CSB blames cooling system flaw for T2 blast

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Sept. 15
-- Failure of a cooling system contributed to a December 2007 explosion and fire at a gasoline additive manufacturing plant owned by T2 Laboratories in Jacksonville, Fla., the US Chemical Safety Board said in a draft report issued Sept. 15.

Concluding that T2 owners did not recognize all potential hazards of the chemical process involved with making the gasoline additive, CSB’s staff recommended improving the education of chemical engineering students about reactive chemical hazards.

The Dec. 19, 2007, explosion and fire killed four T2 employees and injured four others. Another 28 people working at nearby businesses were injured when the blast blew in windows and building walls.

“This is one of the largest reactive chemical accidents that CSB has investigated,” said CSB Chairman John Bresland. “We hope our findings once again call attention to the need for companies to be aware of how to control reactive chemical hazards.”

In 2002, the CSB completed a study of reactive chemical hazards that identified 167 accidents during 20 years and made recommendations to improve reactive chemical safety.

The 2007 accident happened during T2’s production of MCMT, a gasoline additive. Chemical testing by CSB found the recipe used by T2 caused two heat-producing reactions. The first was an intended part of producing MCMT, but a second reaction was triggered when temperatures went slightly higher than the normal production temperature in the plant’s 2,500-gal reactor.

“The cooling system likely malfunctioned due to a blockage in the water supply piping or a valve failure,” CSB said. “The temperature and pressure inside the reactor began to rise uncontrollably in a runaway chemical reaction.”

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