‘Gas Blows’ Prohibited

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 01:02 PM gHale

International Code Council (ICC) revised the International Fire Code (IFC) and International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC) to prohibit “gas blows” which led to the deaths of six workers in a tragic explosion at the Kleen Energy power generation facility in Middletown, Connecticut four years ago.

The revision calls for the IFGC to prohibit gas blows which is an inherently unsafe pipe cleaning methodology.

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On February 7, 2010, contractor at Kleen Energy, a natural gas-fueled power generation plant then under construction, were conducting an operation known as a “gas blow,” whereby large quantities of natural gas end up forced through piping at high pressure to remove any debris that could damage the turbine upon startup. The gas and debris released to the atmosphere, accumulated in a congested area and ignited, triggering a massive explosion that killed six and injured at least fifty.

The ICC is a non-profit association whose model codes and standards see use in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. According to the ICC, the IFGC and IFC are in use or adopted in more than 40 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.

“ICC’s actions reflect an important shift in industry good practice,” said Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. He also said the 2015 IFC and IFGC will likely acquire the force of regulation in coming years, as state and local jurisdictions move to adopt them. “The strong actions by both ICC and NFPA on fuel gas safety blaze a trail for regulatory action by OSHA on this topic.” The CSB recommendation for OSHA to develop a fuel gas standard has not yet occurred.

A 2009 explosion at the ConAgra Slim Jim plant in North Carolina, which the CSB investigated, occurred when new gas piping ended up purged into service and gas vented inside a building. New NFPA requirements adopted prohibit this practice.

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