May, 2017

This is a repeating event

201724MayAll DayMidland Resource Recovery Explosion 2017Midland Resource Recovery Philippi (US-WV) Origin: CSB Lessons:Commitment & Culture,Compliance with Standards,Risk AssessmentIndustry:StorageCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Operator error

Summary

On May 24, 2017, an explosion occurred at the Midland Resource Recovery (MRR) facility in Philippi, West Virginia, killing two workers and severely injuring another worker. The founder and president of MRR was one of the victims. The CSB initiated an investigation of the incident and deployed an investigative team on May 28, 2017. While the CSB was investigating this incident, the MRR facility experienced a second explosion, on June 20, 2017. This explosion fatally injured a contractor employed by Specialized Professional Services, Inc. (SPSI). MRR had hired SPSI to perform investigation and mitigation work at its Philippi facility following the May 24, 2017, explosion.

The CSB determined that the probable cause of these incidents was reactive, unstable chemicals that exploded when workers tried to drain the uncharacterized, chemically treated liquid from natural gas odorizer equipment. The CSB investigation found that MRR lacked an effective safety management system to identify and control hazards from reactive chemicals. Among other things, MRR had no formal hazard identification process in place to analyze or characterize what chemicals were inside the odorizer vessels (and in what quantity) before decommissioning and chemically treating this equipment with sodium hypochlorite. The company also lacked effective safeguards to prevent unexpected or uncontrolled chemical reactions.

Following these catastrophic incidents, MRR asserts that it has stopped using reactive chemicals, including sodium hypochlorite, and the company now uses a proprietary process to remove the mercaptan smell from decommissioned odorization equipment.

KEY ISSUES:
• INEFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF REACTIVE CHEMICAL HAZARDS
• LACK OF A PROCESS SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
• PERSISTING GAPS IN FEDERAL SAFETY REGULATIONS FOR REACTIVE CHEMICAL HAZARDS

ROOT CAUSES:
1. The company did not conduct a formal evaluation of the reactive chemistry, perform a hazard analysis, and ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent reactive chemical incidents.
2. The company did have a thorough and complete understanding of their reactive chemistry under design conditions and under all foreseeable abnormal conditions.


Image credit: CSB

Origin

CSBUS Chemical Safety Board

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