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Hazards of Nitrogen

Breathing Pure Nitrogen. Asphyxiation. Hazards of opening Tank under Pressure. Tank Over Pressurization

Breathing Pure Nitrogen

Breathing is stimulated and controlled by carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) present in the lungs. As the CO 2 level increases, the brain sends a message to increase respiration. When the CO 2 level drops, the rate of respiration will also decrease in order to maintain the proper balance. One deep breath of pure Nitrogen can be fatal. Pure Nitrogen will displace CO 2 and O 2 completely and in the absence of CO 2 signal to the brain, the stimulus to breath no longer exists. The person immediately stops breathing.


Nitrogen rich atmosphere creates Oxygen deficiency which can be fatal. Following table illustrates symptoms and influence of Oxygen deficient atmosphere on Human body.

Effects and Symptoms of Oxygen Deficiency

20.8 % 19.5 % 16.0% 14.0 % 12.5 % Normal No Effects Impaired coordination, hidden adverse physiological effects Increased Pulse and Breathing Rate, impaired thinking and attention, reduced coordination Abnormal fatigue upon exertion, emotional upset, faulty coordination, poor judgment, blue lips. very poor judgment and coordination, impaired respiration that may cause heart damage, nausea and vomiting, loss of consciousness, blue lips. Inability to move loss of consciousness, convulsions, death unless recovery with treatment within 4 minutes. Coma within 40 seconds, convulsions, respiration, stops, death Fainting, almost immediate coma, convulsions, respiratory arrest, death, Brain damage even if resuscitates.

8.0% 6.0% 0-6 %

Hazard of opening tanks up under pressure:

Care should be exercised while opening nitrogen purged/ padded cargo tank openings.
The person opening tanks up under pressure will be exposed to the harmful tank atmosphere contents if following precautions are not followed. 1. The crew member assigned to open tank openings up under pressure shall do so only after releasing tank pressure through PV valve or Vapor Return Line as directed by the Responsible Officer. 2. He should be equipped with operational Personnel Gas Detector and stand on the windward side

to minimize exposure to tank atmosphere.

3. Tank openings being utilized for venting vapor during purging must be tagged off.

Tank Over Pressurization:

Cargo tank purging/ padding using shore Nitrogen may result in tank over pressurization. The shore nitrogen flow-rate should be agreed prior commencing operation and continuous monitoring is to be carried out through out Nitrogen purging/ padding operation to avoid structural damages to the cargo tank due to excessive pressure.


WHILE PURGING THROUGH VAPOUR RETURN: The max limit should be governed by the max capacity of the cargo pump. For example if the pump capacity is 220 m 3 / hour for each individual tank then that is the max rate the vessel can take per tank.

WHILE PURGING TO ATMOSPHERE The max rate should be limited to the capacity of the gas freeing fan used for the cargo tank gas freeing and this is subject to max openings being kept open.
WHILE PURGING THROUGH PURGE PIPE The max rate should be limited to the venting capacity of the PV Valve per tank. WHILE PADDING The max rate should be limited to the max venting capacity of the PV Valve per tank.

Nitrogen purging is carried out prior loading to bring the tank atmosphere to the desired level. This is normally done by connecting up the loading arm/hose to the cargo manifold and passing Nitrogen through the cargo lines into the empty cargo tanks.
Refer to Nitrogen Handling Checklist (CTKR-04) for relevant Nitrogen purging precautions.


When ever a cargo is required to be carried under a pad of Nitrogen, and it is necessary to use nitrogen supplied from shore, it is strongly preferred to purge the entire tank before loading. After such purging of the tank, loading the cargo under closed conditions will automatically create the needed pad within the tank. Risk of over- pressurization can be substantially reduced by avoiding padding with shore supplied nitrogen. However, if the cargo is required to be carried under additional Nitrogen pad after loading or if shippers insist on padding their cargo after loading, the required nitrogen pad will have to be supplied by the vessel or shore using a low volume / low pressure source. As padding is very often done against a small or limited ullage space (volume), pressure can therefore build up very quickly if something fails.

If a shore supply is used, it must be at a pressure and volumetric flow rate less than the maximum capacity of the vessels P/V valve. To ensure this, a hose having a maximum diameter of one inch (1) is to be connected between the shore supplied nitrogen and the ships manifold.
This will ensure that the flow, and rate will not exceed the vent capacity of the cargo tank.

It is important to note that padding of cargo tank without using one inch (1) diameter hose connected between the shore supplied nitrogen and the ships manifold is not a routine cargo operation and office permission must be obtained after a formal Risk Assessment using QMS-33A form.

Record keeping: CTKR 04 Nitrogen Handling Checklist


In case Shore Nitrogen supply ceases whilst padding, all respective cargo tank valves including manifold valves to be closed. Any openings on the tank including purge pipe covers etc are to be closed tight and the tank pressures monitored. Inform terminal regarding manifold valve status. For tanks which have been loaded with a homogenous cargo, being padded using a single vapour return line, the vapour return manifold valves must be closed. On resumption of shore Nitrogen supply, the manifold, tank valves and openings are to be opened and terminal informed to start supply of Nitrogen slowly and increase the flow rate gradually. The pressure readings of concerned tanks are to be monitored carefully until completion of padding.

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