Exclusive Interview: Milestone Explosion Safety/Pressure Relief Safety Is a Question of Trust
Operational safety needs reliable partnerships — when it comes to safety, there should not be any compromises. But how do you find the right supplier for safety-relevant components? And how do you ensure that you will ultimately receive the optimal solution to protect your plants and your employees? Stefan Penno, Managing Director of Rembe, and Nils Lange, Process Engineer at Rembe, know that the details matter.
PROCESS: Mr. Penno, what distinguishes a supplier of safety-relevant components?
Penno: First and foremost operational safety is a matter of trust. Here, you need a partner you can rely on. Above all, this partner should be independent. As an owner-managed medium-sized company, for example, we think and plan for the long-term — as opposed to many corporate groups. We are less interested in short-term profits, but rather in solid partnerships. This enables us to develop the best solution for our customer. Even if it means not selling a Rembe product.
PROCESS: What would you sell instead?
Penno: Our engineering experts work together with the customer to develop the optimum safety concept. Thanks to our broad range of products, we can also implement many solutions ourselves. If the developed safety concept includes a product that we do not have in our range, we will collaborate with selected partners to attain the desired results. My advice is to thoroughly scrutinize your suppliers. No one can be good at everything. This will help to ensure that you will ultimately receive economical, durable and above all safe products and solutions.
PROCESS: But how can I recognize this as an operator?
Penno: One indication of this could be the number of awarded certifications. However, the individual will only be interested in those that are relevant to him or her. But you have to keep in mind that every certification has a different purpose. The company must be adequately prepared for this and, if applicable, adapt the respective processes. With each certification, the company collects additional comprehensive knowledge of the most diverse requirements. With each certification it proves its expertise within the market.
PROCESS: That is a lot of theory, what does it look like in practice? What should operators pay special attention to when selecting a rupture disc?
Lange: Rupture discs are not standardised products. We always adapt them individually to the specific operating conditions of the processes. We have to consider a wide range of parameters in order to ensure that every rupture disc functions perfectly.
PROCESS: Which parameters should the operator specify?
Lange: Basically all of them. In order to be able to develop a rupture disc in the best possible way for the respective application, we want to know as much as possible about the process. Even the slightest misinformation can lead to the fact that a rupture disc that has been initially designed correctly, will not be optimal for the process in the end. After all, the rupture disc should only respond at the defined burst pressure. This is the only way to protect the system from overpressure or vacuum.
PROCESS: What are the consequences for operators?
Lange: An example: Let's assume Rembe has designed a rupture disc for a burst pressure of 1 bar at an operating temperature of 400 °C. However, if this rupture disc is used in a process with an operating temperature of 22 °C, the rupture disc will respond to a different burst pressure. Why? The material behaviour changes with temperature. At high temperatures the material can be significantly weaker compared to the ambient temperature. If the rupture disc is now operated at 22 °C, the material has a higher strength. This automatically increases the burst pressure. In this example, however, the vessel is only approved for pressures of up to 1 bar, and the system is therefore no longer safely protected. When designing the rupture disc, we must therefore consider the temperature-related properties of the metal.
PROCESS: How can such misinformation occur?
Lange: This can have different causes: Missing data sheets, revisions of norms and standards, confidential process information or new media or mixtures. The coordination between the operators and ourselves is therefore of key importance.
Milestone Explosion Safety/Pressure Relief
Competence in Safety Matters
PROCESS: What can an operator do if there is no documentation?
Lange: The most recent example was an approx. 45 year old pressure vessel which was neither serviced, nor was there any data about the pressure vessel available. We have advised the customer to have a safety assessment conducted by our partner CSE (Center of Safety Excellence). This includes the vessel, the pipeline and the fittings. This determines which risks must be taken into account during operation and which pressure relief is required. Certainly an extreme example. But it shows that even if we do not have any data, we can work with our partners to protect every plant.
PROCESS: So nobody has to trust Rembe blindly?
Penno: Not at all. We focus on transparency. Surely it is difficult to prove that precisely this rupture disc will protect exactly that process. But we still have several options to review our safety solutions, for example, at our Research + Technology Center. Furthermore, we always manufacture an additional rupture disc and subject it to a burst test before delivery. For very complex applications we also work together with our partner CSE. In this way we can ensure a maximum degree of safety of process plants with real-world tests.
PROCESS: Rembe works with partners in a broad variety of organization units. What criteria do you apply to make your choice?
Penno: As someone who manufactures safety-relevant components, we have to keep an eye on everything. This starts with the suppliers. No matter how well designed and manufactured a rupture disc may be, if the material does not meet our stringent quality specifications, it cannot protect the facilities as specified. We therefore audit all of our suppliers. We do not just check the quality of the products and the production method. We also inquire about the neutrality, financial situation and the ethical attitude of the respective companies.
PROCESS: Mr. Penno, Mr Lange, thank you for the interview.