Incident Investigation

Over the last 40 years, Gexcon has been involved in the investigation of many high-profile accidents such as Buncefield, Piper Alpha, TWA 800, and the P-36 platform (Brazil). Leaders in the oil and gas industry and safety engineers at major hazard facilities have consistently sought the services of Gexcon to provide them with the expertise to assist in incident investigations, including large loss investigations ranging from residential fires to chemical processing, petrochemical, manufacturing, and other industrial facilities.

Gexcon can help with all aspects of incident investigations, from coordinating the investigation to conducting root cause analysis, providing recommendations, implementing strategies to prevent further incidents occurring, and acting as expert witnesses in on-going investigations.

 

 

Gexcon has extensive experience in dust explosions, aerosol explosions, vapor cloud and gas explosions. We can help you investigate explosions ranging from small vessel explosions to large explosions at chemical processing and petrochemical facilities. Our licensed Certified Fire and Explosions Investigators (CFEI) and Professional Engineers (PE) have investigated numerous of these incidents involving propane, natural gas, ammonium nitrate and flammable liquids.

 

Ammonium nitrate explosion
Gexcon investigated the detonation of approximately 20-30 tons of ammonium nitrate at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas
Gexcon investigated the cause of the 2006 explosion of ink and paint manufacturing facility in Danvers, MA
Gexcon investigated the cause of the 2006 explosion of ink and paint manufacturing facility in Danvers, MA

 

Our experts have investigated hundreds of fires incidents ranging from vehicle and residential fires to larger-scale fires and explosions at chemical processing, petrochemical, and other industrial facilities.  Our team in the US have participated in code making entities such as NFPA 921 (Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations) and are knowledgeable on the use of established methodologies and fundamental scientific principles to fire origin and cause investigations.

We can assist you in designing and performing unique experiments to test the fire origin and cause hypotheses.  In addition to traditional fire investigation, we routinely use innovative techniques such as 3D surveying methods, photogrammetry, video and image analysis, and three-dimensional computer animation to resolve and explain complex problems.

 

Our experts have investigated the cause of carbon monoxide (CO) exposures that allegedly resulted from poor combustion in furnaces, boilers, portable space heaters, portable generators, and motor vehicles. Our experience can assist you in:

  • Identifying the source of CO leaks
  • Testing and quantify CO emissions and migration
  • Determining the emission and subsequent migration of CO in various types of structures including residential, commercial, and industrial facilities by utilizing FLACS-CFD software.

 

Gexcon can perform investigations of motor vehicle fires, including passenger cars and trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, tractor-trailers, heavy equipment, buses, and motor homes. We are experienced in current automotive technology, including hybrids, clean diesel, fuel cells, and LPG, LNG, and CNG fueled vehicles.

Our experts have employed the following techniques in previous fire investigations:

  • Vehicle fluid sampling and analysis
  • Chemical analysis of fire debris
  • Metallurgical examination of fire debris
  • X-ray analysis of vehicle components and fire debris
  • Exemplar testing

 

The hazards associated with chemical releases are of concern for both indoor and outdoor environments. Outdoor chemical releases can be the result of industrial operations, fires, explosions, spills or tank failures. Indoor releases can occur from material off-gassing, chemical interactions or overheated consumer products.

Our team has experience in characterizing various chemical emissions, modeling the resulting dispersion, and evaluating exposures at various locations from the source. We have numerically modeled both outdoor and indoor releases as well as subsequent migration using the industry-recognized 3D CFD consequence modelling tool, FLACS-CFD, which has been extensively validated against experimental data.

 

HVAC systems include all of the equipment used to ventilate, heat and cool a building, to move the air within the building and to filter the air. These systems include air conditioning units, central heaters and furnaces, heat pumps, space heaters, fireplaces, and chimneys.

We can help with the determination of fire origin and cause, failure analysis, mechanical system design, and carbon monoxide issues relating to these systems.

 

Hazards associated with chemicals must be understood in order to safely handle, use, or store these materials. For example, under certain conditions chemicals can spontaneously decompose or explode, while other chemicals may react violently when mixed with incompatible materials. These conditions are generally referred to as chemical or thermal runaway reactions.

Our experts have the experience to help determine the cause of such runaway reactions.  By conducting experiments or running detailed chemical kinetic models, we can help predict the likelihood and what conditions are required to result in a given thermal runaway condition.  We also have experimental and CFD modeling experience in analyzing mitigation measures for runaway reactions.

In addition, Gexcon has been involved in the CHEERS (Chemical Hazards Evaluation and Emergency Relief Systems) project performing large-scale experiments. One of the main objectives of this project was to develop guidance for and test the performance of an emergency relief system using jet condenser quenching for the safe disposal of the relief stream from runaway chemical reactions in order to minimize emissions to the environment.

 

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