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Reduce Hazards in Process Vacuum Systems

By Stanley S. Grossel, Process Safety and Design Consultant |

Vacuum conditions for many unit operations — including distillation, evaporation, drying, crystallization, filtration and more — are typically achieved using the following three approaches: • Steam ejector systems • Mechanical vacuum pumps • Integrated vacuum systems (which combine steam ejectors and mechanical vacuum pumps) This article is the second part of a two-part series,1 and provides practical guidance for addressing — during design and operation — some of the most commonly encountered hazards and maximizing the overall safety of these systems. This section reviews the potential hazards that can occur with process vacuum pumps and systems. These include chemical sources of hazards, explosion-related hazards and physical sources of hazards. They are discussed below, and are based on material in Reference 1.   Chemical sources of hazards Chemical reactions and explosions.All possible chemical reactions that a vacuum system might encounter at any point in mechanical vacuum pump systems should be considered — particularly those that could result in a fire or explosion (deflagration). And such an analysis should consider these scenarios during normal use, potential misuse and failure…
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