Natural Gas Explosions
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s hard to say if a regular diesel truck would’ve caused an explosion quite so dramatic.
On Tuesday morning, surveillance video from a nearby business captured the dramatic explosion after a low speed collision of a CSX train going in reverse, with a tractor trailer that pulled up at exactly the wrong moment in a parking lot behind General Mills on Ganson Street near Michigan Avenue in Buffalo.
“The explosion was caused by the tractor trailer. It’s powered by natural gas. It had natural gas cylinders on it and one of those cylinders was impinged upon and did explode, and caused the fire, ” said Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.
Those in the nearby area at the time of the explosion explained the frightening sights and sounds.
“It sounded like two trains, ” according to Ken Musante who was towing a boat with Chris Green on the nearby Buffalo River. “That’s when we decided to spin the boat around and head back that way for fear of more explosions.”
Flavio Torres Rodreges heard it from his home three blocks away.
“Real loud, and I felt like the building was shaking, ” Rodreges said.
The conductor from the train received burns to approximately 18 percent of his body and the driver of the tractor trailer had also some burns was treated at the scene, according to Commissioner Whitfield.
Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX says it’s still undetermined whose to blame for this collision, the train conductor going in reverse or the tractor trailer driver moving forward.
“We encourage drivers anytime they encounter a crossing to take their time and make sure they stop and look both ways before they enter a crossing because trains can move in any direction at any time, ” Doolittle said.
The names of the two victims have not been released. CSX and Buffalo Police are still investigating.
The accident happened on property owned by General Mills, whose Global Communications specialist Kelsey Roemhildt explained why each vehicle was in the rail yard.
“The truck was transporting flour to a third party warehouse when the accident occurred. Emergency personnel were called immediately and arrived quickly, ” she said. “The collision did not affect plant or mill operations. We’re working with local law enforcement to support their ongoing investigation.”
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Is liquified natural gas explosive?
The gas only explodes when it is mixed within a fairly narrow range with air. Less than about 5% gas, and it does not explode. More than about 25% (not sure of that number) and it does not explode because there is not enough oxygen to support the oxidation.
When the ratio of gas to air is within the dangerous zone, then any spark can cause the explosion. They can be extremely powerful.
The spark can come from almost any source - a light switch, a relay tripped by a thermostat, the pilot light of a water heater and so on.