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Safety Moment #57: Equipment Spacing (Pumps/Fireproofed Pipe Racks)

September 4, 2018
Pump in process plant

One of the most difficult challenges faced by process safety professionals is that of equipment spacing. On most facilities, especially offshore, space is at a premium and there is a lot of economic pressure to place items close to one another. Doing so not only saves space but reduces the costs to do with long pipe runs.

On existing facilities where the equipment is already in place, a process safety analysis may recommend that additional safeguards, such as an automatic deluge system, be installed if it determined that items are too close to one another.

But, in general, keeping items well away from one another improves safety for the following reasons:

  • A fire is less likely to spread.
  • There is less likelihood of someone injuring themselves during routine operations or maintenance.
  • There is more access space for the emergency response team and their equipment.

There are many regulations, codes and standards to do with equipment spacing and layout. Examples are:

  • API Recommended Practice 752 —Management of Hazards Associated with Location of Process Plant Buildings
  • The National Electrical Code 70; and
  • API Recommended Practice 14J — Design and Hazards Analysis for Offshore Production Facilities.

In addition, many companies have their own standards and guidance.

The use of standards can also be supplemented by vapor dispersion analysis and other types of modeling.

Within this framework of regulations and engineering standards it is useful to have general guidance to do with acceptable spacing. We will be publishing the occasional safety moment on this topic. The first of these is Safety Moment #57: Equipment Spacing (Pumps/Fireproofed Pipe Racks).

Pumps are a frequent source of leaks, and they are often located close to piping, so their location is important.

Air coolers are also included in the Safety Moment because they can draw leaking vapors into their suction and disperse them over a wide area.

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