CSB Releases Final T2 Laboratories Explosion Report

The massive December 2007 explosion and fire at T2 Laboratories in Jacksonville was caused by a runaway chemical reaction that likely resulted from an inadequate reactor cooling system, investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said in a final draft report released on Sept. 15.

Concluding that T2 did not recognize all of the potential hazards of the process for making a gasoline additive, the report calls for improving the education of chemical engineering students on reactive chemical hazards.

The explosion and fire on Dec. 19, 2007, killed four T2 employees and injured four others. In addition, 28 people working at nearby businesses were injured when building walls and windows blew in. The blast sent debris up to a mile away and damaged buildings within a quarter-mile of the facility.

"This is one of the largest reactive chemical accidents the CSB has investigated," said Chairman John Bresland. "We hope our findings once again call attention to the need for companies to be aware of how to control reactive chemical hazards."

In 2002 CSB completed a study of reactive chemical hazards, which identified 167 accidents over a two-decade period and made recommendations to improve reactive chemical safety.

The draft report on the T2 Laboratories explosion calls on the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to work together to include reactive chemical education in baccalaureate chemical engineering curricula across the country.

CSB found that although the two owners of the company had undergraduate degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering, they were nonetheless likely unaware of the potential or the consequences of a runaway chemical reaction. CSB noted that most baccalaureate chemical engineering curricula in the United States do not specifically address reactive hazard recognition or management.

"It's important that chemical engineers recognize and are aware of the proper management of reactive hazards," Bresland said.

"Our recommendations aim to address the gap in the chemical engineering curriculum," said Investigation Supervisor Robert Hall, PE. "If future chemical engineers are given the proper educational tools, they will be able to more fully comprehend the hazards that exist during a chemical manufacturing process."

CSB also released a 3-D computer animation depicting the events that led to the accident. CSB plans to release a new nine-minute safety video, “Runaway: Explosion at T2 Laboratories,” containing the 3-D computer animation and a description of the causes, consequences, lessons, and recommendations resulting from the accident.

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