03 January 2008 21:59 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A runaway chemical reaction likely caused the fatal explosion at a gas-additive plant in Jacksonville, Florida, federal investigators said on Thursday.
The 19 December blast was so powerful, that it sent huge chunks of a reactor flying 400 metres away from the site, the US Chemical Safety Board said, adding the explosion at T2 Laboratories was one among the most powerful that the board has ever examined.
The explosion killed four people and sent 14 to hospitals.
The explosion occurred during the first step of making methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl, a gas additive, the board said. The step involves heating and reacting organic materials with sodium.
Before the explosion, eyewitnesses heard loud hissing noises and saw vapour venting from a reactor, the board said. The reactor then ruptured, allowing the contents to mix with air and explode.
The resulting blast was strong enough to blow through the reactor's steel walls, which are 3 inches (7.6cm) thick, the board said.
Debris from the explosion was found as far as one mile (1.6 km) away from the plant, the group said.
The board is classifying the explosion as a "reactive chemical accident," since it involved an uncontrolled chemical reaction.
The group now plans to conduct tests using T2's recipe for the additive to better understand what went wrong inside of the reactor.
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