BP targets acid leaks

Leak detection is a priority at BP Chemicals’ Saltend site. The facility, near Hull, is the manufacturing flagship and R&D centre for acetic acid production based on BP’s Cativa methanol carbonylation technology: acetic acid is produced by the combination

Hull, UK – Leak detection is a priority at BP Chemicals’ Saltend site. The facility, near Hull, is the manufacturing flagship and R&D centre for acetic acid production based on BP’s Cativa methanol carbonylation technology: acetic acid is produced by the combination of carbon monoxide and methanol in the presence of a catalyst. The operation makes extensive use of an infrared camera, – a Flir GasFindIR HSX – which can detect leaks of 20 different gases, including methane and methanol.

A recent plant integrity survey at the site included the use of two further variants of the camera, a model designed specifically for carbon monoxide (CO) detection, and a longer wavelength (LW) version, sensitive to acetic acid, acetic anhydride, and ammonia – three of the major products processed at Saltend. Most process gases at BP Chemicals are hazardous, but CO is in a class of its own. Even in the low parts per million it can cause serious health problems and BP ensures that any of its personnel that could potentially come into contact with CO carry personal monitors at all times.

Unless the emission exceeds the alarm setting of a personal monitor or a fixed detector, a leak will remain undetected. The first small escapes that the Flir GasFindIR CO camera found were from an infeed pipe and a heat exchanger flange, both part of an electrically driven compressor. From a gantry in an adjoining covered section of the plant, the camera was then used to inspect a series of steam driven compressors. Two further CO leaks were found. In high sensitivity mode both were clearly visible as plumes of gas.

Meanwhile, the Flir GasFindIR LW detected some leaks of acetic acid vapour, providing clear images of small emissions from the vapour space in tankers and from a vent in the roof of the loading bay. The camera also identified small escapes from automatic loading arms, whose emissions were largely controlled by recovery systems.