Hazardous Effects of Gas Leaks from Unmaintained Pressure Vessels

September 18, 2017

The adherence to a specific set of design codes ensures an installed pressure vessel fulfils its purpose as a capable containment unit. What a bitter pill it is to swallow, then, if that superbly designed engineering asset is placed under a second rate maintenance program. Imagine a worst case scenario. A leak is developing in the unmaintained pressure vessel. Loaded with gas, what are the hazardous effects of this leak?

A Gas Leak Primer

The ill-informed masses are sadly unaware of a few basic facts about gas leaks in pressure vessels. First of all, some of the more popular gas mediums are odourless and invisible. Safety-oriented manufacturers add sulphide-based compounds to the gas so that a leak is easier to notice. It's that rotten eggs smell that warns nearby folk of a containment breach. However, there are instances where a caustic gas can cause immediate respiratory problems, then there are gas leaks that starve the brain of oxygen. Finally, there are system breaches that ignite as explosive fireballs. The first order of business, then, is to provide notice of the contained medium. Furthermore, spark-proof housings, warning systems, and personal protection systems should be on hand as a certified safety mechanism, one that intelligently counteracts the potential gas leak hazard.

Maintenance Programs Reduce Hazards

A hazardous substance fact sheet informs site management heads. It informs and prepares the on-site workers, tells local emergency services what to expect should that worst case scenario event occur, and equips the maintenance program with the wherewithal to reduce this potential. Without the preventative care strategy, even the finest engineering practices can be defeated. Overload conditions, as one example, weaken pressure equipment. The gear, built to handle a predetermined pressure range, plus a set transient overhead, weakens imperceptibly when it expands. The maintenance routine documents such events and creates a time-based narrative, one that expresses those imperceptible design limitation overloads as a comprehensible system deterioration chart. Identified in this manner, any and all corrective measures are taken before a leak breaches a weld seam or fractured section of sheet metal.

Left unmaintained, caustic substances leak from damaged pressure vessels. They cause shortness of breath and eye irritation. If they're truly toxic, acute respiratory distress is likely. Flammable gases are obviously the worst hazards, with a single spark acting as the trigger that causes a destructive explosion or a life-threatening fire. However, don't underestimate the odourless, invisible substances that starve a location of breathable air when they leak from pressure vessels. Symptoms of this last exposure hazard include dizziness, nausea, and loss of consciousness, at which point the leak will kill its victim.

Contact Details

Fusion - Weld Engineering Pty Ltd
ABN 98 068 987619

1865 Frankston Flinders Road,
Hastings, VIC 3915

Ph: (03) 5909 8218

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