The 50 Major Engineering Failures (1977-2007) Part-3

List of Engineering Failures Contributed by Material Failures, Corrosion, Design Flaw, and Construction Defect in Oil and Gas Production Facilities, Hydrocarbon Processing, and Oil and Gas Distribution

(Part 3 of 5) – Muhammad Abduh (

24. Martinez California US – January 27, 1997 (Creep, Refinery, USD 80,000,000/82,000,000)

An effluent line from reactor in hydrocracker unit failed at pipe body leading to fire and explosion. Released hydrocarbon were auto-ignited because high temperature of the line seconds before explosion. Analysis of the failed pipe noted that the failure mechanism was creep above 1300 °F which expanded the 12-inches pipe circumferentially by 5-inches causing localized bulge in the pipe prior to rupture. (Source)

25. Yokkaichi Mie Japan – May 2, 1997 (Erosion-Corrosion, Petrochemical Plant)

A T-joint of high-pressure piping for recycle ethylene gas failed and lead to explosion. The explosion occurred by the ignition of released ethylene gas by static electricity. Failure was contributed by erosion corrosion event by the evidence of presence of water and a local vortex accompanying a high-speed flow. Erosion corrosion caused a local thinning and the pipe could no longer withstand internal pressure. (Source)

26. Visakhapatnam India – September 14, 1997 (Pipe Leaking, Refinery,50 killed, 27 injured, 100 evacuated, USD 64,000,000)

Piping in loading port and storage tank leaked. The heavier than air gas spread at ground level and ignited. A vapor cloud explosion to this refinery became more severe due to lack of anti-fire foam. The plant layout in which the LPG tanks and pipelines were very close to several administrative building caused large number of fatalities. (Source 1, 2)

27. St Helena California US – December 2, 1997( Corrosion-Pitting, Fuel Pipeline, USD 14,000,000/17,000,000)

36-inches pipe failed with up to 10,000 barrels of gasoline spilled. Both uniform and pit corrosion were found at the failed segment. The pipe was carbon steel with SMYS 52 kpsi, designed at operating pressure 584 psi and maximum allowable pressure at 758 psi. The pressure at the point of failure was 345 psi. (Source)

28. Bintulu Serawak Malaysia -December 25, 1997 (Gas Processing Plant, High Temperature Failure, 12 injured, USD 275,000,000/294,000,000)

Incipient combustion event at air separation unit (ASU) at a gas-to- liquid (GTL) plant and with the presence of liquid oxygen caused the explosive burning of the aluminum heat exchanger elements. The elements ruptured explosively. The plant was shut down for several months for repair. (Source)

29. Longford Victoria Australia -September 25, 1998 (Brittle Fracture, Gas Processing Plant, 2 killed, 8 injured, USD 160,000,000/171,000,000)

Figure Showing GP 905 Heat Exchanger of Longford Gas Plant

Operation error of a bypass valve allowed condensate to spill over into other parts of the system eventually causing the failure of warm oil pumps. Temperature of a heat exchanger decreased sufficiently to lead to material brittle transition. Operator then made error of restarting the warm oil flow which caused the heat exchanger to fracture. An initial release approximately 22,000 pounds of hydrocarbon vapor exploded and made the plant burned for two and a half days. Victoria was said to be in chaos for 19 days. The accident caused a large socio-economic excess. There were 10,000 litigants signed a class action suit that made it a largest class action in Australian legal history. (Source 1,2,3)

30. Berre l’Etang France – October 6, 1998 (Corrosion, Refinery,USD 22,000,000/23,000,000)

A pipe failed due to corrosion and released gas ignited when contacting hot process line. The fire caused the failure of kerosene air cooler and adding more fuel too the fire. The fire created severe damage to 127,000 barrels-per-day crude unit and a 17,000 barrels-per-day reformer. Corrosionwas largely associated with the presence of more corrosive naphtanic acid. (Source)

31. Idjerhe Niger Delta Nigeria – October 17, 1998 (Pipe Leaking,Fuel Pipeline,100 killed)

Pipe leaked a day before the explosion. Large number of victim due to people from surrounding pipeline right of way gathers to fetch the fuel spill. The pipe that burst runs parallel to River Ethiope and has two major foot paths to it from the road. The pipeline was laid in the early 1970. The area is actively cultivated by the local people. Next to the buried fuel pipe is a gas pipeline about 15 meters apart. Poor pipeline maintenance was associated with the leaking. (Source)

