BLEVE, or Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion

Overview

A BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion) is a hazardous phenomenon that can occur when a vessel containing a pressurized liquid fails, leading to very rapid vapourization of the liquid in the vessel with a large blast effect. The most dangerous BLEVEs concern flammable substances, in particular butane, propane or LPG, where a massive fireball is generated after the inflammation of the large vapour cloud.

    Related accidents

    This phenomenon has led to many industrial accidents that caused large numbers of fatalities, often including firefighters who were responding to the initial fire that led to the BLEVE.

    • Feyzin, France, 1966 (18 people killed by a BLEVE at an oil refinery)

    • San Juanico near Mexico City, Mexico, 1984 (500 people killed by a BLEVE at a PEMEX LPG terminal containing 54 LPG tanks)

    • Los Alfaques near Tarragono, Spain, 1978 (BLEVE of a truck transporting liquified propylene killed 217 people, many of whom were staying at a nearby campsite)

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