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View Diary: 'The biggest ongoing disaster in the United States you haven't heard of' (233 comments)

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  •  It wouldn't detonate. (16+ / 0-)

    That 100 Hiroshimas figure is an irresponsible scare stat.  

    First, the underground concentration of butane doesn't have any oxygen.  So it can't blow up like that, period.

    Second, in order to get an explosive detonation like that, the whole thing would have to be released, at once, and then ignited at the precise point it reaches a stoichiometric mix with the atmospheric oxygen.  That's extremely unlikely.

    The most likely failure mode is that the system would be breached and start releasing butane, but at a relatively lower rate, which, yes, if ignited, would -eventually- release as much energy as 100 hiroshimas, but at a much, much slower rate.  Think of a giant blowtorch burning for days or months.  It would suck to be within anywhere from a few hundred feet to maybe a quarter mile or so, but not a danger beyond that.  Think 'oil well fire', not 'earth-shattering kaboom.'

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