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Pressure-relieving and Depressuring Systems 51

5.15.7.5 Fire mitigation alternatives

The fire case can result in extremely large relief loads, particularly for liquid-filled air-coolers. Installation of
sufficient relief area for the fire case can result in the entire contents of the air-cooler being vented in a few
seconds. After venting, the tubes will no longer be wetted resulting in their prompt failure in the fire. Further, the
large relief load can significantly impact the design of the discharge system (i.e., knockout drum and flare).

Air-coolers essentially consist of piping with inlet and outlet manifolds. It is the convention not to consider sizing
pressure-relief devices for piping when considering the fire scenario. Instead of pressure relief, fire protection,
equipment isolation and other means are employed to mitigate the consequences of piping exposed to fire.
Similarly, mitigation options can be considered in lieu of a pressure-relief device for air-coolers when considering
the fire scenario. The following are guidelines to mitigate the fire case for air-coolers.

a) The air-cooler should not be located above equipment containing or transporting large amounts of flammable
liquids. Equipment in this classification includes pumps, heat exchangers, surge drums, reboilers and
accumulators, but rack piping can be normally excluded.

b) All grading below air-coolers should be sloped so that a pool fire does not occur below the air-cooler.

c) The air-coolers should be located either at the ends of a process unit or as far distant as possible from other
liquid full equipment.

d) If the location criteria cited above cannot be met, an automatic water deluge system should be considered to
cool the tubes if a fire should occur. Alternatively, a means to isolate the air-cooler from large inventories of
liquid during a fire should be considered. The use of remotely or automatically activated valves is the
preferred isolation method. Manual isolation can also be considered, provided the valves are in a location that
is accessible during a fire.

e) In some cases, the air-cooler cannot readily be isolated from major inventories of flammable or combustible
liquids (e.g. if the air-cooler is located between a tower and reflux drum). In these cases, it is prudent to have
the air-cooler free-draining towards the drum or column, thereby minimizing the wetted surface area exposed
to a fire.

5.16 Jet fires

Protection from jet-fire exposure is typically addressed through means other than pressure-relief devices because
failure often occurs due to localized overheating for which a pressure-relief device is ineffective.

Examples of different jet-fire characteristics are unpredictable flame-impingement points, significantly increased
heat loading to the vessel's wetted and unwetted surfaces, mainly due to higher flame temperatures [local
instantaneous heat fluxes within jet fires as high as 300 kW/m2 (94 500 Btu/ft2·h) have been reported] and the
effect of the jet velocity on fire-water deluge/monitor-vessel coverage.

Jet fires can occur when almost any combustible/flammable fluid under pressure is released to atmosphere. The
primary concern with jet-fire impingement is that the equipment can fail due to intense, localized overheating of
the metal wall where the jet fire impinges. Failure can occur even without increasing the pressure in the
equipment to the set point of the relief device. This is due to the localized nature of heating whereby the bulk fluid
temperature might not increase appreciably. Hence, a relief device (i.e., overpressure protection device) might not
prevent vessel failure from jet fire impingement.

Instead of a pressure-relief system, protection against jet fires focuses on prevention of leaks through proper
maintenance and/or mitigation systems such as fireproofing, depressuring systems, isolation of leaks, equipment
and/or flange orientation and minimization and emergency response. Installation of fireproofing provides
additional time (an impinging jet fire can cause vessel failure in less than 5 min, depending on the vessel's wall
thickness and material) but might not prevent failure as the fireproofing can be eroded by the momentum effects
of the jet fire. Depressuring systems are discussed in 5.20. Finally, unlike a pool fire, a jet fire can, in essence, be
turned off through isolation and depressurization of the jet fire source (i.e., leaking pipe, vessel or other
equipment).