The International Code Council and its members have revised its International Fire Code and International Fuel Gas Code to prohibit a practice that killed six workers in an explosion at a power generation facility in Middletown, Conn.
On February 7, 2010, contract personnel at Kleen Energy, a natural gas-fueled power generation plant then under construction, were conducting an operation known as a “gas blow,” whereby large quantities of natural gas are forced through piping at high pressure to remove any debris that could damage the turbine upon startup. The gas and debris were released to the atmosphere, accumulated in a congested area and ignited, triggering a massive explosion that killed six and injured at least 50.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board concluded that the practice of using flammable gas to clean piping is inherently unsafe, and that alternative non-flammable methods such as blowing with compressed air are efficient and readily available.
Responding to the ICC's actions, Rafael Moure-Eraso, CSB chairperson, expressed the CSB’s appreciation that the 2015 IFC requires cleaning and purging operations to comply with the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association’s standard for fire and explosion prevention during cleaning and purging of flammable gas piping systems.
Developed in response to an urgent recommendation from the CSB board as a part of its investigation into the Kleen Energy incident and other similar events, the NFPA 56 standard provides safety requirements for fuel gas processes, including cleaning of gas piping and purging gas equipment into or out of service.
In addition to commending the 2015 IFC’s prohibition of inherently unsafe gas blows, Moure-Eraso praised the IFC’s new requirements for hot work operations involving storage tanks holding flammable or combustible liquids.