32. Knoxville Tennesse US – February 9, 1999 (Brittle Fracture, 15 evacuated, USD 8,100,000)

Figure Showing Circumferential Crack of Knoxville Pipeline (NTSB US)

A pipe failed releasing 53,500 barrels of diesel fuel. The pipe was 10-inches in diameter, API 5L X-42 SMYS 42 kpsi, electric resistance weld (ERW) carbon steel and with 0.25 inches in thickness. Circumferential crack was found at the failed segment. The possible cause for cracking was noted by the low toughness of the manufactured pipe material. The pipe was constructed in 1962 when there was no adequate toughness requirement from available pipe code and design. National Transportation Safety Board had already
given recommendation for toughness requirement to Department of Transportation Research and Special Administration Agency (RSPA) when a similar failure occurred in 1994 in New Jersey. In 2000 responding the request from RSPA, American Petroleum Institute (API) added minimum toughness requirements to API Specification 5L. (Source)

33. Martinez Caifornia US – February 23, 1999 (Corrosion, 4 killed, 1 injured)

Leakage and fire occurred and originated from a heat exchanger. The heat exchganer condensed vapor from a high temperature and high pressure separator at the outlet of the reactor of a fuel oil hydro- desulfurization unit. One heat transfer tube of the fin-fan cooler was was corroded. Corrosion was caused by inadequate re-design of heat exchanger changing service. (Source)

34. Winchester Kentucky US – January 27, 2000 (Crude Oil Pipeline, Fatigue, USD 7,100,000)

Figure showing Winchester fatigue cracked pipeline

A 24-inches pipeline ruptured and released 11,644 barrels of crude oil. Laboratory examination of the failed segment showed a transgranular cracks that had the appearance of typical fatigue progression. The fatigue cracking was caused by a dent in pipe with the combination of fluctuating pressures within the pipe producing high local stress in the pipe wall. (Source)

35. Hunt Texas US- March 3, 2000 (Corrosion, Fuel Pipeline, USD 40,000,000)

28-inches in diameter pipe failed due to external corrosion causing 13,400 barrels of gasoline spill. The failed segment was submerged below ground. Leaking originated at the body pipe. The material was carbon steel with SMYS 52 kpsi, designed at 751 psi to maximum 955 psi. The pressure at the failed segment was 705 psi. (Source)

36. Prince Georges US – April 7, 2000 (Pipe Leaking, Fuel Pipeline, USD 50,000,000/ 57,000,000)

A submerged pipe carrying refined petroleum product failed. At the time of failure, the pipe was 27 years in operation, has SMYS 1.61 kpsi and designed pressured at 550 psi/1600 psi. This pipe failure caused the largest loses of fuel spill that recorded by US DOT PHMSA. A report said that no corrosion significantly susceptible for the cause of failure neither in the weld. (Source)

37. Mina Al-Ahmadi Kuwait – June 25, 2000 (Erosion-Corrosion, Refinery, 5 killed, 50 injured, USD412,000,000/ 433,000,000)

FIgure Showing Mina Al-Ahmadi Refinery Exploded

A condensate line between a NGL plant and refinery failed. The operators were trying to isolate the leaking line and the explosion occurred. Three crude units and two reformers were damaged. Accident to this national biggest oil refinery made an enormous economic looses and excess in sociopolitic when Kuwait oil minister offers resignation. The failed pipe was an aging pipe that suffered erosion-corrosion and slipped through the inspection and maintenance. (Source)

38. Carlsbad New Mexico US – August 19, 2000 (Corrosion-Pitting, Gas Pipeline, 12 killed, USD 100,000,000)

Figure showing micrograph corroded-pit of Carlsbad Pipeline

A 50-years, 30-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline ruptured. The release gas ignited and burned for 55 minutes. Investigation of the failed segment revealed severe internal pit-corrosion as major contributing cause of the failure. At the time of failure the pipe withstand 80% of maximum design pressure. National Transportation Safety recommended amendment in 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 192 to require that new or replaced pipelines be designed and constructed with features to mitigate internal corrosion and to National Association of Corrosion Engineer (NACE) to establish more guidelines to control internal corrosion . Pipeline operator spend USD 15,500,000 for legal fine and USD 86,000,000 for pipeline modifications. (Source)

See also : Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5

4 Responses to The 50 Major Engineering Failures (1977-2007) Part-3

  1. […] 2004; Humber Estuary Refinery UK April 16, 2001; Brookdale Pipeline Manitoba Canada April 14, 2002: Carlsbad Pipeline US August 19, 2000; Trans-Alaska Pipeline March 2, […]

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