(54am) Mis-Management of Change: The Columbia Gas Explosions in Lawrence and Andover Massachusetts 13 Sept 2018

Willey, R. J., Northeastern University

On 13 September 2018 just after 4 PM local time, south of the Merrimack River, in Lawrence and North Andover, Massachusetts a series of explosions and fires began to ring into area fire departments. By 8 PM when things were back under control, 167 events were recorded. 5 houses suffered total loss due to explosion or fire. One person was killed. The cause traced back to the over pressurization of a gas distribution line, normally set to operate at ca. 0.5 psi. Further investigation, revealed that a crew, replacing the old cast iron distribution line, had just sealed off a portion of old pipe just before 4 PM. What the crew was not aware of, was that one or two pressure sensors for one of the regulators on the distribution system was cut off. The regulator opened, allowed gas in, and because no signal indicated a pressure increase, the regulator stayed open - over pressurizing the distribution line. The presentation will cover the details of the accident and how process safety engineers can learn from this unfortunate lesson.