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The Science Behind Plant Explosions

Chemicals are used in innumerable ways to make our lives more comfortable, efficient, and convenient. Unfortunately, some chemicals are dangerous. Although not all plant explosions are caused by chemicals, they are responsible for many dangerous accidents in plants and refineries across the nation. If used improperly or handled ignorantly, chemicals can cause dangerous—even deadly—explosions.

Common work environments that involve chemicals include:

  • Chemical Plants
  • Oil Refineries
  • Industrial Complexes

Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosions

Boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions (BLEVEs) are dangerous and can easily cause fatalities, property damage, and catastrophic injuries. BLEVEs occur when a liquid stored in a sealed container begins to boil. When a liquid substance is heated, it eventually turns into a gas, which takes up more space than liquids. If the boiling liquid is in a sealed container, the gas will expand and create pressure inside the container. If there is enough space in the container, it will not explode. However, the container will explode if the gas expands beyond the capacity of the container.

The boiling temperature of a liquid is completely dependent on pressure. Generally speaking, higher temperatures necessitate higher boiling temperatures. If you place a cup of water in a vacuum and begin to decrease the pressure, the cup will eventually boil at room temperature. Conversely, you could keep the water from boiling at normal temperature by increasing the pressure in the room. Generally speaking, BLEVE explosions occur when a liquid—such as CO2, oxygen, or industrial gases—are stored in a container above its normal pressure boiling temperature. If the pressure and the temperature cause the liquid to boil instantaneously, the reaction could result in a BLEVE.

What Causes a BLEVE?

BLEVEs are usually caused by some type of external heat source, such as a fire. When pressurized containers contact an external heat source, the substance inside may expand. Although many tanks are built to hold an immense amount of pressure, they are not indefinitely able to withstand it. Although many explosions involve flammable liquids, non-flammable substances may build up enough pressure to cause a BLEVE explosion.

Understanding Chemical Explosions

To explode, chemicals must be able to create a large amount of gas quickly. Often, the chemical acts as an explosive fuel when it contacts oxygen. Chemicals become dangerous when they produce gases quickly. Sometimes, chemicals create gases that are unlikely to result in an explosion. For example, a coal fire creates carbon dioxide and steam. This reaction is unlikely to cause an explosion because it creates gases slowly.

Chemical explosions are caused by three elements:

  • Sudden generation of gas
  • Heat
  • Dangerous reaction

In past explosions, poor maintenance resulted in gas leaks. When these leaks come in contact with heat sources and expand, they can explode. If a chemical is released into a hazardous area, it may react with a heat source and cause a serious accident. Sometimes, plants negligently use impure chemicals. When impure chemicals are used, they produce large amounts of dangerous gases.

Call Arnold & Itkin for a Confidential Consultation: (888) 493-1629

At Arnold & Itkin, we believe negligent individuals should be held responsible for their actions. If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury in a plant explosion accident, a lawyer from our firm can help. In order to collect financial compensation for your injury, you must be able to demonstrate that another person was negligent and that their careless behavior was directly responsible for your injury.

Our attorneys are experienced in a multitude of injury-related legal fields and can help you obtain the financial compensation you need and deserve. We have recovered billions of dollars for accident victims. Let us put our experience to work for you! When you work with a lawyer from Arnold & Itkin, you can have peace of mind knowing that a high-quality, dedicated, and experienced attorney is on your side.

Contact us at (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation! We'll lay out your options and help you take the next step with solid legal advice behind you. Contact Us for a Free Case Review

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  • $171Million One of the Largest Confidential Settlements in History Arnold & Itkin worked over the course of several years to represent clients in a case that many other law firms turned down. In the end, we were able to obtain a record-setting confidential settlement of $171 million.
  • $97Million Massive Settlement Secured for Refinery Workers Arnold & Itkin is proud to share that after months of preparation for trial, our firm was able to secure a huge settlement for clients who were injured in a refinery fire. Find out more now.
  • $39.7Million Record Verdict Won for Victim of Industrial Accident Attorneys Kyle Findley, Kala Sellers, and Adam Lewis obtained a record $39.744 million verdict on behalf of a client who was burned in a severe dust fire and explosion at a plywood plant in Corrigan, TX.
  • $18.5Million Second Verdict Won for 4 Victims of Geismar Explosion In our second trial on behalf of victims of the 2013 plant explosion in Geismar, LA, Arnold & Itkin won a massive verdict for 4 workers and their families. The verdict will go toward providing the extensive care they have required in the years since the explosion as well as the care they will need for the rest of their lives. This was the second of 2 massive verdicts Arnold & Itkin won against Williams Companies, Inc.
  • $15.5Million Massive Verdict Won for Geismar Explosion Victims Arnold & Itkin won a landmark verdict against Williams Companies, Inc. and child company Williams Olefins LLC for their part in the 2013 explosion that killed 2 workers and injured over 100 more. Williams Companies tried to blame the incident on their limited liability shell company, but the jury saw through the defense. They awarded 95% of the blame to Williams Companies, Inc. and gave our clients the money they needed for medical care.
  • $13.7Million Massive Settlement Won Only Months After Injury Arnold & Itkin represented a plant worker who was seriously injured in an accident on the job. Plant injuries are often complex, taking years to fully investigate and litigate. Fortunately, our firm’s work was able to secure a multi-million dollar settlement mere months after the injury took place. Now our client’s medical expenses and other needs are taken care of for the rest of his life.
  • $12Million Injured Worker Received Settlement for Burn Injuries Our industrial injury lawyers have recently recovered $12 million on behalf of a plant worker who suffered burns when a safety valve failed at the refinery where he was employed. His settlement will go toward providing him with extensive and long-term medical care. His employer chose to settle his case two weeks before trial was set to begin.
  • $11.7Million Settlement Won for Plant Worker Injured During Turnaround Attorneys Kurt Arnold and Jason Itkin successfully recovered $11.75 million on behalf of a man who was injured while working a turnaround at an industrial plant. He was injured because he and his team were not informed of the plant’s dangers, and his family turned to Arnold & Itkin shortly afterward. Our team was able to get him money for his present and future medical expenses less than a year after he was injured.
  • $11.6Million Verdict Secured for a Worker Partially Blinded on the Job Our client was only offered $300,000 by the defendant for his near-total loss of sight in one eye, but the jury only deliberated for less than 2 days before they found the defendant guilty of defective equipment design. They gave our client an award of $11.6 million.
  • $4.97Million Settlement Reached for Orthopaedic Injury Victim Our team worked to represent a client who was severely injured while working at a chemical plant. He was performing construction and maintenance work at the time of the incident. In the end, our firm was successful in settling the case for $4.97 million.
  • $4.8Million Verdict Won for Bereaved Daughter Kurt Arnold recovered $4.8 million for a client whose father was killed after suffering a severe head injury in Port Arthur, Texas. Winning justice for grieving clients is a primary reason we became lawyers, and it's our honor to help clients like this one receive help.
  • $4Million Victim of Plant Explosion Received Millions in Settlement Arnold & Itkin attorneys represented a Mississippi man who was severely injured in a Texas refinery plant explosion. Cases like these require a high level of experience and investigative resources due to the myriad factors involved in a plant explosion. Our attorneys are proud to have helped our client receive a settlement of $4,000,000.
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