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The Case of the Fatal Refinery Fumes

Refinery Explosion and FireThe Problem:

An explosion occurred in an oil refinery while mechanical contractors were arc welding and installing small air-line pipes inside a pipe rack.  The explosion caused the death of three workers.  Forensic investigations initially considered an explosive atmosphere at the welding ground attachment as the source of ignition.  Welding safety management procedures were disregarded at the time of the explosion.  Welding in a petroleum refinery environment is a hazardous and highly restrictive operation.

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The Case of the Hardband Tungsten Particles

Drilling Deep and Deviated WellsThe Problem:

In the old days, when onshore oilfield wells were about 5000 feet and nearly straight down, well casing wall  wear was not a major concern.  A common practice for extending drill pipe life was hardbanding welds on the box joint of each drill pipe. During the hardbanding, tungsten carbide particles were included in the soft, steel weld-wire overlayed on the box joint.  The tungsten carbide particles created a raised hardened-surface on the box joint that could greatly increase the life of the drill pipe before the drill pipe became worn too thin for the drill-string requirements.  

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The Case of the Injured Pole Dancer

The Case of the Injured Pole Dancer

The Problem:

While in service, the threads of a temporary, dancer pole failed. The sharp edges of the fractured pole and failed threads severely lacerated the performer’s arms and torso.  The remnant pole and threads were metallurgically assessed. The manufacturer’s installation instructions, operation instructions, and maintenance instructions supplied to the consumer were inadequate.

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The Case of the Gas Pipe Failures at Mountain Condos

The Case of the Gas Pipe Failures at Mountain Condos (2009254)The Problem:

Multi-family condominiums are common lodging for Rocky Mountain winter vacationers. Gas and electricity utilities sandwiched into open-spaces, between the parking lot and the condo building are vulnerable to damage from snow removal activities. Huge amounts of snow were pushed from the parking lot by the snowplow into the open-space.

The natural gas regulators for the condos were covered with snow and the pipe threads failed resulting in an explosion and fire.

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The Case of the Precast Panel Collapse

Figure 1.  Aerial Site View – Precast Building OpeningThe Problem:

The final, tilt-up, precast panel, weighed 40,000 lbs and collapsed unexpectedly during field erection.  The incident caused the death of 3 landscape workers at ground level, working outside the building.

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Welding Failures I Have Known, Interesting cautionary tales from Metals & Welding  expert, Dr Jesse A Grantham, PE