representative and QAFCO was fonned for conducted by connecting tanks with the nitrogen
close co-ordination and execution of all the tankers through vaporizers. Nitrogen was
activities as per vendor guidelines and QAFCO injected at the bottom of the tank through the
standard operating procedures and guide lines. outlet nozzle and vented at the high elevations
Doc uments preparation and r eview from the top of the tank by providing exhaust
stacks on the purge ports to divert the inert to a
All the documents including commissioning safe location. A sample port was provided at the
procedures (nitrogen purging, replacing nitrogen top of the tanks to collect samples.
with ammonia and step by step cool down of the Air-nitrogen exchange for tanks T6003 started
tanks, BOG system testing) recei ved from on October 09, 2010 using liquid nitrogen
vendor were reviewed and at the same time tanker and comp leted on October 15, 20 I 0 by
operating procedures were created and bringing down the oxygen content to below 4%
discussed with vendor. As the tank in the tank. Air-nitrogen exchange for tank
commissioning is considered a critical phase T6004 started on April 22, 20 I I using the same


setup and completed on April 28, 2011 by vapor exchange for T6003 started on July 0 I,
bringing down the oxygen content to below 4% 2011 and was completed on July 09, 20 1L
in the tank.

----- ---'---------

To Flare

Figure 8. Nitrogen purging: up flow.
Figure 9. Ammonia vapor purging: down flow.

Tanks cool down

Nitrogen - ammonia exchange
Step-2: Introduction ofliquid ammonia
To reduce the chances of stress corrosion
cracking oxygen content in the tanks was further The next step was tank cool down. This step is
reduced to <0.2 % by injecting ammonia vapor very critical compared to the previous steps.
at the bottom of the tank through a temporary Extreme vigilance and care was taken to cool
hose connected to the outlet flange. The vapors down the tanks slowly to prevent stresses. It was
coll ected from the top of the tanks were diverted accomplished by directing liquid ammonia into
to flare. the storage tank through a three inch cool down
line connected at the top of the tank. A splash
Step-I: Introduction of ammonia vapor plate was provided to disperse liquid ammonia
inside the storage tank for even cooling.
By using ammonia vaporizer vapor anunonia Ammonia vapor was taken out through a twe lve
was introduced to tank from the top through a inch nozzle on the tank top and was routed to
12 inch inlet nozzle to create a piston effect by the compressor system and the flare. Ammonia
pushing down nitrogen. Ammonia vapors were cool down flow was controlled to maintain the
taken out from the bottom nozzle and diverted cool down rate of 1 °c per hour. Tank cool
to flare through temporary line connected at the down continued till the liquid ammonia level
bottom nozzle (Figure 9). Purging with started to appear in the tank and stopped when
ammonia vapor continued till the ammonia the level reached to about 50 mm (2 inch).
content in the ex it line reached up to 95%. This - To BOG

further reduced oxygen content in the tank to

<0.2 %. On June 15, 20 II nitrogen - ammonia
vapor exchange for T6004 was initiated by
taking ammonia from one of the existing storage
tanks through export line. Nitrogen - ammonia ( II
vapor exchange for tank-2 was completed on
June 30, 20 II. The same type of temporary
connection was made for tank-I for nitrogen-
ammonia vapor exchange by getting ammonia
from the existing tanks. Nitrogen-ammonia
Figure JO.Liquid ammonia introduction.


