October, 2007

This is a repeating event

200729OctAll DayBarton Solvents (Des Moines) Explosion 2007Barton Solvents Des Moines (US-IA) Origin: CSB Lessons:Asset integrity,Operating Procedures,Operational IntegrityIndustry:ChemicalsCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Operator error

Summary

On October 29, 2007, at about 1 p.m., a fire and series of explosions occurred at the Barton Solvents Des Moines, Iowa, chemical distribution facility. The initial fire started in the packaging area while a 300-gallon portable steel tank, known as a tote, was being filled with ethyl acetate, a flammable solvent.

An operator placed the fill nozzle in the fill opening on top of the tote and suspended a steel weight on the nozzle to keep it in place.1 After opening the valve to begin the filling process, the operator walked across the room to do other work. As the tote was filling, he heard a ‘popping’ sound and turned to see the tote engulfed in flames and the fill nozzle laying on the floor discharging ethyl acetate. Before evacuating, employees tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the fire with a handheld fire extinguisher. The fire spread rapidly to the wood-framed warehouse, igniting a large volume of flammable and combustible liquids.

One employee received minor injuries and one firefighter was treated for a heat-related illness. A large plume of smoke and rocketing barrels and debris triggered an evacuation of the businesses surrounding the facility. The main warehouse structure was destroyed and Barton’s business was significantly interrupted. .

KEY ISSUES:
• ENSURE THAT EQUIPMENT, SUCH AS FILL NOZZLES AND HOSES, IS BONDED & GROUNDED AND DESIGNED FOR FLAMMABLE SERVICE
• USE DIP PIPES WHEN TOP-FILLING PORTABLE TANKS
• INSTALL FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS IN FLAMMABLE PACKAGING AREAS
• SEPARATE FLAMMABLE PACKAGING AREAS FROM BULK STORAGE AREAS

ROOT CAUSES:
1. The fill nozzle and hose used at Barton were not designed to be bonded and grounded, and were not intended for flammable service.
2. A fire suppression system in the packaging area likely would have stopped the rapid spread of the fire to the warehouse.
3. Proper separation from the warehouse by fire-rated walls and doors would have helped prevent the fire from spreading to the warehouse.


Image credit: CSB

Origin

CSBUS Chemical Safety Board

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