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The Oil and Gas Engineering Guide


A process plant drains systems

Published Thursday 01/11/2012 Powered by

Baron Hervé
He began his
professionnal carreer with
an international oil
company. Starting out
with an interest in the
Operation of Oil & Gas
Facilities, his technical
curiosity about their
design saw him move to engineering
contractors to become expert in this area

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The collection of process fluids to empty equipment prior to their maintenance, of rain water, fire and wash water
in a Process Plant entails the provision of drainage systems.
Why our way to develop Projects
This subject is not often given proper attention and is engineered last. fails to minimize CAPEX (Part 1)
Saturday 31/12/2016
It however entails several undeground networks whose installation will be one of the first activities at the
Construction Site. In addition, before these networks are installed and the area is backfilled the plant erection The job of a PM? Saturday 19/03/2016
cannot proceed for lack of access.
Engineering Standards Wednesday
Underground networks can therefore be a major cause of delay of construction activities.

I therefore deemed useful to provide the following overview of a Process Plant drainage system.
The common Process plant drainage arrangement is depicted on the sketch here. September 2010 (2)
October 2010 (3)
The following abbreviations are used: November 2010 (3)
December 2010 (1)
• CW Contaminated Water / CWD Contanimated Water Drain April 2011 (2)
• NCW Non Contaminated Water / NCWD Non Contaminated Water Drain
August 2011 (4)
• OD Open Drain
• CD Closed Drain February 2012 (3)
• OW Oily (Water) Drain September 2012 (1)
• WWT Waste Water Treatment October 2012 (1)
November 2012 (1)
Process drains: January 2013 (1)
Process fluids contained in equipment must be collected when equipment are emptied for their maintenance. April 2013 (1)
The volume can be significant hence must be recovered.
May 2015 (1)
The inventory is collected from the bottom of the vessels to a recovery vessel in the Closed Drain (CD) piping
system where it flows by gravity. June 2015 (1)
The word "Closed" refers to the fact that the drainage system is not open to atmosphere. August 2015 (1)
The fluid is hazardous/flammable so that it must be piped in a closed piping system, not in contact with November 2015 (1)
atmosphere, to the recovery vessel. March 2016 (1)
December 2016 (2)
September 2017 (1)
On the other hand, numerous operations, such as bleeding the small process fluid inventory between two
isolation vaves to dismantle a filter or for inserting an isolating spade etc. will require small amounts of process
fluids to be disposed off.
A plant will have numerous such small bleed-off points.
Due to the small inventory of process fluids contained, the drain valves will be open directly to atmosphere.
These drains are, for this reason, called "Open Drain" (OD).
They will be collected either by mobile equipment or dumped in the area water drainage.

Oily drains:

A facility will contain numerous rotating machineries.

Some will be lubricated by grease but most by lube oil systems.
Small amounts of oil will need to be drained from the lube oil systems occasionally.
That would happen, for instance, when dismantling an oil filter for cleaning etc.
These drains are called Oil Water (OW) drains.
They are found around pumps and collected, together with small process drains, by means of a drip pan.
As with Open Process Drains, as the inventory is small, these drains will be either collected by mobile equipment
or dumped into the area water drainage.

Water drainage:

Rain water falling on the plant territory needs to be collected so that the facility is not flooded.
Rain water will be collected only in paved area, roads, building roofs etc. Rain water falling on non-paved area
such as gravel etc will not be collected as it will seep in the ground.

Fire water used for fire fighting, in particular for deluging process equipment, also needs to be collected, as well
as wash water.

They will be collected, together with rain water, in the area water drainage.

Rain/deluge/wash water collected in process areas could be contaminated by process fluids and/or oil droppings
on the paving.
It must therefore be segragated from water collected outside process areas.

Two collection systems are therefore installed: the Contaminated Water Drain (CWD) and the Non Contaminated
Water Drain (NCWD).

Non Contaminated Water is routed and disposed outside the plant.

Contaminated Water is sent to the Waste Water Treatment facility (WWT), where the small amount of
hydrocarbons it contains is removed, then discharged outside the plant.

In fact, not all rain water collected in process area is contanimated.

Indeed, some time after rain fal starts, all hydrocarbons/oil droppings on process areas paving will have been
washed out by what is called the "first flush".
Only this first flush, typically the first 15 minutes of rain fall, needs to be sent to the WWT, what follows is Non
Contaminated Water.
The segragation is achieved by the system, which comprises an ingenius automatic flow diversion device which
routes the first 15 minutes of rainfall to the WWT and what follows to the NCWD.

The sketch of the overflow device is shown here.

The device routes the rain water to a sump whose volume is 15 minutes of rainfall. Once the sump is full
rainwater overflows above a weir to the NCWD.

The concept of first flush allows to reduce the size of the CWD system.


The above is true for facilities handling hydrocarbons, such as a refinery, where the process drains and oil drains
are compatible fluids (as both fluids are hydrocarbons).
A facility handling chemicals, such as Amine for instance, which is not compatible with hydrocarbons and connot
be sent to the WWT, will have an additional drain network for such chemical.

The NCWD network, handling non hazardous/flammable fluids can be by open gutters while the CWD must be
by closed system (undergound pipes).
Hydraulic seals must also be provided on the latter between fire zones to avoid fire propagation.

The size of the drainage network (cross section of pipes) will be calculated from the maximum of rain and fire
water flow. Whichever governs will depend on the climatic data.

The CD network is a free draining (no pocket) network. The CWD (and NCWD) are sloped.

As the CWD (and NCWD) are collecting run-off water that sweeps along debris/dirt, they are provided means of
cleaning, including access pits (manhole) at directional changes as well as clean-out connections.


Vikram Wednesday 21/10/2015

Dear Author, Could you please provide some details on the basis of segregating light hydrocarbon drains from
heavy hydrocarbon drains? In some project standards, I came across that gasoils and lighter are routed to LHD
whereas heavies (residues such as AR) are routed to HHD. WHat is the basis to such segregation?

farbod Tuesday 11/12/2012

I have some comments on what SB said above: I think the reason underground sewers may still be prefered to
drainage over pavings to perimeter ditches is the safety it brings specially during fire events . imagine flammable
liquids which are spreading over paving in the non-underground system and fire will spread as well.u/g system
have more inherent safety.

SB Monday 12/11/2012
I There is no underground sewer system in Ethylene Plant. Oily water from equipment drains are collected by
over head drain system ( piping ) and treated in Waste Water treatment system. Rain water is collected in sumps
and pumped to Water Water treatment system if it is contaminated. If the sump water is clean, it is pumped to the
perimeter trench for disposal. The idea of underground sewer system is disappearing for modern chemical plants
because of possible leak of contaminated water from underground piping.

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