A Technical Look at Plant Explosions
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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:
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
- 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.
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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. We fight for the best results.
Contact us at (888) 493-1629 for your free consultation. We'll lay out your options and help you make the right choices.