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Industrial Fire and Explosion Hazards

Piper Alpha
Piper Alpha

Piper Alpha


In the industrial setting, there are many hazards – more importantly fires, explosions and toxic releases. Fires occur the most frequently in industries and is the first major hazard in chemical or process industries. Industrial fires are highly hazardous and dangerous, and accidents lead to the loss of lives and major damage to infrastructure.

Fires take several different forms, such as jet fires, pool fires, flash fires, fireballs, vapour cloud explosions and boiling liquid expanding vapour explosions (BLEVEs), which are outlined below:


  • Jet fires

Jet fires, or ejected flames, occur when there is an ejection of flammable liquid from a vessel, pipe or pipe flange. Jet flames scenarios are highly dangerous and jet fires can go up to 50 metres or more.  Jet fires dissipate thermal radiation away from the flame’s visible boundaries and the energy transmitted could be hazardous to both life and property. As seen in the Piper Alpha Oil platform 1988 incident, a series of violent explosions and a large fire destroyed the oil platform and took 167 lives.


  • Pool fires

A pool fire, defined as “a pool of flammable liquid burning with a stationary diffusion flame or the combustion of material evaporating from a layer of liquid at the base of fire”, occurs when a flammable liquid spills and is ignited on the ground.  A pool fire is dangerous because wind can extend the base of the flame and cause flame drag.

Some incidents describe a pool fire taking place in a storage tank or bund. In both cases, the boundary of the pool is clearly defined and the shape of the pool may be circular or rectangular. Other types of pool fire occur after a liquid is discharged on the ground, the shape and depth of the pool being determined by the local contours.

The Cleveland East Ohio Gas explosion occurred when around 3,000 T of LNG ‘spilled over’ from several storage tanks and caused large scale pool fires. The accident resulted in 130 deaths, 400 injuries, destroyed 79 homes and 2 factories.


  • Flash fires

Flash fires, or vapour cloud fires, are defined as “the combustion of a flammable vapour and air mixture in which flame passes through the mixture, at less than sonic velocity (speed of sound in the medium), such that negligible over pressure is generated”. A flash fire, occurs when a vapour cloud forms from a leak and is ignited. Release of flammable vapour from a process plant followed by ignition is common. In a flash fire, the gas burns and may cause a sudden depletion of oxygen. In petrochemical industries, flash fires occur at places such as collection points, compressor stations, refineries and more.


Gas Explosion Hazards, Fire Detection and Protection Systems Design for Oil & Gas is a 3-day course held from 11 – 13 September 2018 (Singapore), designed to provide an insight into the major drivers into fire and explosion hazard risk, and the various methods of preventing and mitigating such risk. The course will discuss quantitative consequence analysis, such as vapor dispersion modeling, vapor cloud explosion modeling, fire modeling, and presents the details necessary to perform such analyses. In addition, it will focus on the fire and gas detection systems for offshore and onshore process areas, and how such systems can be used to lower the overall explosion risk to facilities. The course will demonstrate how performance-based designs can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a fire and gas detection system. For more information, please visit us at or contact us at


Read more about most common causes of industrial fires and explosions here: 3 Causes of Industrial Fire and Gas Explosions


Opus Kinetic believes that people are why organisations are successful, and giving people the knowledge to perform well at their job is integral for success. We pride ourselves as the premier provider of knowledge, offering acclaimed in-house trainings, and many others professional training courses spanning from various industries. Our training courses are well researched and updated with the latest industry trends. For more information on our professional training programs, visit us at

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