Balongan Unplanned Shutdown

Muhammad Abduh (

Balongan LPG Plant, Indonesia largest LPG producer, had a major accident in May 10, 2008 and had to shutdown plant for eighteen days for repair. The accident occured probably because of critical failure in a fluid catalytic cracking unit. Failure consequence is significant as the plant supply 30% of LPG national market and the company is in the excess of 12 million US dollar production loss. As production interruption occurred in a time of government campaign energy conversion from fuel to gas, gas consumer especially food and restaurants industries, and largely household consumer in central to west Java region will suffer the lack of LPG supply in the following days.

TV News covering Balongan Refinery Shutdown (, MetroTV), LPG Lack of Supply (Liputan6, MetroTV)

Lesson Learned: Un-anticipated in Service Damage of Process Plant Critical Equipment

Failure is likely to occur in high pressure system, study by The Health and Safety Executive UK (HSE UK) indicated that inability to predict or inability to anticipate in-service damage as one of the dominant root causes of failure in pressure system. Well established risk management should be able to predict or anticipate in service damage. Risk is a function of failure probability and failure consequence. Risk assessment methodologies are long time developed by American Petroleum Association (API), American Society for Mechanical Engineer (ASME), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Front-end, structurized, and industrial standards risk assessment for process plant are API RP-581 Risk Based Inspection together with API 580 Based Resourced Document.

We can simply understand that if an equipments have a higher risk profile, than the operator should perform any necessary mitigation to keep the risk as low as reasonably practical. Back to Balongan Refinery case, the FCC is a relatively high risk unit (higher probability of failure and higher of failure consequence). As a high risk unit, operator company should have conducted detailed inspections and comprehensive assessments by means of:

– Utilizing high resolution inspection tool that should be able to locate and sizing surface or sub-surface defect, uniform or localized defect with the advance technology of field signature method, phased array UT, or multi array sensor.

– Defect assessment or fitness for service to assess (to study comprehensively) the remaining life of equipment against in-service damage.

Speculating cost efficiency by reducing inspection or condition assessment cost is rather contra-productive especially in strategic national plant in a time of energy crisis.

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