Natural Gas Explosion at Murray State University

On June 28th, NBC News reported a natural gas explosion on the campus at Murray State University.  According to the report, a dormitory building known as the Richmond Residential College, sustained heavy damage and injured at least one employee.  Since the incident occurred, no news reports have been issued with regard to exactly where the gas leak was located, ie, whether the leak was inside the building or outside; upstream or downstream of the gas meter.  The location of the gas leak is significant because it served to indicate whether the leak was the fault of gas line installers or servicing personnel since the building was constructed in 2009 OR the fault of an aging gas line infrastructure that was the responsibility of the local natural gas provider.  If installers or servicing personnel had been working on the line and failed to adequately test for leaks, then the fault would lie with them.  However, if the gas supply line failed, then the gas company (or the owner of the line) is most likely at fault.  If this is what happened, then this becomes another example of how an aging gas line is neglected and becomes a serious danger to those who use the fuel that is piped to their homes and businesses.  The sale of natural gas is a business – everyone knows that.  Because it is a business, the business also has expenses, one of which would be the expensive replacement of line segments as they reach the end of their useful life.  Natural gas pipelines are not all the same size.  Some are much larger and require thicker walls depending on the pressure within.  The pressure that has to be contained is a factor that has to be considered in establishing the useful life of the pipe.  But, when decisions are made (by management) that extend the use of pipe beyond the expected life, that’s when people and property are put in harm’s way.  The company’s and their managing personnel that utilize this kind of asset management must be held accountable.  One only has to do a little bit of research on the internet to find that there have been a number of explosions in recent years, not only in the natural gas industry but, in the petroleum industry as well.  A little more research and one will find that gas line age can vary from 20 to 50 plus years.  Infrastructure in the United States is important and part of that infrastructure depends on maintaining our natural gas lines.

Tankless Water Heater Explosion

While investigating the cause of a tankless water heater explosion, the extent of the damage reinforced the mechanics behind the explosive force. Tankless water heaters are devices that put a large amount of heat into flowing water in a very short period of time. But, when the water stops flowing and the heat doesn’t, there can be a tremendous release of destructive energy. It is well known that as water is  heated in an enclosure, not only does the temperature rise but, the pressure also rises as well. Pressure cookers are a good example of how water can become pressurized and if caution is not exercised by the user, can be come a deadly force. In addition, explosions involving conventional water heaters and boilers are not unheard of. As a result, temperature and  pressure valves have been required equipment on these items for a number of  years. However, tankless water heaters don’t have relief valves. Since the amount of water to be heated is less than one gallon, (when water is not flowing) it doen’t take long to cause the temperature and pressure  to reach explosive levels. The tankless unit currently under investigation contains two small reservoirs in which heating elements are immersed. The reservoirs appear to be constructed of  a hard, plastic-like material, the properties of which are unknown. The point at which rupture occurs is  dependant on the properties of the material because it is the materal that is  subjected to the rapidly increasing pressure.

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