Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gasoline and Sewer Explosions

Thanks to Jake Brodsky over at the WATERSEC list for pointing me (actually all list members not me specifically) at a recent article about gasoline leaking into sewer systems and a Wikipedia article about the infamous consequences of a similar type leak in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1992. This helps to reinforce a point I have made a couple of times in this blog about the potential use of gasoline tank trucks in making interesting improvised explosive devices.

I first got interested in this subject when I was stationed with the US Army Berlin where I spent some time working on the Berlin Brigade’s Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) program. One of the things that we looked at was the potential use of improvised explosive devices utilizing gasoline. I found an interesting study done at the US Army Engineer School about making anti-tank obstacles utilizing fuel-air explosions in sewer lines. That study was inspired, in turn, by a sewer-line explosion in Akron, OH in 1977.

Now I’m sure that there will be some reader that will remind me that the specific fuel-air mixture requirements for a gasoline explosion are not that easy to achieve in a sewer line. This is absolutely true; it is probably why there was no explosion related to the Cedarville incident earlier this week. There are, however, a few relatively simple steps that a terrorist could take to increase the probability of achieving the proper mixture.

Besides, even if an explosion did not result from a terrorist infusion of gasoline into a public sewer system, the inevitable evacuations while the situation was cleaned up would be disruptive enough that it would have to be considered a successful terrorist attack.

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