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Gas explosions in Mass.
Old 09-13-2018, 11:10 PM   #1
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Gas explosions in Mass.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/13/us/ma...res/index.html

Sounds like the gas supply lines to dozens of homes were over pressured leading to explosions, fires, etc. How does this possibly happen? Iíll be sleeping with one eye on the stove!

On the news they were saying the gas utility is not saying much. This sounds like something from a Die Hard movie.
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Old 09-13-2018, 11:57 PM   #2
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I'm wondering the same. I'd think the pressure regulator that is integral to the gas meter would have protected the homes against over pressure. Or perhaps the gas was turned off and and pilot lights went out, then gas was turned back on and these homes had failed thermocouple controlled safety valves? Locally we had a gas line accidentally broken and the gas company sent a guy out to every affected home and turned off the gas, then personally re-lit all the pilots.
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Old 09-14-2018, 05:41 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by travelover View Post
I'm wondering the same. I'd think the pressure regulator that is integral to the gas meter would have protected the homes against over pressure. Or perhaps the gas was turned off and and pilot lights went out, then gas was turned back on and these homes had failed thermocouple controlled safety valves? Locally we had a gas line accidentally broken and the gas company sent a guy out to every affected home and turned off the gas, then personally re-lit all the pilots.
We live about 30 miles from this.

No expert but I was thinking the same thing: a short negative pressure, pilots go out, then while the TC is still hot (valves stays open), a return with high pressure.

I'm also wondering if a hacker could've taken over the gas company's system and told it to go crazy. Right now about 8,000 people have been evacuated as of this morning.
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Old 09-14-2018, 07:23 AM   #4
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Whatever has happened I see lawyers in abundance coming over the hills and out of the woodwork for their share of the lawsuit pie. Major screw up by Columbia gas and will be an expensive one. Having worked in the chemical industry where nat. gas was a main feedstock it is hard to imagine not having redundant systems in place to prevent an over-pressure/under pressure, life and property threatening event. A dollar to a donut it comes down on the side of pilot/human error.
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Old 09-14-2018, 07:55 AM   #5
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I live two towns over from the fires.

There are no conclusions quite yet. It would be inappropriate to speculate on the cause at this time. We should wait for some real news.

Remember, one person died, several have been hospitalized, and many homes burned, tens of thousands without power.
Firefighters and police from all neighboring towns (and even out of state) responded.

Let's try to have a little decorum and a little patience here, okay?
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Old 09-14-2018, 08:03 AM   #6
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We had something like this but with the electric company having an odd power fluctuation (surge) which fried a lot of appliances such as personal computers. The power company denied any liability so the lawyers came in. I don't know how it got resolved.


I don't recall any injuries from that, unlike the tragic loss of life and injuries from the MA event.
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Old 09-14-2018, 08:17 AM   #7
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Sorry if some find it speculative, but I came here hoping to find some informed views on what could be weak links in this system. I too wouldíve expected the regulator at the home to prevent over-pressurization. I think the pressure in the home is around 5psi. I also find the utility companyís lack of transparency to be troubling and think they need to face public scrutiny to act in the public interest vs. shareholders interest. In my lifetime Iíve known only a very few people that refused to use natural gas in their homes and only one that went so far as to remove the lines. My empathy goes to the victims here but Iím looking for details to assure our safety. We actually had the gas company replace our meter recently due to an external leak detected by their contractor.
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Old 09-14-2018, 08:50 AM   #8
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I too wouldíve expected the regulator at the home to prevent over-pressurization.
You are speculating that over-pressurization was the cause of the explosions. And you are speculating that a home regulator was at fault.

Quote:
I also find the utility companyís lack of transparency to be troubling and think they need to face public scrutiny to act in the public interest vs. shareholders interest.
Let's give them a few hours to get it right before we get "troubled" with "lack of transparency", okay?

Would you prefer that they quickly and transparently speculate?

Quote:
My empathy goes to the victims here but Iím looking for details to assure our safety. We actually had the gas company replace our meter recently due to an external leak detected by their contractor.
If you are in the Merrimack Valley, then you have already been informed abut what you should do to ensure your safety.

