Pressure Vessel Explosion

A massive 220,000 lb steel pressure vessel exploded sending fragments, some in excess of 30,000 lbs, hundreds of feet. A 2,000 pound fragment was found resting on railroad tracks a quarter mile away. The roof and walls of the plant were blown off from by the force of the explosion. Reconstruction of the plant cost more than 17 million dollars.

Rapperport Associates was retained to determine the cause of the explosion. Testing in various aqueous environments was conducted on the subject vessel steel to characterize the material properties. A thermal finite element stress analysis was performed to determine operating stresses. A scanning electron microscopy (SEM) examination was performed to identify the crack initiation sites. The data indicated that improper cooling water treatment resulted in stress corrosion cracking which dramatically reduced the life expectancy of the vessel.

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