The chemical and petrochemical industries have the most advanced safety systems and technologies. One of the most widely used is torches: systems that enable gases to be burned safely, reducing the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC).
When they are activated, they can create an impact on the local population and lead to their demands for information, given how striking the flame and the noise generated can be.
In this respect, it must be noted that a torch activation is an automatic operational safety mechanism and their environmental impact is not particularly significant. Despite this, the industry is aware of the nuisance it can generate and, for this reason, the professionals from this industry make big efforts and use their talent to try to avoid these activations from occurring and to shorten them when they do occur.
1.- They are a safety mechanism.
A torch activation is an automatic operational safety mechanism. They do not indicate accidents or risks. Oil and petrochemical facilities throughout the world use torches to manage waste gases that must be safely treated: whether during planned or unplanned facility shutdown or start-up, maintenance operations… or when an incident or anomaly is detected in the production process and must be solved.
Like any industrial process, or even in the case of a vehicle, in order to solve an incident or undergo an inspection, it is necessary to stop in order to solve it. We are not talking about an accident, but rather an incident, an anomaly or an inspection that requires shutting down.
In the case of the torch, production is stopped and while the incident is solved or the shutdown or start-up process is completed, gases are sent to the torch to burn them safely.
2.- Environmental impact
Despite how striking the flame or smoke can sometimes be, the environmental impact of a torch activation in terms of emissions is not significant. Without the torches, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and flammable and toxic chemicals would be released to the atmosphere. Combustion of these waste products reduces the risk entailed by a release. For this reason, as well as safety systems, the regulations also qualify torches as “environmental protection elements”.
In a torch activation, CO2 and water steam are the main products released. Additionally, emissions are dispersed as the get further away from the release point, thus, not entailing a health risk. That is the reason for torches to be generally very high up.
Water steam and/or air is added to the combustion process in order to improve the combustion and prevent smoke from being released. This addition of steam is what sometimes causes a considerable acoustic impact to be generated in torch activations.
3.- Transparency and immediacy.
When a torch is activated, the companies notify the authorities as soon as possible (or they do so prior to the event, if it is a planned activation).
This is part of the industry’s commitment to society: torch activations are visible and can generate alarm and nuisance, both visually and acoustically, which as an industry, we regret. This is why we promptly report the activation and its causes so the local population can have first-hand transparent information as soon as possible.
4.- Operational management
In the chemistry industry, safety is paramount, and excellence and operational discipline are always fundamental. Their employees are experts in managing torches, and they operate them safely with responsibility, knowledge and expertise. Torches are highly efficient plant equipment that can operate automatically as many times as necessary.
The industry’s companies and their teams have the greatest interest in torch activations not occurring and they make great efforts to avoid them, and to ensure they last the least amount possible when they do occur. This is so, because the industry and its collaborators are aware of the visual impact, nuisance and possible alarm it generates on the local population.