New Technical Brief on Explosion, Fireball and Pool Fire Threats from Ignited Crude Oil

Repost from Homeland Security Today (HSTODAY.US)
[Editor: This article gives an overview of two expert briefs by AristaTek, both of which require sign-up and an online meeting before they can be downloaded.  Intended for hazmat teams, fire departments/fire marshals, sheriffs, and public safety/health professionals, but not available to the general public, SOMEONE should make sure our legislators, regulators, and first responders have accessed these important studies.  And hopefully, someone will share it with those of us who are opposing crude by rail.  I will post these documents here if/when I locate them.  – RS]

New Technical Brief on Explosion, Fireball and Pool Fire Threats from Ignited Crude Oil

By Anthony Kimery, Editor-in-Chief, 01/21/2015

In a follow-up to AristaTek’s January 2014 technical brief, Toxic Consequences of Smoke Plumes from Crude Oil Fires, that was prepared in response to the threat of an accident involving crude oil shipments, the company has prepared a new technical brief, Hazards Associated with Spilled Crude, to help with planning and response to accidents involving crude oil by consolidating several key pieces of information important to planners and responders.

A leading provider of hazardous materials planning and response solutions, AristaTek’s new brief to be released this week details the consequences of vapor cloud explosions, fireballs and pool fires for various quantities of spilled crude oil. AristaTek makes its technical briefings available at no cost to hazmat teams, fire departments, fire marshals, sheriffs, first responders and emergency response officials and any other public safety and health professionals to assist in their responsibility to protect their communities.

“We decided to do another tech brief on crude oil as there have been several articles lately about communities having done studies which show themselves to be largely unprepared for a disaster involving crude oil,” Homeland Security Today was told by AristaTek spokesman C. Scott Bunning. “Our brief provides a ‘Hazard Table’ for explosive and burn effects of both fireballs and pool fires for various along with other consolidated info we hope responders and planners will find as a useful resource.”

“During a train derailment involving crude oil, the immediate threats that responders worry about the most are the vapor cloud explosions and pool fires,” said AristaTek CEO Bruce King. “We felt analyzing these threats and providing an easy to follow table for various quantities of spilled crude would be a useful resource for planners and responders alike.”

“According to the American Association of Railroads, there were 362,000 carloads of crude oil shipped in the first three quarters of 2014,” the company said, pointing out that, “This amount is twice that of the same time period only two short years ago in 2012. Several high-profile accidents in 2013 highlighted the inherent dangers this substance can present to communities. Many states have conducted recent surveys of their response capabilities for accidents involving spilled crude and have found their responders largely unprepared for a large accident involving the substance.”

“A typical tank car may contain 30,000 gallons of crude oil, and could be part of a unit train containing over 100 tank cars. The most common accident is a train derailment, which may or may not result in a rupture spilling crude oil,” the brief says. And, “Because of its flammable nature, the crude may ignite resulting in explosions, fireball and pool fire. Multiple rail cars may be involved. The fire will also produce a dense black smoke cloud which could require evacuations or shelter -in-lace. There may be environmental concerns because of spills into a waterways.”

AristaTek said, “Crude oil presents several hazards when it is spilled in the environment and [its new technical brief] summarizes these hazards in a useful table. The first hazards happen when the spilled crude vaporizes, contacts an ignition source, explodes and also rapidly burns in a fireball. The resulting hazards are an explosion who blast is measured in overpressure, and the fireball which has a burn hazard for those standing too close.”

“The other hazard,” the firm said, “is a burn hazard associated with burning pool of spilled crude. The table offers safe-standoff distances for various quantities of spilled crude for all three hazards. The brief also offers some highlights of the recently issued industry reports on Bakken crude oil detailing characteristics of this type of crude and its lower flash point, and points out several government and industry sources for response information and protocols for emergency response.”

“The table of hazards was prepared using our flagship PEAC-WMD software, the world’s leading hazardous materials technical reference and modeling software,” King said. “Preparing this table and the brief overall is one of our efforts to provide a free but effective resource for those planners and responders attempting to prepare for this threat that isn’t going away any time soon despite the recent drop in oil prices.”