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Safety Nugget Week of May 9 - The Seal That Didn't Perform< Back to Blog

May 18, 2016
By: K. McCarley
Categories: Safety

This Safety Nugget was taken from the July 2002 Safety Beacon, published by Center for Chemical Process Safety, or CCPS: http://www.tulane.edu/~bmitche/aiche/psb0802.pdf

A pump seal on the FRI experimental unit recently failed during operations.  It can be considered a near miss because there was no substantial loss of hydrocarbons from the unit, but it could result in a loss of containment. 

Pump seals and the material of construction are designed specifically for each application.  Design of pump seals at the FRI experimental unit are a challenge due to the broad range of operating conditions required for experimental work. 

Fortunately, the leak in the pump seal was identified early, during a routine walk through, by observation of increased level in the seal pot.  Operational changes and awareness came from the investigation following the incident.  If the pump were to continue operation there was a potential for severe damage to the pump and loss of containment of hydrocarbons in the process area. 

Any incident that could lead to loss of containment should be treated seriously.  Loss of containment is a core focus of Process Safety Management that could lead to fire, chemical exposure or environmental contamination. 

Stay alert!

  • Be aware of leading indicators.  Repeated maintenance on a specific piece of equipment is an indicator of a potential hazard.
  • Look, listen and question what you observe in the process area.  The sound of cavitation, increasing levels in the seal pot or an odor can be an early sign of an issue.
  • Ask what can be done, take action and follow up.  Ensure that a solution is identified and implemented to address the hazard, and follow up to understand if the solution was effective.

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