Otherwise, practice some patience and you'll learn the cause and can act accordingly.
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Old 09-14-2018, 09:07 AM   #9
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One news report mentioned a recent "upgrade" to the gas system, but did not specify how recent. "If it ain't broke don't fix it" applies to more than just software.
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Old 09-14-2018, 09:42 AM   #10
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I opened this thread hoping to find some informed discussion - basically, speculation - about this event. I had the same questions as everyone else; what could have failed, and how?

What I found was exactly that, along with some sincere compassion for the victims. I'm glad others shared my questions and concerns. I'm a little surprised that anyone would take offense to that.

As long as we all know what's speculation and what's fact, I see no harm in discussing it.
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Old 09-14-2018, 09:58 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by CaptTom View Post
I opened this thread hoping to find some informed discussion - basically, speculation - about this event. I had the same questions as everyone else; what could have failed, and how?

What I found was exactly that, along with some sincere compassion for the victims. I'm glad others shared my questions and concerns. I'm a little surprised that anyone would take offense to that.

As long as we all know what's speculation and what's fact, I see no harm in discussing it.
If it weren't for speculation, 90% of the threads on this entire forum would be empty.

In general, whether finance, SS, or hurricanes, I've learned about a ton of stuff through these discussions here, fact or otherwise.

And yes, I live just a few towns away myself.
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:23 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by marko View Post
If it weren't for speculation, 90% of the threads on this entire forum would be empty.

In general, whether finance, SS, or hurricanes, I've learned about a ton of stuff through these discussions here, fact or otherwise.
+1

Regarding speculation...Welcome to the Internet!
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Old 09-14-2018, 11:35 AM   #13
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I will talk to my Son-in-Law about this, he works for an engineering firm that does things like NG repairs, upgrades, etc.

Sure, until we have some official report (which could take days weeks, months?), it's all speculation. But reasoned speculation, presented as such makes for good discussion, IMO.

There was something like this in Chicago ~ 10 years ago. I'll see if I can find links, but IIRC, that was traced back to a regulator in the supply-line system that failed. The pressure was so high at the home regulators, that the pressure just blew right through them. It was sudden, not an on/off thing where gas had time to build up. People reported that their gas stove-tops had flames jump up like a jet engine (probably already on, I would think a pilot light would have been blown out?).

[edit/add] OK, found a source, longer ago than I though (time flies!) bold mine:

http://www.historyillinois.org/FindA...px?MarkerID=44

Quote:
... At 4 p.m. on January 17, 1992, a series of explosions and fires ravaged the River West Community. ... The disaster resulted in 4 fatalities and 18 buildings destroyed or damaged.

Initially the increase in pressure was attributed to a faulty regulator. However, after lengthy investigations, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that a Peoples Gas Company crew was responsible. While doing routine maintenance on gas pressure regulators valves in a vault at Erie and Green streets, the crew failed to monitor downstream pressure when the pressure regulators were off-line. Normal gas pressure of 1/4 PSI soared to at least 10 PSI -- 40 times the normal pressure.

The extreme pressure caused hissing noises in stoves, furnaces, and space heaters. Many individuals shut off their gas service, thereby saving lives and properties.

Based on recommendations by the ICC and the NTSB, regulator valves that once controlled entire neighborhoods were replaced by individual regulators at each building. Increased training for gas crews was also initiated.
So I take from that, that at the time there was not another regulator in each meter? So the crew was working on a regulator that affected the entire neighborhood, with no 'back up' down the line? Scary.

10 PSI doesn't sound like much, not enough to physically blow out a line or anything, but for something designed for 1/4PSI, as they say 40x - that's a lot of gas flame!


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Old 09-14-2018, 12:27 PM   #14
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I live in a multi-family building. When I moved in I was disappointed that I could not have a gas fire in my fireplace. Wood, or nothing. It is hard to fool with wood fires in the central city, although outside of central Seattle there used to be and may still be plenty of homes being heated with wood stoves. I often helped a buddy cut wood to feed his girlfriend's Jotul stove. Still, it ruined the air in many districts like the north end.

