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S K Biswas and S K Hazra

Hindustan Aegis LPG Bottling Company Limited, Mumbai, India


Hindustan Aegis LPG Bottling Company Limited (HALPG) is the first company in the private sector in
India to set up a greenfield refrigerated LPG import terminal in 1997. The second such terminal was set
up in the same year at Kandla by Indian Oil Corporation, a Government of India Undertaking.

HALPG s terminal, located at Mumbai, has two storage tanks of 10,000 metric tons capacity each, one
storing LPG and the other propane. The terminal has also handled propylene. The tanks were designed as
per BS: 7777 in technical collaboration with Tractebel Gas Engineering GmbH, Germany.

Propane and LPG are received in refrigerated condition from ocean tankers berthed at Pir Pau jetty, which
is situated 4.5 km away from the terminal. Propane is pumped from storage tank through a 75 km long
pipeline to Indian Petrochemical Corporation Limited (IPCL), where it is used as a feedstock. LPG is
currently loaded into road tankers and despatched to bulk consumers.

For a company entering into this new field of business and with a technology that is first of its kind in the
country, it was very satisfying that a smooth start up was achieved and with a high standard of safety.
This paper discusses how this was ensured through planning and control at various stages, starting from
design through precommissioning and commissioning, to normal operation. Certain issues affecting
safety and operability, which arose in initial stages, have been successfully addressed and these have been
highlighted in the paper.


Hindustan Aegis LPG Bottling Company Limited (HALPG), a company in private sector in India, set up
a terminal at Trombay in 1997 for importing LPG. The terminal consists of two refrigerated storage tanks
of 10,000 metric tons capacity each, one for propane and the other for mixed LPG. LPG and propane are
received in ships at Pir Pau jetty under Mumbai Port Trust and pumped through a 4.5 km long pre-chilled
pipeline to respective storage tanks located in the terminal. Propane is sent out from the storage tank
through a pipeline to Indian Petrochemical Corporation Limited, located approximately 75 km away. LPG
is filled into road tankers and despatched to bulk consumers.

The LPG terminal is located on the same site as a chemical storage terminal owned by Aegis Chemical
Industries Limited, a group company of HALPG. The chemical storage terminal has been in operation for
the last 3 decades for import and export of liquid petroleum and petrochemical products. A broad site
layout is shown in Figure 1.

HALPG being a new entrant in the field of LPG, special attention was paid from the very beginning to
acquire adequate knowledge and expertise relating to safe handling of the product. HAZOP and risk
assessment studies were carried out and recommendations implemented in design and construction of the

plant to minimise risk. Tractebel Gas Engineering GmbH, who have a high reputation for executing turn-
key projects involving liquefied gas terminals, were chosen as the design and engineering contractors and
they were fully involved in the entire implementation of this project. Formal systems and procedures were
evolved and put in place before commencement of commissioning.

All these efforts have yielded good dividends in the form of safe start up and subsequent trouble-free
operation of the plant.


A block diagram for propane and butane operation is shown in Figure 2.

2.1 Storage Tanks

The storage tanks for propane and LPG are designed for operation under refrigerated condition at
atmospheric pressure. This is recognised to be an intrinsically safer method of storage compared to
pressurised storage at ambient temperature. Some of the important safety aspects of the system are as

• The tanks are of double-walled full containment type, designed to BS 7777. Both inner and outer
tanks are made of low temperature carbon steel. Therefore, the outer tank should be capable of
containing any liquid in the event of a leakage from the inner tank. Two independent systems have
been provided for level sensing and control in order to avoid overfilling of the inner tank during ship

• The tank has no liquid outlet at the bottom. Hence, a common cause of leakage through a bottom
valve and associated flange joint has been eliminated. Transfer of liquid from the tank is done through
an in-tank (submerged) pump. Gas detectors have been provided to detect any leakage from the
overhead piping, which would activate an alarm in the control room enabling the operator to stop the
pump. This in turn would stop leakage of any liquid. Even the escape of gas would be at a low rate
because the storage system is at atmospheric pressure.

