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Milestone Explosion Safety/Pressure Relief

Competence in Safety Matters

| Editor: Manja Wühr

Rembe has been dedicated to protecting plants and processes for more than 45 years. Today, the company stands for comprehensive expertise in the field of explosion safety and pressure relief.
Rembe has been dedicated to protecting plants and processes for more than 45 years. Today, the company stands for comprehensive expertise in the field of explosion safety and pressure relief. (Source: Rembe)

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The first Rembe rupture discs came onto the German market in the early 70s — at that time they were still completely machined by hand. Today, the company from the Sauerland region does not just develop and manufacture safety concepts for plants and equipment of the process industries. The focus is always on finding the optimum solution to protect the plant, people and the environment.

An explosion in a food production plant in Cairo on March 28, 2016 caused seven dead and around 60 injuries. For a company that stands for enjoyable products, such accidents are not only catastrophic in human terms. The associated damage to the image is sometimes immense, and its costs far exceed those of the reconstruction. Consumers and investors are increasingly making decisions based on their social and ecological conscience.

So it is not surprising that in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries, investments in plant safety are high on the list of priorities. Pressure relief and explosion safety, to which Rembe has been committed since 1973, are of key importance. In Brilon, Germany, as well as in eight subsidiaries around the globe, some 250 employees develop, produce and install safety concepts for plants and equipment. Consulting, engineering and service complement the products primarily developed and manufactured in-house. The overarching goal is always the optimum protection of production plants and the people who work in them. Because for the experts from the Sauerland, “Safety for life” is much more than just a slogan. It is a meaningful driver during the daily work and also a personal responsibility.

From Rupture Disc to Holistic Safety Concepts

The process industries are under pressure — literally. If the pressure is too high or too low, the affected plant components can suffer severe damage. Therefore, in the event that the pressure rises above or falls below the specified limits, a reliable and fast reacting relief device is required. And this does not just apply to the enormous pressure wave of an explosion. Here, Rembe utilizes its decades of experience, which guarantee operators of process plants the ability to conduct honest analyses and attain a high product quality: “Because safety is more than just a product. It is a question of trust that we have earned with competence, transparency and responsibility. This enables us to optimise the processes, productions and products of our contracting entity in a targeted manner,” emphasises Rembe Managing Director Stefan Penno.

Preventive or Protective Measures

The basis of every explosion safety concept is a systematic risk analysis. The first step is to check the probability for the build up of explosive atmospheres and potentially effective ignition sources before classifying the effects of an explosion. Both evaluations are combined in a matrix. The key figures determined indicate whether and to what extent a plant or part of a plant must be protected.

Preventive measures are aimed at preventing an explosive atmosphere, for example by avoiding flammable substances or isolating the plant component. In addition, effective ignition sources should be avoided. The objective is always to exclude the prerequisite for an explosion from the very start by avoiding at least one of the three requirements of an explosion — oxygen, fuel, ignition source. This is particularly important in chemical and pharmaceutical processes, where critical substances are usually handled. However, preventive measures are not always feasible because:

  • a safe and complete avoidance of effective ignition sources is almost never feasible due to the process;
  • an isolation, especially with larger facilities, is usually too cost-intensive and/or not possible due to the process.

In these cases, plants and components must be protected in order to reduce the effects of an explosion to a tolerable level. In addition to a pressure-resistant design, explosion venting, isolation and explosion suppression are common ways of limiting the damage caused by an explosion. However, pressure-resistant plants are often not sensible due to cost and/or process limitations.

Explosion Safety in the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industry

Dr.-Ing. Johannes Lottermann, Rembe: “Our aim is to sell the best solution, not just a product. This is the foundation on which successful partnerships develop.”
Dr.-Ing. Johannes Lottermann, Rembe: “Our aim is to sell the best solution, not just a product. This is the foundation on which successful partnerships develop.” (Source: Rembe)

Silos must also be protected by explosion systems if it is not possible to exclude all potential ignition sources. Isolation is often not even considered due to the size of the facilities. Every production facility is unique and has different requirements. That is why Rembe's safety experts inspect the plants together with the operators and also think outside the box and beyond the order book. For example, it was possible to isolate a large silo complex of a construction material production contrary to the expectations. Rembe brought it to the attention of the company that the nitrogen produced as a by-product in a neighbouring plant could be used to avoid an explosive atmosphere in the own plant. For Dr.-Ing. Johannes Lottermann, Director Explosion Safety, intelligent solutions are more important than sales here: “Our aim is to sell the best solution, not just a product. This is the foundation on which successful partnerships develop.”

However, such preventive actions are often not possible, and protective explosion systems are demanded. These can vary considerably depending on the industry, product or requirement. Through this, it is possible to protect silos or spray drying plants through venting using explosion vents — such as the EGV explosion vent. It is suitable for processes with zero to low pressure or vacuum. When pressure rises, the EGV explosion vent opens at the defined breaking points and releases pressure and flames out of the vessel into the surrounding area. Thanks to the low surface weight, a high venting capacity and the full bore opening release will be possible.

Pharmaceutical processes in a batch operation with sometimes very short production times have to be cleaned frequently. In order to avoid cross-contamination through product residues, the explosion safety elements must also meet the hygienic requirements of the pharmaceutical industry. The patented, full-flat, chamfered gasket system of the EGV HYP hygienic vent panel is flush with the inside of the vent panel. An advance in terms of cleanability.

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