Key Lessons for Preventing Hydraulic Shock in Industrial Refrigeration Systems

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Type:  Safety Bulletin/Alert

Publisher:  U. S. Chemical Safety Board, Washington, DC - CSB

Published As:  Public


Topics:  Chemical Safety, Emergency Management, Occupational Safety and Health, Engineering

On August 23, 2010, at the Millard Refrigerated Services facility in Theodore, Alabama, hydraulic shock caused a roof-mounted 12-inch suction pipe to catastrophically fail leading to the release of more than 32,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. The hydraulic shock was enabled during the restart of the plants ammonia refrigeration system following a 7-hour power outage. In addition to the catastrophic failure of roof-mounted piping, the pressure developed by the hydraulic shock event also caused an evaporator coil inside the facility to rupture. The ammonia cloud released from the roofmounted pipe and traveled 0.25 miles across the river adjacent to the plant. Downwind of the ammonia release were crew members on the ships docked at Millard and over 800 contractors working outdoors at a clean-up site for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. One Millard employee sustained injuries after briefly losing consciousness from ammonia inhalation.

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