Thursday, November 5, 2009
Gasoline Vapor Cloud Explosions
There is an interesting posting over at Risk-Safety.com about the recent history of gasoline vapor cloud explosions at gasoline storage facilities. Dr. Saraf lists three major gasoline VCE’s, the last two within a week of each other. Initial reports from the San Juan, PR fire and the Jaipur, India fire indicate that there was a large VCE that caused a number of fuel storage tanks to become fully involved. Large fuel fires in multiple tanks are particularly difficult to fight. There are no current reports of any indications of terrorists being involved in either fire, though anti-government radical organizations have operated in both Puerto Rico and India. The initial VCE could have been much larger if there had been a catastrophic failure of one or more storage tanks due to an explosive device. The very large vapor cloud resulting from that size spill would have effected a very large area and there would have been significantly more casualties. While gasoline may not be as explosive as propane or some of the other flammable liquids and gasses specifically covered in Appendix A to 6 CFR 27, the huge size of the tanks at these terminal facilities certainly makes them prime targets for terrorists. Combine that chemical hazard with the fact that Al Qaeda and its affiliates have sworn to target oil facilities as specific targets in their war against the West, and it is clear that these large terminals should be Tier I high-risk chemical facilities. It is too bad that DHS has once again bowed to political pressure to exempt such facilities.