Gas Explosion Investigations
NG & Propane Explosion Experts
Commercial and residential explosions occur every year in the United States. Whether the explosion involves a propane-fueled barbecue grill or a multi-million dollar refinery, the fire experts and engineers of McDowell Owens have the knowledge, tools and proven methodology to scientifically gather and assess available information and evidence in order to provide not only informed opinions but also answers as to the cause and origin of fuel gas incidents and explosions.
Propane and natural gas are used as a primary fuel for many residential, commercial and industrial applications. One of the big differences between the two fuels is the method in which the gas is transferred to the end user.
Natural gas is transferred through a complex network of underground gas transmission pipelines of varying sizes from the production facilities to the end user. In contrast, propane (liquefied petroleum gas - LP gas) is a hydrocarbon that is stored under pressure as a liquid and is typically used in vapor form. Propane is transported by pipeline or transport truck to local storage facilities. From the local storage facilities the propane is then transferred to the end user either in various-sized cylinders or by bulk delivery trucks that fill permanent tanks at customer sites.
Whether the fuel system is natural gas or propane, all gas systems at the end user location utilize regulators to control the delivery pressure of the gas, piping in which the gas flows and the gas-fired appliances.
Most people take for granted that their fuel gas systems will function indefinitely and never give them a second thought. However, pipelines and gas piping can fail; components in the gas piping delivery system, such as regulators and valves can fail, or the appliances and their components can fail or may not have been properly installed or maintained.
Unfortunately, such failures often have catastrophic outcomes that result in explosions and/or fires.
The professional engineers and fire scientists at McDowell Owens Engineering have over twenty-five years of experience responding to and conducting failure analysis of all types of gas systems. We analyze every aspect of the gas system from the overall installation of the tanks, cylinders, or incoming service lines to the regulator operation, installation of the gas piping and appliances operation and associated control valves and appliance regulators. In addition to the onsite analysis and testing, the engineers and fire scientists at McDowell Owens have extensive knowledge of the regulatory codes and standards that apply to the use of fuel gases and their transportation, and we regularly apply this knowledge in our analysis of the entire gas system in question.
Some of the fuel gas incidents and explosions that the experts of McDowell Owens have investigated include, but are not limited to, the following systems and components:
- Natural gas systems and equipment
- LP gas (propane) systems and equipment
- Pipelines and pipeline transmission
- Compressor stations
- Gas migration
- Vapor dispersion
- Carbon monoxide production and migration
- Domestic and commercial ranges
- Clothes dryers
- Water heaters
- Gas log fireplaces
- Space heaters
- Barbecue grills
- Gas lamps
- Propane cylinders
- Propane storage tanks
- Propane delivery trucks
- Propane vaporizers