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Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Part 2 »

Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Part 1

While I was in America last year, I saw news reports of an accident in Massachusetts where a local residential gas network was overpressured. This lead to lots of explosions and fires over three different towns. The local emergency services received over a hundred 911 emergency calls within a short period of time.

I intend to discuss the cause of the accident in another post but for now I just want to cover how wide news of this accident has spread. As a chemical engineer, I was completely unaware of the accident. The only reason I know that it happened is because it happened when I was in New England and saw it getting reported on the local news.

Normally when there is a significant accident in America relating to a chemical plant or refinery, the chemical safety board, CSB, investigate it. I know quite a few other engineers who follow what the CSB produce and those that don't follow themselves, usually find out about the reports or videos after they are shared by others. But this accident is not getting investigated by the CSB, it is being investigated by the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, instead.

The NTSB covers road, rail, air and pipeline incidents. Because this was transporting the gas to the houses and businesses, it is a transport problem, not a chemical problem.

I wonder how many other incidents I have missed out on as a result of this distinction. But then, as the Disastrous Dinners series is starting to show - there is lots of things to learn about process safety by examining incidents from outside the process industries.

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