Steam Spurs Lube Oil Explosion


A 23 cubic meter (about 6,000 gallon) container of industrial lube oils exploded Sunday afternoon at an SATI container depot in Umbogintwini, South Africa, causing a fire that took three hours to bring under control.

The eThekwini Fire and Rescue Service responded to the incident. It is believed that the tank was full [and] the product was being heated by the indirect application of steam at the time of the explosion, Mark te Water, Durbans chief fire officer and deputy head of fire and disaster management, told Lube Report. A currently undetermined number of adjacent containers were damaged in the explosion.

Umbogintwini is just south of Durban. EThekwini is a municipality that includes the city of Durban plus 64 other smaller, surrounding municipalities.

Te Water described the container as an insulated ISO container which contained process oil. Essentially thats a cylindrical vessel within a framework, the size of which is a normal container size, he explained. You have a cylindrical vessel fixed within a steel structure.

Damage to the depot, including the loss of many open containers to the fire, was estimated at 60 million rand (U.S. $7.8 million), according to several local news reports.

The explosion resulted in a fire injuring 3 persons in the vicinity at the time. The nature of the injuries [superficial burns] were not serious, te Water said.

As of yesterday, the investigation into the explosions cause continued. There is an investigation going on by our fire services, which has also brought in an independent investigator, he said. And Im sure our department of labor, which is the equivalent of [the United States] Occupational Health and Safety Administration, will be doing its own inquiry.

A branch of Southern Africa Transport Investments, SATI Container Services specializes in handling and storage of full flexitanks and tank containers. Flexitanks are expandable PVC or polyethylene tanks meant to fit inside a standard heavy duty container. They are considered suitable for transportation of non-hazardous materials.

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