Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Process Engineering, Biotechnology, Nutrition Technology
An explosion and flash fire in a fixed bed reactor occurred at a municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Two employees were injured in the accident. The accident occurred in an ozone treatment building where ozone was used to treat odors from the offgas of the sludge concentration units. Excess ozone manually was routed to the fixed bed reactor (ozone destruct unit) where the ozone is catalytically transformed into oxygen before being discharged to the atmosphere.An investigation of the accident was conducted to determine the root cause of the explosion and flash fire and identify corrective actions which the WWTP management could undertake to prevent a recurrence. This investigation included site inspections, interview with the injured employees, sampling and analysis of various materials, an explosion dynamics analysis, and a root cause analysis.It was concluded that cooling oil from one of the ozone generation units entered the main ozone gas line due to a crack in one of the reactor's dielectric tubes. The cooling oil was vented into the ozone destruct unit when an employee opened a ball valve on the main ozone gas line. The cooling oil, essentially a saturated hydrocarbon mixture, reacted exothermically when it contacted the manganese dioxide catalyst. The exothermic reaction resulted in an explosion which propelled the access panel outwards and dispersed the catalyst pellets. A flash fire followed the explosion. The flash fire burned two employees and caused thermal damage to a nearby control panel.Although this accident was the first of its kind at this facility, this was not the first time that the ozone generator had experienced a failure of a dielectric tube. Thus, there was a significant probability that a dielectric tube failure could leak cooling oil into the main ozone gas line. This failure event could, in turn, result in another explosion and flash fire. The WWTP staff neither designed nor fabricated the ozone generator-destructor system. Therefore, it did not seem appropriate for the WWTP staff to modify the ozone system. Instead, it was recommended that the ozone destruct unit be taken out of service. The WWTP management acted on this recommendation.
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