Analysis of ethylene oxide gas house explosion



An explosion destroyed a small “Gas House” in which aerosol cans were being filled with ethylene oxide on June 24, 1997. At issue was whether the ignition occurred in the Gas House or from a remote catalytic converter. Our investigation of the pattern of blast damage supports ignition at the catalytic converter that generated a burn-back through the ducting. A strong jet ignition reached a flammable atmosphere in the Gas House and ignited an explosion that well exceeded the yield strength of the prefabricated metal Gas House in spite of the vent panels and access doors being released and discharging of the fire suppression system. One of the doors from the Gas House flew off of the building as hazardous debris, which impacted and catastrophically failed a second door located in an adjoining occupied building. This resulted in the only fatality associated with this event. This study illustrates the damage patterns that indicate the direction of the initial explosion wave. © 2007 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog, 2007.