Case Name, Disaster of Chemical Plant at Flixborough. Pictograph. Date, June 1, Place, Flixborough, UK. Location, Cyclohexanone oxidation plant. Flixborough. disaster. vapour cloud explosion. cyclohexane. loss prevention. risk assessment J.G. BallAfter the Flixborough Report: do we know the real truth?. 1 June is the 40th anniversary of the Flixborough disaster, The Flixborough Plant before the explosion – official report, TS 84/37/1.

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I won that skirmish with a more senior editor, a rare event, and look back on that tragic night satisfied that we did everything we could to beat the clock and the opposition. The cyclohexane oxidation process was performed in a series of six reactors, each holding about 20tonnes. There was no on-site senior manager with mechanical engineering expertise virtually all the plant management had chemical engineering qualifications ; mechanical engineering issues with the modification were overlooked by the managers who approved it, nor was the severity of the potential consequences of its failure appreciated.

By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. In particular, the company office block, about m away, was destroyed. The possible sources of zinc that could cause such an embrittlement attack were the galvanized stairways and the wire securing the lagging.

The plant control room collapsed, killing all 18 occupants. During the late afternoon on 1 June the temporary bypass pipe ruptured, and a huge quantity of cyclohexane leaked from the pipe, forming a vapour cloud which then found a source of ignition.

The temporary pipe was deformed in a “V” shape by bending stress at only slightly above operating pressure, and the bellows, the weak link in the chain, were torn away by shear stress.

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The report of the court of inquiry was critical of the installation of the bypass pipework on a number of counts: The debate and argument continue to this day e. It virtually demolished the site. When the bypass was installed, there was no works engineer in post and company senior personnel all chemical engineers were incapable of recognising the existence of a simple engineering problem, let alone solving it.


The casualty figures could have been much higher, if the explosion had occurred on a weekdaywhen the main cisaster area would have been occupied. It was a failure of this plant that led to the disaster.

Flixborough disaster

Finite element analysis has been carried out and suitable eyewitness evidence adduced to support this hypothesis. Off-site there were no fatalities, but 50 injuries were reported and about 2, properties damaged.

It contained graphic information about the plant which gave us an invaluable insight into its construction. If the UK public were largely reassured to be told the accident was a one-off and should never happen again, some UK process safety practitioners were less sanguine.

Flixborough, 1 June | The National Archives blog

The plant design had assumed that the worst consequence of a major leak would be a plant fire and to protect against this a fire detection system had been installed. Is this page useful? Flixborough led to a widespread public outcry over process plant safety.

The reactors were normally mechanically stirred but reactor 4 had operated without a working stirrer since November ; free phase water could have settled out in unstirred reactor 4 and the bottom of reactor 4 would reach operating temperature more slowly than the stirred reactors. One of the teachers at my school lost a relative in the explosion. Health and Safety Executive.

Unlike the Court of Inquiry, its personnel and that of its associated working groups had significant representation of safety professionals, drawn largely from the nuclear industry and ICI or ex-ICI.

It found that major repogt requiring financial sanction at a high level were generally well-controlled, but for more financially minor reoort there was less control and this had resulted in a past history of ‘near-misses’ and small-scale accidents, [26] few of which could be blamed on chemical engineers.

This diagram shows the restriction on design divided into six areas: The temporary pipe acted to twist the flow, and the bellows were ruptured by shear stress. Critics felt that the Flixborough explosion was not the result of multiple basic engineering design errors unlikely to coincide again; the errors were rather multiple instances of one underlying cause: Government controls on the price of caprolactam put further financial pressure on the plant.


The proponent of the 8-inch gasket failure hypothesis responded by arguing that the inch hypothesis had its share of defects which the disastsr report had chosen to overlook, that the 8-inch hypothesis disastet more in its favour than the report suggested, and that there were important lessons that the inquiry had failed to identify:. Two months prior to the explosion, the number 5 reactor was discovered to be leaking.

The enquiry noted the existence of a small tear in a flisborough fragment, and therefore considered the idsaster of a small leak from the bypass having led to an explosion bringing the bypass down. When the plant was closed, the statue was moved to the pond at the parish church in Flixborough. Retrieved 25 June As a result, a massive vapor cloud was formed by the escape of cyclohexane from the holes of the ruptured 28in.

Process Safety and Environmental Protection. Cause After the No. These tests showed that the bellows squired into on “S” shape at a pressure only slightly above the operating pressure. May Learn how and when to remove this template message. If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

We use the phrase “already remote” advisedly for we wish to make it plain that we found nothing to suggest that the plant as originally designed and constructed created any unacceptable risk.

I’d like to read this book on Kindle Don’t dsaster a Kindle? The Petrochemicals Division of Imperial Chemical Industries ICI operated many plants with large inventories of flammable chemicals at its Wilton site including one in which cyclohexane was oxidised to cyclohexanone and cyclohexanol.