Happening Now.
The explosion and subsequent fires at the petrochemical facility near Houston Texas reminds us of the dangers that exist when dealing with volatile material.
 
This facility, like so many others doesn’t just store flammable and/or combustible liquids, there’s a bit more involved, such as:
 
  •  Receiving the material by pipe, truck, rail or ship.
  •  Transferring the material into containers.
  •  Handling and possible mixing of materials.
  •  Storage of the materials.
  •  Distributing the material by pipe, truck, rail or ship.
 
Flammable and combustible liquids can burn. They are classified as either flammable or combustible by their flash points.

Flammable liquids may ignite and burn at normal working temperatures.

Combustible liquids may burn at higher temperatures above working temperatures. 

Flammable and combustible liquids are present everywhere. Products such as fuel, solvents, thinners, cleaners, adhesives, paints, waxes and polishes may be flammable or combustible liquids. Everyone working with these liquids must be aware of their hazards and how to work safely with them.  Flashpoints, flammable or explosive limits and auto ignition are key factors that may render them unstable.

The flashpoint of a liquid is the lowest temperature at which the liquid gives off enough vapor to be ignited at the surface of the liquid. Flashpoints are intended to be used as guides only, not as fine lines between safe and unsafe. 

Flammable or Explosive limits relate to fire and explosion hazards. These limits give the range between the lowest and highest concentrations of vapor in air that will ignite, burn or explode.

The guide for lower flammable limit or lower explosive limit (LFL or LEL) and the guide for upper flammable limit or upper explosive limit (UFL or UEL). Flammable limits, like flashpoints however, are intended as guides not as fine lines between safe and unsafe.
A material's auto ignition or ignition temperature is the temperature at which a material self-ignites without any obvious sources of ignition, such as a spark or flame.

Common flammable and combustible liquids have auto ignition temperatures in the range of 300°C (572°F) to 550°C (1022°F). Some may have very low auto ignition temperatures such as Ethyl Ether which has an auto ignition temperature of 160°C (356°F). Auto Ignition temperatures, however, are intended as guides, not viewed as safe or unsafe.

At normal room temperatures, flammable liquids can give off enough vapor to form burnable mixtures with air. As a result, they can be a serious fire hazard. Flammable liquid fires burn very fast, give off a lot of heat and often clouds of thick, black, toxic smoke.

The danger of flashback. The vapors from nearly all flammable and combustible liquids are heavier than air. Vapors can flow from open liquid containers. If ventilation is inadequate, these vapors can settle and collect in low areas like pits, sumps, sewers, trenches and basements. The vapor trail can spread far from the liquid and may make contact with an ignition source, the fire produced can flash back to the liquids origin.
The fire at the tank farm operated by the Intercontinental Terminals Co. in the city of Deer Park, east of Houston, appeared to be contained. The fire re-ignited days later and the incident delayed cleanup efforts for the original blaze. Local authorities had issued shelter-in-place alerts to area residents after the Environmental Protection Agency detected elevated levels of benzene.

The cause of Friday's fire is still unknown. There are no reported injuries.
No intention of negligence is suggested.
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Bill Nagengast, Lighting Engineer
Solas Ray Lighting
Holds over 20 patents in the lighting industry.
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