Butadiene Manufacturer Finds One of the Safest Ways to Perform Product Transfer

By OPW | Jun 03, 2021

One of the biggest United States-based manufacturers of butadiene – a hazardous chemical used in the manufacture of many common products – has several production facilities in the industrial corridor adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel and along the Gulf of Mexico. For decades, the manufacturer has successfully shipped its butadiene via railcar. The company also takes great pride in having received numerous safety awards based on having zero non-accident butadiene releases, while implementing safe loading practices that have been honored by its rail partners.

However, when performing an annual review of the effectiveness of its butadiene-safety program, the manufacturer became concerned that some butadiene particulate was remaining in the nipples and couplers on the valve systems that were in use at its facility and those that it regularly does business with. The equipment that was in use was meeting regulations set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), but the manufacturer was not content to let its existing equipment perform beneath the company’s elevated expectations for excellence.

That led to a search for the ideal dry-disconnect coupler system for use on its butadiene railcars, of which it has more than 600 units. It was during the search for a solution that the company reviewed the performance of the Drylok Dry Disconnect Coupler model from OPW Engineered Systems, Lebanon, OH.

While observing the Drylok couplers in action, company representatives were impressed with their method of operation and ability to help prevent unwanted butadiene retention. Additionally, the Dryloks were approved for use with butadiene by the American Association of Railroads (AAR), meaning they were available for immediate inclusion as components in the company’s enhanced butadiene-handling system.

For 40 years, the company’s technicians had been loading and unloading butadiene railcars with the use of several tools and a lot of sweat equity. A worker would open the lid of the railcar’s manway, remove a plug with a 36-inch pipe wrench, pick up a 30-inch steel nipple and thread it into that valve. Then the worker would drag the hammer-union fitting to the nipple, put it on, then use a hammer to beat the fitting onto the valve.

With the Dryloks, all the technician has to do is open the manway lid, pull the loading arm over, set the Drylok fitting over the dedicated connection point and open the valve. That reduces the time needed to begin loading or unloading the butadiene from 30 minutes to just seconds. 

By incorporating the Drylok couplers into its butadiene-transfer system, the manufacturer has realized four major benefits:

  1. Reduced Emissions: As one of the driest disconnects in the industry, the Drylok eliminates threaded connections that allow fugitive emissions. It also meets emission requirements set by EPA, OSHA and TCEQ.
  2. Time Savings: The average time for a technician to connect the loading arm to the railcar valves was reduced from 35 to 40 minutes to 35 to 40 seconds
  3. Ergonomic Benefits: Technicians no longer need to use cheater bars, pipe wrenches or hammers to connect the valves. With the Dryloks, they just turn a lever to complete the connection with no required heavy lifting or bending over for long periods of time.
  4. Increased Railcar Safety: An added benefit of the Drylok is that it is tamper-resistant. This eliminates the possibility of sabotage, theft and product contamination since only the manufactured mating piece allows access to the system.

For more information on OPW Engineered Systems’ complete portfolio of Dry Disconnect Couplers, please visit opw-es.com.


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