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BEM Phase 1

Buncefield Explosion Mechanism Phase 1

Project Duration: 2008 - 2009

PROJECT SUMMARY

The Buncefield explosion (11 December 2005) resulted in tremendous damage to the outlying area and huge fires involving 23 large oil fuel tanks. One important aspect of the incident was the severity of the explosion, which would not have been anticipated in any major hazard assessment of the oil storage depot before the incident. The Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board (MIIB) invited explosion experts from academia and industry to form an Advisory Group to advise on the work that would be required to explain the severity of the Buncefield explosion. This MIIB Advisory Group carried out a preliminary assessment of the forensic evidence obtained following the incident and of the results of experiments carried out by the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL). The objectives of this assessment were:

  • To determine whether a sequence of events could be identified that would explain why such severe explosion pressures were generated; and
  • if this was not possible, to recommend to the Board what further actions would be required to explain the explosion severity.

The Advisory Group attempted to explain the explosion event at Buncefield using deflagration, detonation or a combination of both. It also examined other possible means of flame acceleration. However, it was not possible to identify a single scenario that could explain all aspects within the time available. The Advisory Group therefore recommended that a joint industry research project be initiated that would, in its first phase, have the objectives of completing the assessment started by the Advisory Group and, on the basis of this, of defining the requirements for further research. The research undertaken as part of the Buncefield Explosion Mechanism Phase 1 JIP, both experimental and theoretical, has led to a better understanding of likely explosion mechanisms and explanation of the observed damage.

The objectives of Phase 1 of this project were to:

  • To provide as definitive a record as possible of the characteristics of the Buncefield incident relevant to the formation and dispersion of the vapour and to the explosion, including the distribution of damage to nearby items and structures;
  • Where possible, to provide industry and the regulator with guidance for the operation of oil fuel storage sites based on this record of information and current knowledge of vapour cloud formation, dispersion and explosions;
  • To define the research that would be required in Phase 2 to confirm in greater detail the explosion mechanism involved in the Buncefield accident and to provide improved guidance for both oil storage facilities and facilities storing other flammable liquids.
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Available Documents

HSE RR718
Buncefield Explosion Mechanism Phase 1

Volumes 1 and 2

BEM Phase 1
Published in 2009

The Buncefield explosion (11 December 2005) resulted in tremendous damage to the outlying area and huge fires involving 23 large oil fuel tanks. One important aspect of the incident was the severity of the explosion, which would not have been anticipated in any major hazard assessment of the oil storage depot before the incident. The Buncefield Major Incident Investigation…

GexCon-08-F44110-RA-1
Experimental Investigation of the Effect of Flexible Obstructions on Flame Propagation in Vapour Cloud Explosions

BEM Phase 1
Published in 2009

It has been postulated in connection with explosion accident investigations that trees located in the vicinity may contribute to the blast generated by accidental vapour explosions. An example of such an accident is the Ufa accident in Russia in 1989. Experimental evidence, however, does not exist to support this. This report describes an experimental investigation of the…

DES07021_090225_V2.0
Characterising the response of reinforced concrete cladding panels to vapour cloud explosions

BEM Phase 1
Published in 2009

This report describes a study which examines the response of typical reinforced concrete facade cladding panel subjected to blast loads of a form consistent with vapour cloud explosions.

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