Prioritising Thermal Fluid Safety In Chemical Processing

During chemical reactions, whether it’s reactor heating, polymer processing or distillation, maintaining the delicate balance of temperatures isn’t just a matter of efficiency, it’s a matter of safety — particularly when working with heat transfer systems. Here Tim Powell, thermal oil specialist at Global Heat Transfer, explores how effective health and safety protocols can contribute to a safer and more efficient work environment when working with heat transfer systems.


Historically, facilities opted for steam-based heat transfer systems because water is readily available, affordable and seemingly sustainable. However, achieving the temperatures needed for industrial processes required the system to operate at extremely high pressures of around 1200 psi (83 Bar). This meant that, without adequate steam ventilation, the pipes ran the risk of bursting and gaskets failing, allowing hot steam to escape, which put workers at risk.


Thermal fluids, on the other hand, can safely maintain temperatures at much lower pressure and can be tailored to applications. They are suitable for both heating and cooling applications, with temperature ranges spanning from -90 to 600 degrees Celsius.

While they offer a safer alternative to steam and are designed to deliver prolonged and efficient service, facilities employing heat transfer fluids should still adopt preventative measures to extend fluid lifespan and meet safety standards.


To comply with industry regulations, manufacturers using heat transfer fluids must take proactive steps to assess potential risks and implement measures, such as a Thermocare® maintenance plan, to eliminate them as much as possible. Thermal fluid is classed as a dangerous substance, but when monitored routinely and proactively managed, it will give great service for many years.


Managing risks

While heat transfer fluid has an effective life expectancy of many years, its efficacy decreases as it nears the end of its lifespan. This decline can lead to the introduction of by-products into the system. Specific regulations outline guidelines for health and safety managers to reduce the potential risks linked to this degradation, but this is often easier said than done. This is because once thermal fluid is introduced into the heat transfer system, it is no longer visible, allowing any underlying problems to remain unnoticed until they disrupt production.


To manage risks effectively, health and safety managers should closely collaborate with thermal fluid specialists to monitor fluid condition. Engineers should take a closed fluid sample when the system is hot, live and circulating, so they can accurately assess the fluid’s status. Quarterly sampling and thermal fluid analysis help engineers monitor its condition and inform health and safety managers on how to adjust procedures to minimise the risk of incidents.


In addition, facilities have the option to employ remote condition monitoring, which can improve proactive maintenance efforts. Cloud-based remote monitoring systems use live, real-time analytics to diagnose potential issues. As soon as the system detects an anomaly, it warns maintenance personnel by sending an alert to their smart devices. This pioneering technology empowers engineers to prolong the safe and effective use of thermal fluid.


For support and advice on how to get the most out of your heat transfer system, and prolonging the life of your thermal fluid, contact Global Heat Transfer.

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