Proposed ASTM International Reaction Calorimetry Standard Will Aid in Process Hazard Analysis

A process hazard analysis prior to the startup of a chemical processing facility is essential to prevent catastrophic incidents due to thermal runaway reactions. A proposed new ASTM standard, WK9584, Guide for Assessing Potential Hazards of Synthesis Reactions Using Reaction Calorimetry, will help to standardize how the results from reaction calorimetry experiments are used in a process hazard analysis. WK9584 is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E27.02 on Thermal Stability and Condensed Phases, which is part of ASTM International Committee E27 on Hazard Potential of Chemicals.

An explosion and fire occurred at the Morton International Inc. plant in Paterson, N.J. in 1998. An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board determined that the explosion, which injured nine employees, was the result of a runaway chemical reaction, which overpressurized a large chemical vessel and released flammable materials that ignited.

Reaction calorimetry is important to the process hazard analysis because it provides data that is necessary for the safe scale-up of chemical reactions.

"Currently there are instruments based on at least four different technologies in reaction calorimetry experiments," says Michael Oliver, safety advisor, Ciba Specialty Chemicals. "There are inconsistencies in how the software with some instruments calculates results that are used in a process hazard analysis."

WK9584 will outline the data obtainable from reaction calorimetry that is needed before a process hazard analysis is conducted and it will standardize how the results are calculated. Interlaboratory tests based on the new standard will be used to establish that consistent results can be obtained using instruments based on differing technologies.

Subcommittee E27.02 is currently seeking input for the continuing development of WK9584 from thermal safety testing laboratories, persons who perform process hazard analyses and instrument vendors.

For further technical information, contact Michael Oliver, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, McIntosh, Ala. (phone: 251/436-2738; Committee E27 will meet May 16-18, at the May Committee Week in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. For membership or meeting details, contact Scott Orthey, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9730;


Release #7304

January 1, 2006