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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 monitors on fog and sprayed the area. The wind was to our back and with the water fog from the fire monitor I could see the vapor was coming from the discharge gauge. We were able to block in the hex valve under the gauge and that was that. The Barton tube had ruptured on the 500 degrees 180 # stove oil, but my heart was still racing thinking of what could have been if that cloud would have found an ignition source.

Reader’s comments:

Marius Gobler
“While I was reading the “”Blown Away”” article, two things stuck out:

  1. The “newbee” sees the problem first – We become so accustomed to things being the way they are (steam blowing, a noise here, a whistle there) that we overlook an obvious irregulariy (meant in more ways than one)
  2. The EXPERIENCED operator ALWAYS has the wind in his/her back. Why? Gas and fumes!

I always taught my guys that, when handling an emergency:

  1. Determine the wind direction while you are
  2. Running away to a SAFE place
  3. Stop and THINK (the first rule of safety)
  4. Act

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

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