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Unexpected solvent release during Peroxide reaction

Incident

44 kg of Toluene vapour were release to the atmosphere

The Investigation

The vessel had a nitrogen purge applied to reduce the oxygen content to a level where there was no danger of flammable mixtures being present in the reactor.  However, at the same time the condenser service was changed from water to glycol to minimize the entrianment of toluene.  However some water was also entrained and solidified in the condenser resulting in over pressurization of the vessel and the subsequent release into the vest of toluene.

Discussion

There is no easy solution for this problem, one must reduce the oxygen concentration to an acceptable level, and the only sensible way is by a nitrogen purge, therefore one needs to keep a good enough purge to reduce the oxygen, this can be facilitated by lengthening the addition time of the peroxide, and ensuring that the condenser is not too cold - i.e. run as close to 0°C as possible, extra condensers may be required to completely entrain the toluene, or even some sort of non-flammable scrubber.

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