How to avoid propane contamination in industrial furnaces

Posted by Tom McDevitt on Apr 14, 2016 8:00:00 AM

An industrial furnace customer operating a 1000 SCFH Ammonia Dissociator encountered unexplained “soot” buildup on their furnace belt, product, and flowmeter.  Prior to this incident the customer’s Drever Ammonia Dissociator had operated for many years trouble-free; however root-cause analysis revealed the following conditions that lead to this condition: propane was accidentally pumped into the ammonia storage tank servicing the ammonia dissociator.

Upon arrival at the customer’s facility to deliver bulk propane, the propane delivery driver misunderstood directions to locate the propane storage tank, being told to “go around to the back of the building where you’ll find the propane tank.”  The driver drove to the back of the building where he came upon an unmarked tank, and assumed incorrectly it was the propane tank.  The tank was not secured within locked fencing.  The driver proceeded to pump propane into the customer’s bulk ammonia storage tank leading to the soot contamination of the furnace belt, product, and atmosphere control system.

With proper labeling, written procedures, and effective training in place this incident was easily avoidable.  It’s a hard lesson to learn, but a lesson we all need reminding of from time to time.  Unfortunately in this case it was a costly lesson.  Fast action on the part of the customer’s maintenance personnel quickly identified the soot anomaly and the extent, and cost, of damage was contained.

The customer still had to absorb the unscheduled costs and production disruptions of shutting down the dissociator to empty the bulk ammonia storage tank to clean, evacuate, and refill it with new ammonia.  Then there was the cost and time associated with cooling the dissociator, breaking all lines, purging with dry nitrogen, and re-commissioning.

So remember, labels and work instructions do make a difference.

The Rose Corporation’s Industrial Furnace division manufactures for customers world-wide all types and configurations of industrial furnaces such as batch type reheat and forging, tip-up, roller hearth, bell, car-bottom, vacuum, electric arc, and many more for both atmosphere and non-atmosphere, batch and continuous applications.  The Rose Corporation has manufactured industrial furnaces under both our RoseTM  and DreverTM  furnace brands, as well as manufacturing customized furnaces to our customer-supplied design.  We also manufacture dissociative, atmosphere generating equipment. 

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