When an industrial organization comes to the point that new parts or equipment are necessary, there are always design considerations to take into account. If circumstances require blast resistance throughout buildings and facilities, then those considerations become even more complex. Series of specifications regarding parts and assembly must be decided and many pertinent details must be reviewed. Some of these details include:
- Who is responsible to engineer the parts and processes
- Establishing an acceptable performance criteria
- Specification of blast design risks and loading
- Blast tolerance requirements and qualities
- Load combination rules
- Reliability of individual components, mechanisms, and systems
- Evaluation of building response to design loads
- Tolerance criteria with allowable stresses
- Layout of the plant and spacing considerations
Naturally, there will be many other factors to consider. In industries, such as the petrochemical industry, many of the processes and technology carries many different challenges and risks. These include the concerns for worker and facility safety in the event of explosion or fire due to mistakes made during hydrocarbon processing. Throughout the history of refining, there have been many accounts of disasters. One of these was due to pipe corrosion, which allowed superheated feed stock to leak through the rusted pipes, leading to as vapor cloud explosion. Over the years, many advances have been made in the processes and safety technologies related to the industries, but blasts remain a concern.
Low, Moderate, or High-Risk Potential
The goals established regarding build performance are written in response to the hazard potential of the structure. In a low-hazard situation, there may be no need for a blast-resistant design. Instead, the design may be geared more toward preventing and extinguishing fires. If there’s no risk of explosions, then conventional code requirements will guide the construction of the structure.
In situations involving moderate explosion potential or high-hazard potential, then blast-resistant design is required. This will be true for all buildings on the property that are used for or which perform essential functions. These include water pump systems, alarm systems, and automatic shutoff procedures. Each of these buildings will be assessed for explosion load capacity, appropriate elastic limits, and structural integrity. Evaluations of buildings typically include how the building will respond to over-pressure, fragments, and ground shock.
Top Considerations in Parts, Equipment, and Processes in Blast-Resistant Buildings
Government Oversight – In response to many of the events that occurred within this century, OSHA initiated a series of audits at U.S. refineries. These audits lead to the issue of citations in cases of failure to protect certain equipment at those facilities. The involvement of the government coincided with growing efforts to create strong, protective shelters. Professionals have worked to improve the design, assessment, and manufacture of these structures.
Protection of Personnel and Equipment – Engineers, owners, and risk managers at these facilities recognize the need to protect personnel in the event of accidental explosions. Providing this protection is the primary purpose of blast resistant shelters. Along with keeping personnel safe, these professionals recognize the need to keep critical power and control systems. Once the safety of personnel has been established, the next priority is to protect the equipment. This includes sustaining the operation of automatic shutoff systems, water pumps, and any other system that would be valuable to the resolution of high risk situations. Failure to protect equipment could lead to great risks to personnel, even when they are within the shelter.
Protection Against Losses – Once people and essential systems have been protected, the rest of the facility becomes the priority. In the event of a blast, expensive machinery and buildings may be at risk. With blast resistant coatings and structural designs, the buildings housing the machinery may have the strength and durability to protect machinery. In many cases, owners and plant managers choose machinery and equipment with blast resistant coatings to extend the available protection in the event of a blast.
The Role of Civil Engineering in Blast-Resistant Buildings
Civil engineers are often chosen to be the professionals who are responsible for evaluating the potential behavior of buildings that face blast risks. These professionals design buildings and plan upgrades to protect facilities from the effects of explosions. They review designs and construct for flaws that would weaken the blast resistance of buildings. This naturally involves a close look at the fabrication of parts used in the construction of the buildings. Without the efforts of these professionals, recent advancements made in the safety of people and buildings in the face of blast potential may not have been achieved. As it is, engineers will continue to look for more efficient, safer ways to accomplish operations successfully. If you are considering a project involving blast-resistant buildings contact the experts at Polaris to ensure that the project reaches its full potential.