• Pressure in the tank is controlled at safe levels by compression and reliquefaction of the boil-off gas.
Standby compressors have been provided against breakdown. Emergency generators have been
provided against power failure. Control is normally achieved through PLC, which has a standby. A
parallel manually operable hardwired system has been provided for running the compressor, should
the spare PLC also fail.

• Actual data on pressure profile for storage tanks (which are insulated) show a slow rate of rise during
storage. Once the compressor has stopped at a tank pressure of 50 mbar gauge, it would take 6 to 8
hours for the pressure to rise to 160 mbar gauge, the set pressure for a PSV to release the gas through
a vent stack. Hence, enough time is available for the operators to act.

• Multiple levels of protection have been provided against overpressure, as a result of which the
likelihood of accidental release through vent stack during operation is negligibly low (risk assessment
study has shown the frequency of such a release to be 10-13 per year). At such a low demand rate, a
flare is not expected to function with a good level of reliability. Therefore, it was decided to provide a
vent stack in preference to a flare. The height of the vent stack was chosen to be 40 m based on

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dispersion calculations under various scenarios. Measurements with LEL meters at various locations
throughout the site during initial purging of the tank confirmed the results of dispersion calculations.

The philosophy of safe dispersion through vent stack was tested during a natural catastrophe that
befell the Indian port of Kandla in 1998. A cyclonic storm and the resulting water surges on the sea
killed hundreds of people and caused large scale property damages on the shore. India s first
greenfield refrigerated LPG terminal (commissioned early 1997, storage capacity 30,000 metric tons)
set up by Indian Oil Corporation, a Government of India Undertaking, is located in this port. The
boundary walls of this terminal were destroyed and the ship unloading pipelines heavily damaged.
The entire terminal was flooded with water 4 ft deep and the electric power supply could be restored
only after 2 weeks. Boil-off gas from the two 15,000 metric ton storage tanks escaped through a 48 m
tall flare stack but the flare could not be operated because even the emergency generators could not be
started for a week. The gas dispersed safely without any ignition.

2.2 Pipelines

Ship unloading and chilling pipelines between the jetty and the terminal are made of low temperature
carbon steel, suitable for refrigerated products. The pipelines are of all welded construction, having no
small bore branch or tube connections in the long stretch between the jetty and the terminal. The design
followed ANSI 300 lb rating even though the maximum operating pressure is about 5 bar gauge at the
jetty end. Maximum surge pressure likely to develop in the event of a sudden operation of the shut-down
valve was estimated to be about 12 bar gauge, which is well within the pipeline design pressure.

The unloading and chilling pipelines are insulated. Nevertheless, heat ingress in the pipeline is sufficient
to empty the entire liquid hold-up in the pipeline into the storage tank within 2 days after completion of
the unloading operation. Hence, for 90% of the time, the pipeline contains no LPG liquid but only vapour
at atmospheric pressure.

2.3 Ship Unloading

Hoses being intrinsically unsafe, an unloading arm has been provided to transfer LPG from the ship s
manifold to the unloading pipeline. During ship unloading, the jetty is constantly manned by the terminal
staff who maintain communication between the ship and the terminal and co-ordinate the unloading
operation. An emergency shutdown system has been provided to stop the unloading operation in the event
of an abnormality. Essential features of this shutdown system are:

- Provision of an automatic quick-closing valve (QCV) on the unloading line at the jetty, closing
time having been adjusted at 30 seconds to avoid development of surge pressures.

- Facility at the jetty for local operation of the QCV.

- An ESD panel at a safe location from the jetty for remote operation of the QCV.

- Automatic closing of the QCV in the event of a sudden pressure drop such as caused by a pipe
break during pumping.

- Automatic closing of QCV in case the indicator of the unloading arm enters yellow area from

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- Gas detector system with alarm and light indicator.

- Automatic closing of the QCV in case of gas detection.

In addition, terminal staff patrol the pipeline route round the clock whenever there is an unloading

After completion of the unloading operation and before disconnecting the unloading arm, the ship is
required to supply compressed LPG vapour through the unloading arm until the liquid hold-up has been
pushed beyond the isolation valve on the pipeline at the jetty. This avoids any major liquid spillage
following disconnection of the unloading arm. After disconnection, compressed LPG vapour is supplied
from the terminal through the chilling line to quicken emptying of the unloading line into the tank.

