There are many potential ignition sources in the petrochemical, refining and oil and gas drilling industry; such as hot work, internal combustion engines, improperly classified or maintained electrical equipment, lighting, and adjacent fired equipment. These are typically controlled via measures such as hot work permits for:

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    Welding/burning

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    Hot work or vehicle entry permit requirements to operate engines inside posted areas

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    Proper electrical classification along with programs to maintain it, and

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    Programs/practices to prevent/detect releases of flammable materials.

A large number of diesel engines (in vehicles, lighting towers, power generators and other equipment) are used in the petrochemical and oil and gas industry for their day-to-day operation. Diesel engine runaway is a serious hazard in oil and gas drilling and production and similar industries where flammable hydrocarbon emissions or leaks may occur. A runaway can be described as an engine running out of control on an external fuel source (i.e., the "fuel" in the air) where the operator cannot shut down the engine using conventional methods (i.e. turning off the engine ignition switch).

In a total runaway engine situation, the result can range from minor engine damage to engine explosion, causing catastrophic damage to the equipment and surrounding facilities and/or death or injuries to personnel such as BP Texas City refinery and BP Deepwater Horizon explosions. Fortunately, there is simple, inexpensive technology available which can prevent a diesel engine runaway. The paper is presented to increase awareness and lessons learned from many accidents involving runaway diesel engines.

The author will present what companies are doing around the world to avoid diesel engine runaway as an ignition source for explosions in the hydrocarbon industry.

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