BREAKING NEWS: FABIG LUNCHTIME WEBINARS TO BE HELD EVERY 2 WEEKS WHILST MOST FABIG MEMBERS ARE IN LOCKDOWN
Facility:
Phillips 66 Company
Location:
Pasadena, USA
Date of accident:
23 October 1989
Type of accident:
  • Release of toxic/flammable materials
  • Explosion
  • Fire
Offshore/onshore accident:
Onshore
Number of fatalities:
23
Number of people injured:
314

Phillips 66 Company, Pasadena, USA, 23 October 1989

SUMMARY

Following the release of a gas mixture, a vapour cloud formed and moved quickly downwind where it found an ignition source and exploded. There were several subsequent massive explosions involving two isobutane storage tanks and the catastrophic failure of a polyethylene plant reactor.

 

LESSONS

  • Management of major hazard requires a good understanding of the hazards via hazard identification and assessment. No hazard analysis had been carried out for the installation.
  • Plant layout and separation distances are essential elements of good plant design. Separation distances between process equipment were inadequate in the Phillips plant and hindered the safe escape of personnel. In addition, the control room was destroyed in the initial explosion as it was too close to the plant.
  • Consideration should be given to the arrangement of ventilation intakes of buildings to prevent intake of gas in the event of a release.
  • Minimising occupancy of buildings is an important factor in limiting exposure of personnel. Both the control room and the buildings at the Phillips plant had high levels of occupancy.
  • Good fire and explosion hazard management strategy relies on multiple barriers including proper ignition control, detection systems, enforcement of safety procedures.
    • Control of ignition sources at the plant was poor.
    • There was no fixed flammable gas detection system despite the large flammable inventory.
    • There was no enforcement of the Permit to work systems
  • Violation of the isolation procedures for maintenance was a local practice that was not picked up by the safety audits.
  •  Mitigation measures must be properly designed to prevent failure during the event.
    • The fire water system relied on the process water system and was vulnerable to an explosion.
    • The electricity cables for the fire pumps were not laid underground and this increased their vulnerability to damage by fire and explosion.
  •  Emergency planning is an essential part of management of major accident hazards.

The company had a good emergency response plan. A series of joint exercises were conducted with the emergency services and this resulted in a good response on the day of the event. This was one of the most positive lessons learnt from the accident.

Share

Corporate Membership

Joining FABIG provides access to a wealth of technical resources as well as excellent training opportunities, and ensures that your organisation is kept abreast of the latest developments in fire and explosion engineering. FABIG also provides a forum for discussing technical issues with industry peers via participation in the FABIG activities, therefore creating invaluable networking opportunities. Become a Member Request a Membership Quote

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? TO GET IN TOUCH PLEASE

Click here

KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH THE LATEST FABIG NEWS AND EVENTS

Subscribe