… But Management Probes Deeper
The Chronicle’s ongoing inquisition into the cause of the explosion of the 6 million Euro Crude Distillation Furnace at the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) is suggesting operational negligence that fateful day.
The 01-F61-R Furnace, which was commissioned on the December 2, 2016, exploded 55 days later, Thursday, January 26, 2017, and has incapacitated production at the refinery by 38%.
The TOR-Verga Engineers of Italy mounted furnace boosted operational capacity from 28,000 to 45,000 barrels per day.
The Chronicle gathered that three components of the furnace, namely damper, burner management system and soot-blower system, should all be operational for the installation to function as required.
The damper could be operated from dual sources, manual and electronic, and the whole process is regulated by a throttle to control the desired heat in the installation.
The Burner Management System controls combustible liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) through the 14 pipes into the chamber of the furnace.
The soot-blower system is from time to time activated to clean the crude oil pipes of the soot formed as a result of blazing in the chamber.
The Chronicle’s investigations revealed that on the day of the incident, works were ongoing on the control board, which, for unexplained reasons, resulted in the unexpected shutdown of the furnace.
By this time, the valves of all the 14 LPG pipes supplying combustible mixture into the furnace were not closed and continued to charge the chamber, while the damper, which is supposed to let out heat or otherwise, remained closed.
With the chamber compressed with LPG, the lighter was struck from the control room, resulting in the explosion of the furnace, which created big outlets south and east of the installation, sending fragments into the yard.
Information received in the course of the paper’s investigations suggested that there were some lapses at the control room, with regard to inexperienced hands being entrusted with the control system.
The paper’s enquiries also revealed that this is the second time this furnace, christened F61, has suffered such a huge breakdown.
According to credible sources at the plant, two furnaces were installed in 1963 by the then Ghanaian Italian Petroleum Company (GHAIP) and named Furnace 1 and Furnace 2, respectively.
Furnace 1 continues to function till date, but below is why Furnace 2 now becomes F61:
In the late 90s, when the administration of William S. Parker (of blessed memory) undertook expansion of the refinery, which work was done by SK Engineering of South Korea, it was detected that Furnace 2 had a small capacity, hence it was upgraded to provide the plant with 45,000 barrels per day, from 28,000 barrels, and remained so at its commissioning in 1997.
After less than a decade of operation, F61, which feeds from the same crude pipeline as Furnace 1, but separated through connectivity, collapsed out of being starved of enough crude.
At that time, there was no means to get out the ‘caked’ crude (which turned into charcoal) from the production lines, and it was agreed to replace it with a new one.
Interestingly, TOR internal findings of the damage of F61 pointed to a report that the Korean design is programmed to last for only 10 years, and so there was the need to place a new order from Italy, a report which allegedly covered the negligence leading to the damage of F61.
The administration of Dr Konadu K Sarpong went ahead to place the order, and Mr. Patrick Kingsley Kwame Awuah-Darko completed and commissioned it.
On the recent spillage of diesel into the metropolitan drain, the paper recalled its findings some 14 years ago at the plant when the entire Pump House got flooded.
Our findings were that the American Petroleum Institute (API) separator, which is an underground tank, is constructed to receive all forms of liquid at the refinery by means of pipes connected to it.
The only way fuel could leak in the yard into the metropolitan drain, would be due to a broken pipeline or defective storage tank, which is not connected to the separator.
Even with that, the pipelines are connected from the tanks, constructed with fixed and floating roofs, directly into the API separator.
The separator stores the liquid, and since water is heavier, the fuel is pumped back into a tank for refining.
The only reason fuel would spill into the drains is when some of these pipes from the field to the separator are blocked.
Meanwhile, the management of TOR has set up a 9-member committee of enquiry to the investigate circumstances leading to the explosion of 01-F61-R Furnace.
A letter, dated 27th January, 2017, and signed by Easmon Asamoah, Acting General Manager, Human Resource and Administration, named the members as Daniel Appiah – Chairman, Philip Adela, William Anum, Frances Brobbey, Sena bAgbekoh, Ubeidalah Saeed, Kwame Kodie, Stephen Konadu, with Philippa Joy Essien as Secretary.
The terms of reference for the committee are to investigate the circumstances leading to the cause of explosion of 01-61-R Furnace, to examine other related issues, to propose measures to prevent future recurrence, and to submit a report of findings and recommendations within two weeks after the inauguration of the committee, which took place on January 26, this year.
Furthermore, our investigations revealed that there is some level of indiscipline, which has crept into the yard and The Chronicle will bring it to readers in subsequent editions.
The Acting Managing Director of TOR, Mr Isaac Osei, when contacted, admitted that an investigative committee had been put in place.
According to him, engineers from the manufacturers, Verger Engineers of Italy, are expected in the country, after which action would be taken.
The Acting MD further stated that TOR has presently opened the furnace and drained the content to allow the investigators access into the installation.