Tank 6004 cooling down Operation
Tank T6004 cool down with ammonia started After successful commissioning of the new
on July 01 , 2011. Cooling down of the tank was storage tanks, all the four tanks are integrated
completed on July 08, 2011 with some through interconnecting piping having a
intcmlptions in between due to ammonia provision of leve l transfer among the tanks and
shipment as the same line is used for export. a fa cility of sending product ammonia to any
Tank cool down was stopped after getting level urea plant and for export when required. All the
in the tank. The total cool down duration was four tanks, BOG system and export system are
about 8 days including the interruptions. being operated from the same DCS panel.
(Appendix C F-15)
Tank 6003 cooling down
During tank cool down oxygen content must be
The same procedure was followed for tank
brought down to acceptable level « 2.0%) to
T6003 cool down. It took about five days to
eliminate the chances of stress corrosion
complete the cool down process. Cool down
cracking and cool down should be closely
started on July 10, 20 t I and completed on July
monitored and controlled to maintain the
14, 2011 by injecting liquid ammonia from the
required (I °Clhr) temperature drop. Care should
top through three inch line equipped with the
be taken during inert purging to prevent
splash plate. Tank cool down was stopped after
personnel access to locations where the
getting level in the tank. (Appendix C. F-16)
atmosphere may be oxygen deficient as purging
Safety consideration invo lves a replacement of oxygen inside the
One of the significant safety hazards, during tank. This can be done by providing exhaust
tank commissioning is the purging operation stacks on all the purge nozzles to diverted gases
which in volves the replacement of oxygen to a safe locati on. During samplin g oxygen
inside the tank by nitrogen venting. To mitigate meter should be used for on time warning.
the ri sk of creating an oxygen deficient
environment, exhaust stacks on both the tanks
were provided to divert the inert to a safe height
away from personnel working in the area. Also
oxygen meters were provided during sample
collection. As a best practice American Gas
Association procedure " Purging Principal and
Practices" was adopted. This proced ure provides
instructions specific to purging tanks with inert


Appendix-A: Individua l risk and em ission calc ulation.

Ca l c u l ation I ndi v id u a l Ris k '0<

Ex i sti ng 2
S i ngl e VVa l! ,
Oou bl e d ouble
S i ng l e VVa l! Sing l e VV a ll High Bund.
I ntegrity i n t e gri ty VVi nd
Lo"", Bund H i gh Bun d Incl ud e "",a ll
N o Qu n d ta n ks "",i t;h O i rec::t: i o n
h ea t; capacity
LO VV Bund
SOO~ 200~ 87000 en 800~ 800~
2.00E - OS 2.00E - OS 2.00E - 09 2.00E - 09 4-.00E - 09 1
3.33E - OS 3.32E - OS 3.32E-09 3.32E-09 6.6SE - 09 2
3.02E - OS 3.02E-OS 3.02E-09 3.02E-09 6.04E - 09 3
6.0SE - OS G.OSE - OS G.OSE- 09 6.0SE - 09 1 . 2 1 E - OB 4
1. 23E-07 1. 23E-07 1. 23E OS .1. 23E 08 2. 4 SE-OS 5
S.48E- OB S.4BE - OB S.4BE- 09 S.4BE - 09 1.10E - OB 6
S.30E - OS S.30E-OS S.30E-09 S.30E-09 1 .06E - OS 7
3.43E - OS 3. 43E - OS 3.43E - 09 3. 4 3E-09 6.S7E - 09 8
3. 1 3E-OB 3. 1 3E - OB 3. 1 3E - 09 3. 1 3E-09 6.2SE - 09 9
2.G9E - OB 2.G9E - OB 2.G9E - 09 2.G9E - 09 S.3 BE - 09 10
2.3SE- OS 2.37E - OS 2.37E- 09 2.37E-09 4-.7SE - 09 11
9.37E - 09 9.37E - 09 9.37E - 09 9.37E - OG 9.37E- 10 12

Figurell. Individual risk calculations. The Weather number 1 - 12 refers to direction starting with I or 12 as north. 3 as
east. 6 as south. 9 as west.

