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Common Causes of Pressure Vessel Explosions

Posted on November 5, 2021 in

Pressure vessels are containers designed to hold liquids or gases at a pressure substantially different from the pressure outside of the container (the ambient pressure). The difference between the pressure from the inside of a pressure vessel and the outside of a pressure vessel can be dangerous. The bursting of a pressure vessel can lead to property damage, significant injuries, and even the loss of life. Here, we want to discuss the most common causes of pressure vessel explosions so that you understand what you need to do to safely maintain any pressure vessel you have.

Most Common Types of Pressure Vessels

Most people have seen some type of pressurized vessel. Even though a pressure vessel can theoretically be just about any shape, we typically see that these are spheres, cylinders, or cones. The most common design is a cylinder with an end cap called a “head.”

Pressure vessels are used for a wide variety of applications, both in the industrial sectors and private sectors. In an industrial setting, we typically see pressure vessels used as:

  • Compressed air receivers
  • Domestic hot water storage tanks
  • Boilers
  • Diving cylinders
  • Recompression chambers
  • Distillation towers
  • Pressure reactors
  • Oil refinery uses
  • Nuclear reactors
  • Hydraulic reservoirs
  • Natural gas containers

These pressure vessels are also used around homes or residences, but not to the same extent as in the industrial sectors. In a home, we typically see pressure vessels used as boilers, propane tanks, natural gas cylinders, etc.

How Pressure Vessel Explosions Occur

Anything that operates under high pressure has the potential to explode. Any pressure vessel system must be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that everything is in good working order. According to various studies conducted after pressure vessel accidents, we see that the following are the most common causes of explosions:

  • Operator negligence
  • Operating the unit at a higher pressure than specified
  • Faulty design and manufacturing of the pressure vessel
  • Improper installation of the pressure vessel
  • Corrosion or cracking
  • Use of poor quality materials
  • Excessive temperatures
  • Improper repair of a leak

Any individual or company that has a pressure vessel on their premises must ensure that the vessel is regularly inspected and maintained by individuals trained to do so. In an industrial setting, businesses may have individuals on staff trained to handle pressure vessel maintenance. However, there are also various companies that specialize in pressure vessel installation and maintenance.

Any person who will be operating around a pressure vessel or directly with the vessel must be properly trained to do so. Individuals should only workaround pressure vessels if they go through appropriate safety training that can help them recognize potential problems as they arise and prevent issues before they occur.

Pressure Vessel Explosion Injuries

Anytime an explosion occurs as a result of a pressure vessel failure, severe injuries and extensive property damage are likely. Any person in the direct vicinity of a pressure vessel that explodes could sustain catastrophic injuries, including broken or dislocated bones, massive head trauma, spinal cord injuries with paralysis, internal organ damage, severe lacerations or puncture wounds, burn injuries, and more.

An explosion will also likely cause extensive property damage to any surrounding structure. Explosions can also lead to weakened structural integrity to an entire building.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a pressure vessel explosion, contact the explosion accident lawyer in Houston for a free consultation to discuss your claim.