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View Diary: Facts about the Texas Explosion (57 comments)

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    BLEVEs don't require a weakening of the skin, but they do usually require a failing relief valve (or a very undersized one).

    To get a BLEVE, the burning needs to be under the tank -- fire heating the top of the tank will not be cooled well, and the tank will fail much sooner at the hottest/most-stressed point. (Thermal stratification will set in, allowing the top to heat much more quickly than the bottom.)

    Ammonia is also not a very good candidate for a BLEVE -- the flammability/explosion limits for ammonia are relatively picky -- 15% - 28%.

    Finally, it is know that there were large amounts of AN present. AN is well known to spontaneously decompose, particularly in the presence of water, heat, or contaminants, and large quantities are known to auto-ignite. Further, it is also known to transition from deflagration to detonation, especially in confined areas or when treated with water or steam.

    It's certainly possible that this was caused by cook-off of the anhydrous ammonia. But that's definitely not the way to bet.

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