Di" .. <. to ~ 500 Dn ..... t.. ~500 1);.1...0 t.. 300 Dn l . ... t.. lOO Di. I.o<.. 10 J() Di" •• <. to J(j
A..o .. , or A.. _ i.

a "~ R eln>ed
.. ~-.3 «:>0<. ..~-.3 «:>0<.
/'oil3 _ 5929 pp .. /'iH3 _ 5929 pp ..
_V-.3 COlt< •
/'iHJ - )'5pp"
..10'-.3 «HIC _al-.3 c...c. ..10'-.3 co.c .
/'iH3 - 3'5pp_ /'iHJ _ l9.5 pp .. :""HJ - 39.S_

_., ,·01 (I) , .... (1) ,.0/(1) , .... (1) , 0/ (1) , 0/ (1)

, ,,.. .
SiII ...... DTook Lo .. S . ....
800 .. (20 ' 0 ,~ . 5lOO .. (20 · 0 ~OO. ll lOO .. (20 ' C) 26200 ..
10000 .. 2; ( I ~ 10"')". )
"00. ",...
_., 1200 .... (so'O 7000 .... (SO' 0 U200 ....
100 ~ 100 .. t.e;p. 8.8 .. 711111 kcI-
S;",10 or do ......... 0 ....
•00. "'" .
9600 .. (20 ' C)
<ella, bud .... u . (\330 .. ' , 200 .. (20 ' C) llOO .. (10 ' C) 20800 ..
(I ~ lO"'y.. 0' I ·IO·'ly.)
Botl_ . US .. 2: U".t. 36
~ 9n 8 kJl• ...,
400 .... (50' C) 1200. 3100 .... (50' C)

>100000 _
(\700 . 13600 .... (50·
27700 •

, Do.hle ",.eviI). ...... 0••

(I ~ 10.1.)".)
87000 .. ( 20 ' C)
87000 _
(20 ' C) >100000 ..
>11MKKlO ..

bo .... O .. 12!1OOO .. (50' 0 12!1OOO .. >100000 .. >100000 ..
82700...,• ..,

Do.hle "'tetril)· .... k cloo .. ['·'pOnti<>o i. SEA ,,~.

• .0SEAW.... (I ~ iO.7f,T)
,,~. > 100000 .. >11MKKlO .. >100000 .. :> 100000 ..

, .-n.
Sio,1e or do.ble -nl Tao\<
Co.crele <oU.. bood i-
J1300 1<&/;""

( I ~ 10·6"',.,. or l ·lO·?ry...)
2800 .. ( 20 ' 0 Is.wo .. (20 · 0
6~ .. (lO · C)
20800 ..
87200 .... (311' 27700 ..
... d I"',·el "won , 6506 ..: : 3900 ... (SO' C) 21100 .. (311' C)
~9n 8 kJl... C)
J(i .. H.... kl

Figure J2. EmiSSIOn calclilatlOn wah the/ollowmg condlllons:

(I) without insulation, (2) with insulation. Weather stability E, temperatlwe 20 degrees C and 8()'J4 relative humidity and
alternative temperature 50 degrees C and 3()'J/o relative humidity.


Appendix-B: Individual Risk Curves

Figure J 3. Individual Risk Curves for existing Figure 14. Individual Risk Curves/or existing ammonia
ammonia tanks plus Case 1 (Double integrity tank tanks plus Case 2 (Single Wall Tank with reinforced
with low concrete bUild) with location option 3 high concrete Wall) with location option 4


Appendix-C: Tanks cool down DeS printout
1<1 Jul 11 06:2 8 :4 2



75~ ~
".2TT.0 25
50 -= -~

J.OJ •9. o. 72
•• 8 7/14/ 11 06:21 : 55 HR

i83fTTsm i!3,TTSe ~!~rTTSe

Q Q ~

UH TTse i!~'TT8CI U3~TTse


:ill] C C C c c c



10<12TT6 0 58
)6 35

•n:D 96 84
Figure J5. Tallkl Cool do wn DCS prill/OUI

72 60 48 36

07 / 14 / 1 1 06 : 27 : 55 HR

~7 Jul 11 18:59:2 2


1 ••
20 MIN

2 HOUR "25
MORE 01 1 07/11 18:59 : 13 HR

ill'!'·' i!l~.'··
c c

100 I .0 HOURS
"' HM HM
75 -s


• .0 . 2 3. 3. 2. 10 97/07 / 1110:5 9 :1 3 HR

Figure 16. Tonk 2 Cool down DCS prill/Olll.