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June 1, 1974 – The Flixborough Disaster

Posted June 01, 2007 2:07 PM by Steve Melito

On this day in engineering history, a fuel-air explosion at a chemical plant near the village Flixborough, England killed 28 people and produced a blast loud enough to be heard 25 miles away. The chemical plant, a joint venture between the British National Coal Board and Dutch State Mines, manufactured caprolactam, a precursor chemical used in the production of nylon. Two months before the deadly explosion that became known as the Flixborough Disaster, a crack was discovered in one of the six reactors that oxidized cyclohexane to produce a mixture of cyclohexanol and cyclohexanone. By installing a temporary 20 in. (50 cm) pipe to bypass the leaking reactor, the Flixborough facility planned to continue operations until repairs could be made.

Shortly before 5:00 PM on Saturday June 1, 1974, the temporary bypass pipe ruptured. In less than a minute, 10% of the plant's 400 tons of cyclohexane leaked out, forming a vapor cloud 100 to 200 m (320 – 650 ft) in diameter. When the cloud came in contact with an ignition source – probably from a furnace at a nearby hydrogen production facility – the resulting fuel-air explosion was equivalent to 15 tons of TNT. The blast destroyed the chemical plant, killing all 18 workers in a nearby control room and 9 other employees who were onsite. The 28th fatality, a delivery driver, died of a heart attack. If the Flixborough Disaster had occurred on a weekday during a regular shift, 500 plant employees would have been killed.

An official inquiry into the Flixborough Disaster determined that the bypass pipe had failed because of lateral stresses during a pressure surge. The engineers who designed the temporary conduit were inexperienced with high-pressure piping, and failed to perform adequate high-pressure testing. When a sudden pressure surge ripped through the bypass, the temporary scaffolding poles that allowed the pipe to twist under pressure buckled. Dr. John Cox, a critic of this official explanation, recently argued that Britain's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) arrived at "the safe conclusion to allay public fears, rather than a significant conclusion which is that it was quite a complex issue". During a one-day symposium at in London in April 2007, Cox argued that the Flixborough Disaster began with a smaller explosion before the massive blast. An eyewitness who had tried to warn the police supported Cox's theory, claiming that authorities had ignored his warning.

Resource:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flixborough_disaster

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclohexane

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_and_Safety_Executive

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#1

Re: June 1, 1974 – The Flixborough Disaster

06/02/2007 5:33 PM

Hi Steve,

The engineers, physicists, chemistries, and all the creative ones, we are the causes of the advances of the humanity and their calamities, in honor to the good faith and so that not to say it, the economic repayment (Alfred Nobel, felt such when seeing what badly she had obtained, that treatment to remedy it, leaving a legacy to the world to award to the scientists and fighters of peace by significant advances for the humanity).

The engineers come from talent and as well of creativity, it is called to solve the problems that appear and to repair the existing ones, for the humanity there is no limit in its creativity, everything what we dreamed has almost fulfilled us, from Jules Gabriel Verne, until Dick Tracy and his first mobile phone, the latest that I read is that they had captured a single photon and quantum electrodynamics in cavities, laser light through steam of 4,7 to 310 times but fast that the speed of the light and other madnesses, that Albert Einstein had finished its Fifth Unfinished one that it is present theory M, with its 11 dimensions.

Science and engineering go of the hand, and it is not product of a single one, but of the humanity.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Los ingenieros, físicos, químicos, y todos los creativos, somos los causantes de los avances de la humanidad y sus calamidades, en honor a la buena fe y por que no decirlo, la retribución económica (Alfred Nobel, se sintió tal mal al ver lo que había logrado, que trato de remediarlo, dejando un legado al mundo de premiar a los científicos y luchadores de la paz por avances significativos para la humanidad).

A nosotros los ingenieros que viene de ingenio y a su vez de creatividad, nos toca resolver los problemas que se nos presentan y reparar los existentes, para la humanidad no hay límite en su creatividad, casi todo lo que soñamos se nos ha cumplido, desde Julio Verne, hasta Dick Tracy y su primer teléfono cedular, lo último que leí es que habían capturado un solo fotón y electrodinámica cuántica en cavidades, luz láser a través de vapor de 4.7 a 310 veces mas rápida que la velocidad de la luz y otras locuras, que Albert Einstein hubiera terminado su Quinta Inconclusa que es la actual teoría M, con sus 11 dimensiones.

La ciencia y la ingeniería van de la mano, y no es producto de una sola, sino de la humanidad.

Tomás / (Grage Tesla )

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: June 1, 1974 – The Flixborough Disaster

06/05/2007 8:24 AM

I like the Spanish text at the end of your post, Tomás. It gives me an chance to see how much Spanish I remember, especially when viewed with the English text above!

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: June 1, 1974 – The Flixborough Disaster

11/16/2007 3:55 PM

Nice comment and nice translation ............thank you

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#3

Re: June 1, 1974 – The Flixborough Disaster

06/10/2007 12:37 AM

You neglected to mention that an alternate 'theory', that explained all the evidence in some detail, and futher refuted Cox's hypothesis, was presented also at the one day symposium in London. This hypothesis has flow induced vibration cause fatigue and squirm of the upstream bellows followed immediatly by collapse of the dog-leg. The downstream bellows however remains intact. As a result the amount of cyclohexane released to form the explosive cloud was very much less than has been to now accepted.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: June 1, 1974 – The Flixborough Disaster

06/11/2007 8:14 AM

Thanks, critic. Welcome aboard.

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#6
In reply to #3

Re: June 1, 1974 – The Flixborough Disaster

07/01/2009 3:20 AM

July , 1st 2009. As far as I conclude the 1974 incident is still a "cold case" despite a lot of experts.

To solve we need some more people involved with the then existing Caprolactam plants worldwide. Any volunteers not suffering from Alzheimer?

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