Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blast Effects Webinar

I have talked about how to protect some facility areas from the blast effects in some recent blog posts. Partly as a result of those blogs I was recently invited by Allan Mangold, a reader of this blog, to ‘attend’ a webinar conducted by two companies active in the blast effect protection business, Protective Technologies Group (PTG) and Karagozian & Case (K&C); I have mentioned PTG before. The presentation was given to an engineering firm working on at least one refinery protection project and outlined the blast effect test and design work PTG and K&C could provide. Study of Blast Effects These two companies (in conjunction with some researchers at the University of California San Diego – UCSD) have developed a number of tools to evaluate blast effects and ways to protect a wide variety of structures from those effects. They have tied together through their development efforts computer modeling, physical blast simulation, and live munitions blast testing. They also work with other companies to evaluate a variety of blast protection techniques. The webinar include some really good high speed videos of live blast effects and results of their blast simulation device. Even if you’ve watched Hollywood special effects in blow-em-up action adventure flicks, you would still be impressed by the one film that shows a reflected blast wave interacting with the explosion flame front. As someone who has been too close to an explosion in a building, I really thought the detailed views of the on-going explosion provide a good ‘explanation’ of the effects I have seen in the real world. I was also surprised by the videos of an evaluation of a composite fiber reinforcing polymer (CRFP) coating applied to the back side (away from the blast) of a cinder block wall. I would have expected it to just prevent the damaged wall from providing additional projectiles flying down range. Instead it helped to maintain the physical integrity of the wall (though I’m not sure a building inspector would ‘pass’ the damaged wall). Chemical Facility Blast Effects I am still disappointed that there has not been any published work that I can find on the study of blast effects on things of particular interest to the chemical security community. We really need to understand those effects on storage tanks and piping if we are to provide an adequate defense of these items from potential VBIED attacks. For example, I have noted the need to provide some protection for tank farm dikes from VBIED attacks so that they can still maintain enough physical integrity to contain the spread of chemicals from damaged storage tanks. I’m not sure that the results in the webinar videos are strictly translatable to these dikes. The walls in the videos were anchored to a structure at the top and the bottom (like a building wall); in a dike situation they would only be anchored at the bottom. Talking to Allan (who knows a hell of a lot more about this stuff than I do) about this after the webinar, he wasn’t sure either. Someone is going to have to do this kind of testing if we expect to adequately protect our high-risk chemical facilities. More importantly, someone is going to have to pay for this testing to be done as it seems that there is at least one group able to do the actual work. The question is will this work be funded by chemical companies, chemical manufacturing organizations or DHS. I’m not sure what Allan and his fellow investigators charge, but I suspect it is not cheap (testing to destruction seldom is).

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