Established modern technology can be applied to understand and prevent continuous oil and gas pipeline ruptures and explosions. This pipe stress theory explains the cause, effects of most pipeline ruptures and explosions. We will go over this theory in detail and I will explain to you how, going forward these disastrous explosions can be prevented using state of the art protective coating material as a preventative.
The pipe stress theory explains that valve closures in pipelines effectively magnify pipelines' pressures to cause cracks, leading to oil spills. Pressure transients from the valve, pump, or compressor operations create pipeline accidents. Pressure fluctuations in pipelines compress flammable fumes to ignite them and blow apart pipelines. A few explosions are otherwise produced during maintenance exercises, such as digging with heavy equipment. Pressure transients are the principal cause of pipeline disasters in the petroleum industry.
Up to ten large scale gas pipeline ruptures and explosions occur every year in the U.S. petroleum industry, severely wounding and killing many in the process. Although not recognized in prior accident investigations, many explosions share the same characteristics. Most importantly, photos prove that pipelines typically explode from the inside. To do so, air must exist inside the pipeline to explode flammable methane, where methane cannot explode without oxygen.
What then is the source of air to explode gas pipelines?
The physics are fairly simple – air is heavier than methane gas– and air will disperse from the natural gas at low points in the pipeline, where the air in the system may be introduced as particle quantities in the gas or maybe introduced in larger volumes when the pipeline is exposed to air for maintenance. Thus, gas pipelines collect air at low points in the pipelines, where methane and air mix. To explore this combustible gas mixture, pressure transients are adequate to explode gases inside pipelines without an independent spark source, where the heat of ignition is provided by gas concentration. Air plus methane plus concentration yields heat and explosions. A survey of accidents quickly concludes that these conditions exist for oil and gas pipeline explosions.
Now consider gas pipeline explosion disasters.
First, consider a Carlsbad, New Mexico blast that killed twelve people located 675 feet from the explosion, where corrosion weakened the pipe wall before the blast. However, corrosion did not cause the pipeline's final rupture, and pressure transients were not investigated. The 113 foot long by 51 feet wide crater proved that air was present at a low point inside the pipeline to cause the explosion. The implication is that a pressure transient caused the explosion, where pressure measurements were ineffectual to detect pressure transients.
SAN BRUNO EXPLOSION
As a second example, intentional pressure transients were measured at the San Bruno 1000 foot high blast that killed ten people. Pressure transients were measured at the time of the explosion at a localized weak point in the pipeline, where the air was collected to discharge methane natural gas.
Now consider an Amherst, South Dakota pressure increase that blasted a gas pipeline when the pressure had increased from 1,170 pounds per square inch gauge. Discovering explosions with this probable cause is easy. Find a government-issued explosion report, look for the pressure transient, and the explosion cause is immediately obvious.
Amherst Explosion and Other Explosions
The cause of explosions for oil rigs is related to gas pipeline explosions, where more than fifty oil rig blasts have occurred around the globe
As trapped oxygen from oil wells rises to the oil rigs above, the oil and oxygen blast. The common refrain of oil rig operators is swish, run, boom, as the gases blast inside a pipe and burst up through the pipeline to the platforms where operators work the oil rigs. The Gulf Oil Spill is the most well-known example of this type of explosion.
The common cause of oil pipeline ruptures and resultant oil spills is also self-evident. However, for oil pipeline spills, the rupture mechanism varies from pipeline explosions, even though pressure transients are still the common-mode failure event. Slam valves are used by operators to quickly control oil flow between different pipeline operators, where numerous companies operate interconnected pipelines throughout the U.S. When these valves are slammed, high-pressure waves move at near sonic velocities throughout pipelines to cause fatigue failures over time. The pipe walls are pounded until they eventually crack by repeated pressure transients or slam valve closures. The main differences between these pipeline breaks and pipeline explosions are that flammable gases are not ignited, and pressures to cause cracks are lower than explosion pressures. A brief survey of oil pipeline ruptures quickly reveals that pressure transients occur before oil spills. For example, a Michigan pipeline rupture blew 843,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River.
GULF OIL SPILL EXPLOSION
How can these accidents be stopped?
To stop the accidents, you must stop the pressure transients. If the pipeline is not hammered, it will not break. Applying a blast proof protective coating to the pipeline can control the pressure transients to decrease temperature increases, which will prevent the ignition of flammable gas and therefore prevent explosions. ArmorThane has a worldwide team of certified applicators that can assist you with any further questions you might have. Click here to contact ArmorThane today!
Take a look at ArmorThane being applied to a pipeline in Iraq: