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Oil Refineries Present "Perfect Storm" For Explosions

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A fire only needs three things to ignite: oxygen, fuel and heat. All three can be easily found at any oil and gas facility. Isolating these fire-starting elements and preventing them from mixing with each other must be a key safety priority for every employer, well or refinery owner, in order to protect employees, people nearby and expensive equipment used in the oil and gas industry.

While some fire sources are out of our control as humans - for example, a lightning strike - others are preventable or at least controllable when using the right equipment. A buildup of static electricity during the process of filling a tank can become a fire source if the tank is not properly grounded. Poorly-maintained or malfunctioning equipment can also be the culprit in a refinery explosion.

There is no substitute for careful planning, adequate training and appropriate fire-prevention equipment in preventing serious and even fatal injuries that may result from oil and gas accidents.

The good news is that steps can be taken to prevent oil & gas explosions and to improve oil & gas safety, including:

  • Creating a fire-fighting plan. Educating members of an in-house fire response team on the appropriate ways to respond to an oil & gas fire and mitigation techniques can save lives and valuable equipment. How can a fire's fuel supply be safely cut off? What suppression agent is appropriate for the type of fire that is burning?
  • Positioning of machinery. Access points to fire suppression systems should be considered. Are tanks too close together? Can emergency responders access the cause of a fire in a safe manner in order to control or extinguish it?
  • Performing regular inspections. Oil & gas facilities are particularly susceptible to fatal fires and explosions and must be inspected regularly to ensure compliance with safety standards and overall maintenance.

Although fire-prevention tactics can be expensive, failing to take fire and explosion prevention measures can result in an even more costly - and deadly - outcome.

Source: Rigzone, "Ignition Sources: Cutting A Common Thread," Matthew V. Veazy, December 20, 2012

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