Case Study 13:
Radiation Safety Management
Description of Operation
The following case study involves a company with operations in petroleum processing and chemical manufacturing. The specific process where the involvement of industrial hygienists has contributed value is the delayed coking operation. Delayed coking is a thermal cracking process that upgrades and converts petroleum residuum (bottoms from atmospheric and vacuum distillation of crude oil) into liquid and gas product streams, leaving behind a solid concentrated carbon material called petroleum coke. The temperature inside the steel coking drum routinely reaches 800° F. Nuclear level gauges in conjunction with gamma-based detectors are used to measure rising levels of coke inside the coking drum because there are no other alternatives.
The radiation sources can create a considerable health risk to affected workers if it is not properly controlled. Therefore the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has strict requirements for licensing sources and training of those who handle them. IH helps maintain the license of the material and retains the level of training necessary to manage the testing process.
The hazard was identified as ionizing radiation. The installers and users of the radiation devices were trained on the process hazards, including exposure to radiation. The entire nuclear process could not happen without the IH program—radiation-trained experts are essential to the process.
Impacts of the Intervention
The value of the IH program to the business process is that is enables the company to take advantage of the price margin that delayed coking offers. Delayed coking is much cheaper to install and operate than the alternatives, such as fluid coking. If the delayed coking process were not used, lighter, sweeter crude oil would be used instead of the heaver crude oil, essentially reducing profitability significantly.
Some small negative financial impacts resulted to the business process because it required training for the people installing the radiation devices and the employees using the devices. Overhead charges such as these are necessary in order to use the radiation devices. However, these are insignificant in comparison to the benefit.
The intervention produced a greater need for industrial hygienists therefore, their job functions changed in the process. Industrial hygienists were used effectively for maintaining the license of the training materials. Industrial hygienists determined that radiation trained experts were critical to the process.
The $10 per barrel profit margin that delayed coking enables is worth $81,250,000 per year, based on production of 125,000 barrels a day. This provides a profit of $1.25 million per day on the 65 days per year that the coker is operated.
By providing an essential function to a highly profitable process, industrial hygienists have contributed value. Without them radiation detection in the delayed coking process could not have happened.