Regular Propane Tank Inspection Saves Lives says LPG Gas Safety Expert

27 May 2022

Every year, there are millions of industrial and residential accidents that could have been prevented if a regular inspection would have been conducted at the right time, the right way and with the right equipment. Here at nSpek, we have a philosophy of listening to experts and observing their day to day tasks in order to develop niche specific features, ranging from field data collection, to health and safety form creation, in order to increase the safety of our world, and improve the field workers quality of life.

In order to get the best insight about low pressure gas tank inspections, we turned to Milangaz’s LPG Terminal Manager, Onur Özutku. He has a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, and has been quite a sensation lately on linkedin. Often trending in the #inspection topic. Before we jump into our interview with Milangaz’s LPG safety expert, here is one of his recently trending posts:


“On April 7, 2003, an 12.500 m3 storage tank at Glenpool tank farm in Oklahoma, exploded and burned as it was being filled with diesel. What caused the accident? What went wrong? When we review the National Transportation Safety Board NTSB/PAR-04/02 report, the cause of the explosion is static electricity. It is necessary to determine these two points well: first, how is static electricity generated and second how an explosive atmosphere was created inside the tank. Firstly, the tank was loaded with gasoline, the operators transferred the gasoline in the tank to another tank, and during this process, air entered the tank through the tank air vents while the internal floating roof was moving down.

The internal floating roof landed on its legs for some time, and the gasoline continued to evaporate rapidly (the floating roof was not floating), because there was not enough gasoline in the tank to float the floating roof. Then all of the gasoline was transferred from the tank to another tank. But now the volume in the tank had become an explosive atmosphere. (in these conditions, fire needs just a little spark). We should prevent an explosive flammable rich mixture in tanks. Also, research on this accident points out that the max flow rate rule is violated in pipes.


In floating roof tanks, in these operations, the floating roof is filled with a low flow rate until it is floating. In this rule, the maximum flow rate in the pipes initial time is determined as 1 m/s. In general, a lot of things went wrong to cause the accident: poor design, lack of a nitrogen blanket, maybe vapor recovery etc. But the most critical issue to be emphasized in this post is the maximum flow rate limits in the operation manuals. (Some flammable liquids at high flow rates, generate static electricity, we should prevent the generation of static electricity in the pipe). Don’t forget, the operating and safety rules are written with blood.”

Here is our interview:

Tell us a little bit about your career, when did you graduate, which roles did you have, what do you oversee and how long have you been working for Milangaz?

OO: Hello, I am Onur ÖZUTKU. I was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1987, I have been living in Turkey/Hatay for many years. I graduated from Akdeniz University in 2010 as a Mechanical Engineer, and in 2012 I completed my master’s degree in heat transfer & fluid mechanics at Mustafa Kemal University. I have been working as a mechanical engineer in the sector for 12 years. I worked in the field of production and manufacturing for the first 3 years of my profession, and then for 2 years, I worked in project-based maintenance-repair and capacity increase works in Oil & LPG terminals. I have been working at Milangaz for the last 7 years. I have been working as LPG Operations Engineer for 5 years and as LPG Terminal Manager for 2 years.


What are some of the top industries that use LPG TANKS?

OO: LPG tanks are used in many areas of life and industry. LPG tanks are used in areas such as cylinder gas, vehicle gas, bulk gas, and storage. In particular, LPG tanks up to 5000 m3 volume are used. The biggest tanks in the industry are generally used in terminals, refineries and tanker ships.

What can make LPG tanks dangerous?

OO: There are three conditions for LPG tanks that can be dangerous. First one, bad operations management. Second, weak maintenance management. Third, poor and inadequat

e inspection. If those three conditions are simultaneous, It will be very dangerous.


What can increase the safety and longevity of LPG tanks?


OO: The way to increase the safety of tanks is to install safety barriers (Independent overfilling system, ESD valve, safety valve etc.) for abnormal conditions with a good HAZOP evaluation, these barriers will increase the operation safety of the tanks . The most basic way to increase the lifespan of tanks will be best practice regular inspections and maintenance in accordance with the standards. The best inspection experts and the best inspection tools and methods should be preferred. In addition, the safety culture of employees is also very important for the safety and longevity of the tanks. Which in return, saves lives.

How often do tanks need to be inspected?


