Forensic Engineering Assessments of Ruptured Acetylene Cylinders

Article Author(s): Jesse A. Grantham, Ph.D., P.E. (NAFE 597S)

Volume: 28
Volume #: 1
Month: June
Year: 2011

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Abstract:

Ruptured acetylene cylinder remnants and exemplar acetylene cylinders, exposed to a building fire, were assessed for pre-explosion gas leak potential in the metallurgical laboratory using Forensic Engineering protocols. In this case, 2 acetylene cylinders exploded, and a building fire caused extensive property damage and business interruption at a welding fabrication facility. Possibilities of metallurgical failures for the cylinder shell, fuse plugs and valves included a series of mechanical tests, nondestructive tests and microscopy protocols. The Forensic Engineer considered corrosive effects from constituent elements in the acetylene gas and the porous media saturated with acetone inside the acetylene cylinders.  Also, leaks from mechanical damage were considered in the shell, head, bottom, fuse plugs and valve.  The Forensic Engineer examined the cylinder wall fracture surface features, pressure vessel design, wall thickness, low-melting temperature fuse plugs, and valve designs.  The Forensic Engineer’s scope of work included visual examination of the cylinder metal shell, fractured edge surfaces, fuse plug attachments, and valves to ssess possible metallurgical causes for pre-explosion gas leaks from the acetylene cylinders due to corrosion or mechanical damage before the cylinder rupture events.

Keywords
Acetylene cylinder, fuse plugs, cylinder valves, metallurgical investigations, failure analysis, fracture
surfaces, cylinder leaks, pressure vessel failure, pressure vessel explosion, pressure vessel corrosion,
acetone corrosion.