Purging Gas Lines Likely to be Focus of Middletown CT Blast Investigation

[tweetmeme]This is a very good article detailing the inability of regulators and industry to address an ongoing safety issue. OSHA and private industry’s inability to prevent multiple explosions over the past several years, including one as recent as last year in North Carolina are a cause for alarm. This will likely be a focus of the investigation, at least early on, for the tragic explosion in Middletown, CT. Obviously it is too early to say what the cause of the explosion, but several reports coming out of Middletown indicate this may be involved. I am praying for the souls of those workers killed, and also their families.

View the full article at Christian Science Monitor

By Mark Clayton Staff writer / February 8, 2010
The purging of natural-gas lines is likely to be an early point of inquiry for federal investigators looking into Sunday’s fatal explosion at a power plant in Middletown, Conn., given that the process is linked to at least seven major explosions since 1997 that caused numerous injuries and deaths, federal documents suggest.

Natural-gas lines are purged to remove air from the pipes before natural gas begins to flow through them, because air-fuel mixtures can be explosive.

Even before investigators from the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) determine a cause, board officials have been working to persuade organizations that set safety standards to change safety codes governing gas-line purging nationwide.

“The CSB has no enforcement authority to make these changes,” says Sandy Gilmour, a CSB spokesman. “It’s an advocacy process.”

Where to vent pipes
The Chemical Safety Board, a federal investigative body, had recently criticized safety codes for installing natural-gas systems in industrial and other facilities. Such “voluntary consensus codes” – developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American Gas Association, and the International Code Council (ICC) – are usually adopted as regulations by states and localities nationwide, the CSB noted in recommending certain reforms.

One major CSB criticism: Today’s code practices strongly recommend – but don’t require – that gases from lines being purged be vented outdoors instead of into confined spaces or indoors.

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