2.4 Truck Loading

Loading of road tankers is done with the help of loading arms. Before commencing the loading operation,
a checklist is used to ensure that the transfer is carried out safely. These checks include earthing of the
tank truck, placing blocks underneath the wheels and taking charge of the ignition key from the driver
until the operation has been completed.

In order to avoid overfilling of the road tankers, a flow meter is provided on each loading line with a
switch to close the loading line valve when a preset quantity has been transferred. Additionally, the
operator is required to monitor the quantity loaded by checking the liquid level at intervals by means of
the roto-gauge provided on each tanker.

The liquid hold-up between the loading arm and the tanker bottom is 1.5 kg. This is released to the vent
stack before disconnecting the tanker from the loading arm.

Operations in the truck loading area are constantly monitored from the control room through a closed
circuit television. In case of any abnormality, loading operation can be stopped and deluge spray system
can be started from the control room.


Out of the two tanks, the first tank was commissioned for LPG using commercial butane. The second tank
was commissioned for propane 3 months later. The broad steps in the procedures followed for the first
tank are described below, those for the second tank being essentially similar.

3.1 Precommissioning

The unloading pipelines, the storage tank and the inter-connecting pipelines were all cleaned and dried
with air. This was followed by displacement of air with dry nitrogen. Nitrogen purging was continued
until the oxygen concentration came down to less than 3% and the dew point to less than minus 10 °C.
Since no air drying facility was available at the site, it took several weeks to dry the pipelines down to this
dew point level. This also meant a large loss of expensive nitrogen.

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3.2 Commissioning

Commissioning involved gassing up, cooling down of storage tank, and the first ship unloading, in that

3.2.1 Gassing Up

Commercial butane vapour was used to displace nitrogen from the system — storage tank, compressor,
condenser, associated pipelines, and ship unloading lines. Commercial butane liquid procured in road
tankers was stored in two surge vessels. These vessels are pressure vessels and were originally provided
for mixing propane and butane in batches prior to loading into LPG trucks.

LPG vapour from the surge vessels was gradually introduced into the bottom of the storage tank, thus
displacing the lighter nitrogen in the tank, which escaped through the vent stack to atmosphere. Since the
surge vessels were provided with fireproof insulation, there was no heat ingress from the atmosphere. As
a result, pressure in the vessels came down. Therefore, to maintain a reasonable rate of gas supply to the
tank, additional road tankers, which are not insulated, were connected in parallel.

Gassing up operation was taken as complete when the nitrogen concentration in the purged gas was down
to less than 1%. By then, butane gas of about 2 times the tank volume was used up and the tank
temperature had fallen to below 10 °C. Well before this stage was reached, the purge gas was diverted
through the ship unloading and chilling lines instead of being directly released through the vent stack.
This enabled gassing up of the pipelines with conservation of butane vapour.

3.2.2 Cooling Down of Storage Tank

On completion of the gassing up, cooling of the storage tank was started by spraying liquid butane from
surge vessels into the tank. The boil off gas compressor was started and the reliquefied product from the
condenser recycled to the tank. The pressure in the tank was maintained in the region of 70 to 100 mbar
gauge, when the tank temperature was about 0 °C. The operation was continued until sufficient liquid had
accumulated in the tank for the level indicator to show a reading.

3.3.3 First Ship Unloading

The normal procedure of pre-chilling of the unloading line could not be followed in this case as this
would have required procuring a large amount of butane in road tankers to fill the storage tank to a level
higher than that required for safe operation of the in-tank pump. Therefore, chilling the pipeline was done
by taking butane directly from the ship at a slow rate.

Once the pipeline was chilled, the unloading rate was gradually increased. This was continued for nearly
12 hours when the rate started dropping, indicating a choke in the pipeline. Choking occurred at the
strainer which was provided in the pipeline based on HAZOP study recommendation to prevent the in-
tank pump from being damaged by extraneous solids. A bypass around the strainer was also installed with
necessary isolation valves.

