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Disconnects: Technology Compared

The Next Generation of Couplings and Disconnects

| Author / Editor: David Morrow* / Dominik Stephan

The next generation of dry couplings: Easy to handle and safe to operate.
The next generation of dry couplings: Easy to handle and safe to operate. (Source: © Lev/Fotolia.com, OPW [M] Frank)

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Double ball-valve dry disconnects set new standard in chemical handling — Operators that handle hazardous liquids or toxic chemicals have high demands for loading systems, hoses, pipes and couplings. But how to design such a system? Are traditional bayonet-and-plunger styles still the go-to-solution for chemicals or has the time of new coupling technology finally come?

According to the National Response Center’s “Spills and Accidents” database, there were 26,987 incidents involving chemicals in the US in 2015. When looking at the circumstances of said accidents, 42 % of the events involved vehicles, 30 % took place at a fixed site and 11 % occurred at storage tanks, platforms or pipelines.

Looking at the causes of these spills, 24 % were due to equipment failure, while operator error and transport accidents both accounted for 7 %. These numbers are likely to mean a great deal of sleepless nights for those involved in manufacturing, transport and handling of chemicals products due to the ever-present threat of a catastrophic spill. Because of the many transfer points in the supply chain, chemical industry operators must ensure that their liquid-transfer equipment like loading arms, hoses and disconnects, provide highest quality and reliability.

Know Your Systems

In general, designing and constructing a chemicals loading system is a complex process. These are just some of the considerations that must be taken into account:

  • Is it a top-, bottom- or side-loading application?
  • What are the ambient weather conditions? Do the products produce extreme temperatures?
  • What products will be handled?
  • Will any type of cleaning or purging procedure be employed?
  • What construction materials are most compatible?
  • How long are the loading arms?
  • Will railcars or trucks need to be spotted from various distances?
  • What flow rates will be required?
  • Will any specialized welding be needed for the job (e.g. for a hygienic or sanitary application)?
  • What is the design of the support structure?
  • Are there any specialized material-handling requirements?
  • Is the loading system ergonomically designed?

Even after acknowledging and addressing these questions, deciding on the proper loading system requires a lot of specific steps to be completed succinctly and reliably. Many of the raw materials used in chemical manufacturing are volatile, hazardous or corrosive — from acids and solvents to more specific formulations such as butadiene, xylene and toluene — so they must be treated with the utmost respect and properly contained.

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Technology Compared

Additionally, preventing spills or leaks is vital because any that occur, besides being dangerous on various levels, have the potential to interrupt the production schedule, and cause the loss of high-value ingredients as well as prohibitive cleanup costs.

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