After realizing that inattentive people could blow up a building with gas errors, I feel fine about having no cheery fireplace.

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Old 09-14-2018, 01:11 PM   #15
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Just a question as I've been out of the industry side of things for a while but aren't regulators "rated" for a range of upstream pressures and if the pressure is outside of that range especially on the high side, isn't a regulator failure imminent ? Also and again speculation, if the gas pressure went low and the regulators opened up to 100% and then the pressure went extremely high in a very short period, I would think that would be a problem. Thoughts and prayers to all those affected as it is a horrible and horrific event.
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Old 09-14-2018, 01:44 PM   #16
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Just a question as I've been out of the industry side of things for a while but aren't regulators "rated" for a range of upstream pressures and if the pressure is outside of that range especially on the high side, isn't a regulator failure imminent ? Also and again speculation, if the gas pressure went low and the regulators opened up to 100% and then the pressure went extremely high in a very short period, I would think that would be a problem. Thoughts and prayers to all those affected as it is a horrible and horrific event.
I'm familiar with similar pressure regulators on other products. Sure, the 'high side' should be able to handle any expected pressures on that side, and I'd hope (will ask my SIL), that they would be rated for a failure of the upstream regulator, and be able to handle the next highest pressure upstream. Just depends how much robustness they design in, and I would hope a LOT for combustible gasses!

I'd also expect they would work fast enough to handle fluctuations. A small diaphragm and valve is all that's involved, nothing that would take more than a fraction of a second to respond.

So maybe they still had the set up that was involved in the incident in Chicago in 1992 that I linked? No regulators at the individual meters - so a single failure would allow higher pressure gas go to an entire neighborhood? We will see.

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Old 09-14-2018, 02:01 PM   #17
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As we speak of speculation, the local mayor is on TV right now blaming the gas compamy.
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Old 09-14-2018, 02:06 PM   #18
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...there used to be and may still be plenty of homes being heated with wood stoves. I often helped a buddy cut wood to feed his girlfriend's Jotul stove.

After realizing that inattentive people could blow up a building with gas errors, I feel fine about having no cheery fireplace.

Ha

My punishment (err chore) as a boy was unloading, chopping and stacking wood. I remember the ole man lighting the plume and making that whooshing noise as the fireball rose to the seemingly abyss.

He'd stand in front of that thing for hours warming up his butt. Always gave me a great sense of pride knowing my dad didn't just have the hottest head in the neighborhood, but also the hottest a$$, literally.


Fond memories, he finally took it out and converted the fire place to gas insert about 10-15 years ago. We re-purposed the area he had the wood stove to a movie screen/theater.
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Old 09-14-2018, 04:20 PM   #19
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Sounds like an antiquated distribution system.

Here we've had natural gas available since the 1960s, and every home/business has its own pressure regulator (not just a meter)
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Old 09-15-2018, 07:44 PM   #20
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I haven't got an update from my Son-In-Law, but I knew they had a busy w/e planned. But I came across this, which paints a horrific picture:


https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/20...ews:newsletter




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Sounds like an antiquated distribution system.

Here we've had natural gas available since the 1960s, and every home/business has its own pressure regulator (not just a meter)
If you are talking about the incident in Chicago, well, that was 1992 in an old part of the city - who knows when the gas infrastructure was last updated? It may very well have been antiquated, maybe even from right after the Chicago fire. Well, probably not that old, but I would not be surprised if it was from the 30/s or 40's.

Well, maybe back to the Chicago fire isn't such a stretch?

https://accel.peoplesgasdelivery.com...y/history.aspx
Quote:
1850
Peoples Gas becomes the first utility in the city of Chicago when it lights the city's streets with natural gas lamps.

1871
Peoples Gas helps the city rebuild after the Great Chicago Fire.

1893
Electricity is introduced at the Columbia Exposition. Peoples Gas shifts its business from gas lighting to cooking with natural gas.
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