Dramatic failure

A combination of general busyness and the holiday season means it has been nearly two months since my last post.  I thought I’d start the new year with a bang – almost literally.  This YouTube video from security cameras illustrates dramatically the awesome consequences of a major pipeline failure.  Neither post-failure photos nor dry measurements of consequence distances capture the impact quite like video.

I was aware of the failure at the time but in the absence of any further information there wasn’t much to say about it.  There is still an absence of information so I don’t know the size or pressure of the pipeline (both probably large).  However it seems very clear that the release is from a pipeline because I can’t imagine what else could create such a huge jet fire for so long.  It was presumably an above-ground pipeline because the discharge is horizontal (failure of a buried pipeline mostly seems to result in a near-vertical discharge as gas is deflected by the crater).  For the record, it occurred at a Pemex refinery at Reynosa in Tamaulipas state, Mexico on 19 September last year.

It’s worth replaying a couple of times.  On first viewing I paid attention only to the release and flames.  Later I noticed people fleeing, including one man crawling on the ground after flames have passed over him.  About 30 people died.  It’s a salutary demonstration of the consequences of pipeline failure and useful education for all pipeline engineers.

Thanks to Lynndon Harnell for drawing the video to my attention.  If anyone has found more details of the pipeline and/or failure please comment below or let me know privately.

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