On detection of the choke, the unloading was stopped. Isolation valves were closed and the liquid
downstream of the valves was allowed to be driven into the tank by pressure differential. One of the
flanges was then slowly opened when butane liquid started coming out profusely. Realising that solid
muck must have accumulated on the seats of isolation valves, which made closing of the valves
impossible, the flange joint was tightened back immediately to stop the leakage.

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A period of some 12 hours was then allowed to enable as much butane as possible to be sucked into the
tank. Thereafter, a good water spray was started and a flange joint was loosened slowly. The water spray
helped the leaking butane to immediately vaporise and disperse safely. The procedure was followed for
other flange joints, one after another, until the entire hold-up escaped. The joints were then opened up,
strainer removed and the valves cleaned up.

On restarting, the system operated smoothly, and the design unloading rate could be reached within 2 to 3

The captain of the ship later mentioned about similar experience elsewhere. According to him, a lot of
iron dust is generated when a pipeline is exposed to a refrigerated LPG for the first time.


The terminal has been operating satisfactorily since commissioning in June 1997. However, certain
changes from original design intentions have been implemented for improved safety and efficiency. These
are discussed below.

4.1 Surge Vessels

It was recognised at the design stage that the two surge vessels were potential sources for BLEVE.
Therefore, in order to minimise the probability of a BLEVE, a number of steps were taken during design.
These included locating all nozzle connections from the top of the vessel except for the bottom liquid
outlet, construction of a fireproof wall between the vessel and the first isolation valve on the liquid outlet
line, and providing fireproof insulation and deluge water sprinklers for the vessels.

Also, the need for carrying out mixing in the surge vessels was re-examined. Commercial enquiries
revealed that mixed products could be imported directly. Therefore, surge vessels were decommissioned
and disconnected from the system. Truck loading is now done directly by in-tank pump through an on-
line heater where the temperature is raised to about 10 °C. Elimination of batch mixing has also improved

4.2 In-tank Mixing

It was originally intended that LPG for sale to bulk consumers would consist of commercial butane.
Accordingly, the first cargo was brought in as butane. It was soon realised that entering the market would
be extremely difficult unless the product was a mixture of propane and butane with a good vapour
pressure. Therefore, it became a commercial compulsion to mix the product in the tank with propane or a
propane rich LPG mix.

The possibility of a roll-over during mixing of propane and butane in an atmospheric pressure tank is
well-known. Therefore, a process to be followed for adding propane- containing LPG into butane in the
tank was evolved, after due technical consideration to avoid any layering. A new cargo of 2400 metric
tons of LPG containing 24% propane was obtained for mixing with nearly 4500 metric tons of butane
already in the tank. Addition was started at a slow rate with the in-tank pump on circulation mode.
Temperature indicators at various levels in the tank were constantly monitored to ensure that desired
mixing was taking place. Heat ingress was higher than normal because of re-circulation by the pump.
Therefore, an additional compressor was put on line to maintain tank pressure within safe limits.

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In a second campaign after 7 weeks, 6400 metric tons of LPG containing 44% propane was mixed with
3600 metric tons of LPG (containing 8% propane) already in the tank by following the same procedure.
Propane concentration in the tank thus reached 31%. All subsequent cargoes consisted of mixed products
with 30 to 40% propane, when unloading could be carried out as per normal procedure.

4.3 Energy Conservation

In the storage tank, propane is held at minus 42 °C and LPG at minus 25 to minus 30 °C depending upon
composition. Before LPG is loaded into road tankers, it is required to be heated to approximately 10 °C
because the tankers are not made of low temperature carbon steel. Similarly since the pipeline to
Nagothane is not suitable for low temperatures, propane needs to be heated to 10 °C before leaving the
plant battery limit. In either case, heating is done by circulating cooling water. Cooling water is also used
as cooling medium in condensers for reliquefaction of propane and LPG boil-off gases.

In the beginning and until commissioning of the propane tank, it was observed that the temperature of
circulating cooling water could be maintained by keeping the fans in cooling towers in the off position.
After commencement of propane supply to Nagothane, it became necessary to augment the heat supply.
While a new heating system based on additional water pumping was being designed, the terminal
manager observed that keeping the cooling tower fans in the on position solved the problem. The
explanation lies in the fact that with temperatures at Bombay throughout the day being well above 25 °C,
the cooling tower in fact operates as a heating tower giving an average temperature of about 20 °C for
the cooling water.

