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Safety Awareness

These articles on DCU Safety Awareness are written by people who work in the field.  We can all learn from each other’s safe and unsafe experiences.  Send in your story

Startup Support

Are you starting up or commissioning a new grassroots delayed coker? The cost to design, purchase, and build that unit is likely to exceeded $1 Billion USD. How many people at your plant have actually operated at delayed coker? Not very many refineries have more than 1 delayed coker so unless you hired all experienced people from your competition, most of the plant staff are learning on the fly. The team of experts has experience operating all types of licensor designs and equipment manufacturers. Getting outside support from third party, industry experts... more

Turnaround Support

Refinery turnarounds are major events that involve years of planning and large teams to execute.  Proper planning and execution can have a major impact on the turnaround itself and the future operation of the unit.  Best in class delayed cokers can operate 7+ years between turnarounds.  With that amount of time and rapid industry staff turnover, it is entirely possible that the team of people planning and executing your delayed coker turnaround have little or no experience with the aspects of your unique unit that are commonly encountered during a... more


Problems will arise in the day to day operation of a delayed coker that will defy explanation.  Common problems include heater fouling, coke drum foaming, product quality, drill stem breakage, etc.  You can rely on internal experience with limited exposure to such issues or you can reach out to industry experts. The Experts at Can Help They have the expertise to discover the problem and to initiate the solutions that have been verified through experience.  The path to resolution starts with knowing when to ask for help. Some examples... more


Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) and Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) are a requirement for our industry.  In the USA, these processes are mandated by Process Safety Management (PSM) and OSHA (OSHA 29 Part 1910.119).  The names vary around the world but the goal is always the same…prevent the release of high hazardous chemicals.  PSM is an evergreen activity that must be revisited with each change (management of change or MOC) in the plant.  Properly identifying the risks and control strategies for those risks is critical to the safety, reliability and profitability of the... more

Incident Investigation

Trouble with the law? Call 1-800…..Coker. (360.966.7251) Incidents that involve injury or process loss can have a significant impact on the plant.  Getting to the bottom of the causes, all of the causes, is an important step in the process of moving forward.  For many years, the delayed coker was the most dangerous (statistically speaking) unit in the refinery.  Recent industry improvement and innovation has drastically changed this stereotype.  Today, the delayed coker can be as safe and environmentally responsible as any other unit in the refinery.  Understanding the root cause... more

Valve in Hand

Switching heater change pumps in a coker is always a rush. How bad did we bounce the heaters? Everyone at the ready in case the check valve doesn’t hold. Ready to switch back if the spare has problems. We all know that when working with the heart of a unit you need to be careful. The suction pressure valve is 50# at 720 degrees and the discharge is 575#. After a routine switch of pumps–heater flows looked ok, spare running fine—we went ahead and got the main pump set in... more

Finish Your Work

I was working the coker ground one night. One of my jobs is to put the stabilizer product pump back in service. I’m at closing the bleeds and pulling tags when I went to open the suction block valve. I got a spray of coker naphtha straight into the chest. I closed the valve in a stream of naphtha. I found out during pump maintenance that someone was GOING TO replace the suction pressure gauge, but only got as far as removing the supply tubing to the gauge which was aimed at... more

Blown Away

Training in a coker unit is a challenge with how active we are in our daily routines. As I was walking back with a newbee from following flows at the heater, the newbee says, “Look at that steam cloud by the pump.” As soon as I looked in the direction he was pointing, I knew that was not steam. We walked closer and could see the vapor cloud was coming from the stove oil pump. I called the other operators and the newbee and I set one of the fire... more

Spool-piece in wrong place

A spool-piece was installed in a line, upstream of a flow orifice. For reasons unknown, the wall thickness of the spool piece was never checked in over two years. One sunny day the spool-piece broke and twelve men lost their lives. Lessons learned: Make sure spool-pieces are in the right places (downstream of orifices) Make sure that statutory inspections are carried out. You can pay a helluva price for failing to do so! Thanks to Marius Grobler for contributing this article.... more

HAZOP: HAZard and OPerability

Some problem at a downstream unit prevented us from slopping coker gas oil (CGO) for a period of time. To solve the problem a tanker was pulled up for slop catchment. A flexible hoze was attached to the vent line of the CGO slop line, and fitted with a valve. Two days later one of the Process Controllers was injured (minor burn injuries) when the tanker primed during slop action. Lessons learned: ALWAYS do a HAZOP! No matter how menial the task seems. Make sure that the people have the... more