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Investigation and actions after an internal air compressor filter fire


  • The articles was prepared for presentation at 8th Global Congress on Process Safety, Houston, TX, April 1–4, 2012

  • AIChE shall not be responsible for statements or opinions contained, in papers or printed in its publications (for correspondence)


In November 2005, an internal fire occurred in a filter downstream of a dual headed diaphragm compressor. Subsequent investigation revealed that the compressor diaphragms had been punctured after failure of a check valve allowed debris to impact the diaphragms. The puncture extended through three separate diaphragms allowing compressor oil to be pumped into the air stream on the process side. The compressor continued to operate, oil collected in a downstream filter, and ignition occurred resulting in an internal fire. Discoloration of the filter housing indicated a temperature in excess of 700°F occurred in this filter housing. Fortunately, there was no loss of containment and the fire was extinguished without operator intervention. This article reviews the investigation into the causes of the equipment failure, how the ignition may have occurred, and the actions taken to prevent future incidents. Implementation of improved shutdown systems, more frequent maintenance, and changes to reduce possible causes of the fire were implemented, and the compressors have operated without another incident since 2005. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog 32: 96–101, 2013