From the May/June 2011 issue of NFPA Journal®
Interview conducted by NFPA Journal staff writer Fred Durso, Jr.
One word comes to mind when Rafael Moure-Eraso, chair of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), recalls the deaths and injuries from two recent, catastrophic explosions in industrial settings: preventable. Both incidents involved a common yet potentially dangerous practice of intentionally releasing natural gas near work settings, even though safer alternatives exist.
In June 2009, workers at the ConAgra Slim Jim facility in Garner, North Carolina, were connecting a new gas supply pipe to an industrial water heater when they began using natural gas to purge air from the pipe. Workers were unaware of the level of gas buildup inside the facility after a two-and-a-half-hour venting process; the concentration of accumulated gas reached the lower flammable limit and came in contact with an ignition source, resulting in an explosion that killed four workers and injured more than 60. Eight months later, at the under-construction Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Connecticut, highly pressurized gas used during a cleaning procedure was being blown through pipes and discharged outdoors. Once again, the gas had accumulated to dangerous levels and found an ignition source, killing six workers and injuring nearly 50 others.
RELATED: Rafael Moure-Eraso will speak on "Lessons Learned Regarding Industrial Gas Safety Practices" on Monday, June 13 at the NFPA Conference & Expo in Boston.
RELATED: Watch NFPA Senior Engineer Denise Beach talk about NFPA 54, National Fuel Gas Code, and gas piping purging incidents.