Thus, the need for a new heater has disappeared.

4.4 Control Room Location

Originally, the control room for LPG was located in the plant area for better control on truck loading
operations. The location conformed to NFPA 58 and was also approved by the authorities. However, the
subsequent risk assessment brought out the desirability of shifting the control room to a much safer
location. Accordingly, the control room has been shifted to a new location, about 150 m away from the
plant facilities. All cables and instrument signal lines between the old and the new control rooms have
been protected with concrete cover against external fire.


Before commissioning the LPG terminal, the company issued a formal safety policy for the site. This
policy reflects company s commitment to safety, health and environmental protection and to comply with
applicable laws and regulations. In pursuance of this policy, the company issued a safety manual laying
down systems and procedures to be followed at the terminal and assigning responsibilities therefor to
specific individuals. Some of the important aspects of this manual are given below.

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5.1 Training

The company recognises that the quality of the operating personnel is a key requirement for safe
operation of a plant. In the present case, personnel with appropriate academic background and plant
experience were recruited months before commissioning. They were attached to the project team for
familiarisation and were involved actively in documentation, plant checks and development of operating
procedures. A team of supervisors was also given 6 weeks practical training at Antwerp Gas Terminal,
Belgium. A LPG specific fire safety training course was also organised at the site through an experienced
consultant from the Netherlands.

5.2 Permit to Work Procedure

In appreciation of the fact that a large proportion of accidents in chemical plants is caused by faulty
operation of permit to work procedures, the company designed a permit form specifically tailored to meet
the job requirements in the terminal. Process and maintenance personnel were given a thorough training
on the purpose of the form and how to use it correctly. Audits are carried out at regular intervals to ensure

5.3 Management of Change

Even before the terminal was commissioned, the company anticipated that modifications to plants and
processes would be required from time to time in the interest of safety, operability and productivity
improvement. A formal procedure was therefore laid down, which involves assessments by Operations
Manager, Technical Manager, Fire and Safety Manager, Engineering Manager, and finally the Terminal
Manager who is responsible for approval. HAZOP study generally forms a part of this assessment. The
system has been religiously followed for all modification jobs carried out in the last 3 years.

5.4 Plant Maintenance

The company has a preventive maintenance system in place for all critical equipment, e.g., compressors,
pumps, heat exchangers, emergency diesel generators and fire water pumps. Particular attention is also
paid to testing of all safety-related equipment, such as, gas detectors, fire detectors, pressure safety valves,
trips, alarms and fire fighting equipment. The results are documented.

5.5 Unusual Occurrence Reporting and Investigation

The company has defined an unusual occurrence as any unwanted abnormal incident irrespective of its
magnitude, e.g., fire or spillage, leakage and emission of hazardous materials. This may or may not be
accompanied by an injury. The company has laid down a system for reporting and investigating all such
occurrences and for the dissemination of lessons learned to prevent recurrence.

5.6 Emergency Preparedness

Before commissioning of the LPG facilities, the company prepared a comprehensive emergency
management plan, which was circulated amongst the operating personnel. Based on the risk assessment
study, identified emergency scenarios were included in the plan together with actions to be taken in each

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case to prevent escalation. Roles of essential staff were defined and contact addresses and telephone
numbers listed. Mock drills are conducted twice a year and the plan is revised once a year based on
experience in mock drills.


Although the company has been operating its refrigerated LPG terminal safely and successfully in the last
3 years, the company is seeking continuous improvement for which it needs mutual sharing of knowledge
with others. One of the areas where no code or guideline appears to exist at present is with regard to
inspection and testing of storage tank and pipelines which have been in operation. Since these are
insulated, detection of a fault visually at an early stage is not possible until there has been sufficient
leakage to cause water condensation or ice formation on the surface of the insulation. Any guidance on
this, if available, would be very welcome.

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Fig 1: Broad Layout of LPG / Chemical Storage Terminal

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Vent Stack
From Ship
Surge Vessel

Heater Road Tanker


Condenser Booster
From Ship TANK To IPCL


Fig 2: Block Diagram for Propane and LPG Operations

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