OO: It is necessary to determine the inspection of tanks under two headings. First, the visual inspection by the enterprise expert itself, the frequency of this inspection should be explained in the maintenance and inspection procedures of the plants. In my opinion, spherical LPG tanks (especially nozzle and all flange connections) should be visually inspected once a month. Second, the inspection should be done with third party inspectors. It should be inspected by authorized institutions at least once every 10 years. This inspection is considered as the main inspection. Of course, an issue that should not be forgotten is that other equipment on the tank should be inspected at correct times. For example, safety pressure valves, which are the most critical equipment on the tank, should be inspected every five years.



What should be checked during a routine LPG maintenance?

OO: Some important points that should be carefully checked for LPG tanks and pipelines are the monitoring of processes (Pressure gauge, temperature, flow rate etc.), the thickness measurement of the tank’s plate, paint-corrosion controls and LPG leak inspections. Each control must be done carefully and routinely.


Why is are low pressure gases stored in spherical tanks?

OO: In pressurized tanks, we want the pressure to be distributed uniformly on all surfaces. This way, spherical tanks form a very suitable geometry. This is the most important reason for that choice.


What is the lifespan of an LPG tank?

OO: The answer to this question is very complex. In fact, as far as I know in the regulations, there is no clear time limit for this issue. But my answer on this matter is that every tank that does not pass the necessary requirements for inspection according to the standard, without knowing how old it is, it should be retired. The only critical point for me is that they have been maintained and inspected within the standards. But even now, I know that 30 year old spherical LPG tanks are in very safe service.

What can cause and how to prevent propane tank explosions?

OO: This issue has been the most critical question for LPG tanks. Two models are very dangerous in explosions in LPG tanks, UVCE and BLEVE.

What is an UVCE explosion?
UVCE (Unconfined Vapor Cloud Explosion) is the event that results in a sudden burning or explosion in the atmosphere as a result of the spread of the gas cloud within the flammability limits. The problem can be eliminated by preventing the gas that can spread or leak from the tank or the pipeline, and the fire fighting systems that are started with leak detection systems will be a good barrier for this issue.

What does BLEVE mean?
BLEVE (Boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion, on the other hand, occurs when a tank containing liquid at a temperature above boiling point and under pressure explodes disastrously. The phenomenon of bleve is the what the industry most fears. Saving the metallurgical strength of the tank and preventing over pressure in the tank about bleve prevention. The best practice is for water cooling and rapid flooding of the tank, the phenomenon is described in detail in the API standards. Related studies have been carried out in recent years to prevent bleve with the application of in-tank alloys for smaller tanks. It looks successful.


How do you take care of a LPG tank?

OO: My suggestion for the maintenance of LPG tanks is the regular maintenance to be done by covering every equipment on the LPG tanks. We can call this the integrity of maintenance. Maintenance methods and periods of LPG tank body, valves, safety valves, electrical equipment should be determined according to standards and manufacturer’s recommendations. If it is sufficient in both respects, the perfect maintenance program will be established. Also all maintenance should be recorded.


What are some common tools, digital or physical, LPG tank inspectors should use to make their job more efficient?

OO: I would like to answer this question by comparing it with the health sector. In some diseases, doctors from different specialties make a decision by forming a council before making a treatment decision on the complex disease. A similar strategy should be in the LPG tank inspections. While conducting the inspections of LPG tanks, there should be a digital inspection platform where the inspectors can share the data collected like digital information and images, where they can ask for opinions and suggestions for the result of the inspection on complex issues and issues that require expert opinion. For example, the pressure vessel specialist should be able to ask the opinion of the corrosion specialist with this digital platform. In addition, a digital council should be established on this platform where other inspectors can access all the field data of the inspection and direct the pass-fail inspection. In my opinion, compliance with the council decision should be concluded, especially on older (over 20 years old) tanks.


What else would you like to let the heavy industry readers know about you or your company?

OO: First of all, thank you very much for the interview and nice conversation. I would like to tell the following to LPG safety industry leaders. At the end of the day, we all want to try to earn money. But as long as we survive, money is less important than safety. Therefore, we should analyze the way we work safely and without accidents. I would like to say to the LPG industry representatives about three points related to safety. First one, regularly inspect and maintain equipment, properly and on time. Secondly, train your personnel professionally so that they can apply the operation manuals perfectly, and finally, take care of the tools that will increase the safety in your processes. Finally, take precautions, don’t take risks. I wish a safe and healthy business life to everyone.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individuals and not endorsed by Milangaz, nSpek or Neosynergix (the companies). This is an editorial article, not affiliated, nor sponsored by the companies, and is part of a series of articles with heavy industry experts. If you or someone you know would like to participate or contribute, please reach out to our editorial team:

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