High pressure gaspipeline failure in Rotselaar (Belgium)

13 November 2010

High pressure gaspipeline failure in Rotselaar (Belgium)

'Human Error is cause of gasleak’'

The pipeline failed in a new high pressure gaspipeline that is currently constructed by the Belgium gascompany  Fluxys between Opwijk and the German border. The incident occured during the commissioning of the pipeline and putting it under pressure on 11 November 2010.
A few hundred families neede to be evacuated from the area, in total about 1000 people. No one was injured, but some pa nic occurred due the the very high noise level. The nearby E314 highway was closed in two directions for hours. The gas release had a duration of about three hours. This because time was needed to close the block in valves. These are only placed at 20 km sections, so the gas in this section was released completely. 

The first results of the investigation of Fluxys showed that it was not the new pipeline that failed, but a branche pipe which was not yet operational and tested. See the picture. According to Fluxys, this was caused b y human error. 

Two remarks of SSC
- Potentially, this could have been a major disaster. If ignited, the gas release would have resulkted in a major flare of which the heat radiation would have caused major damage and fatalities. This can be seen from a comparable gas release that caused the disaster of 2004 in Gellingen: 24 people did not survive and 132 injured persons. Download a presentation here (Gellingen gas disaster).
- Classical reaction: ‘human error’. When you are a safety professional like you and me, you know that this can only be a direct cause. There must be a whole range of underlying factors. How can such a 'human error' with such a potential for disaster happen? How is this project organised? How is the safety managed? I am sure that such an analysi will still occur, as it is vital. This can be done for instance with the TRIPOD method, investigating the Latent Failures in the organisation. 

NB The pictures are stills from a video. At the picture below, the escaping gas is visible. You can find the full article and video from 'De Standaard here (in Dutch).  

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