Inspectioneering Journal

Buncefield Explosion Investigation Progress Reports

By Chris Ablitt, Senior Risk Engineer at TWI, and Julian Speck, Structural Integrity Department Manager at TWI Ltd. This article appears in the May/June 2006 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.
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On  December 005, fuel at the Buncefield storage terminal near London exploded. The incident and immediate aftermath were described in the March-April 006 edition of IJ. The investigation into the disaster began at the end of January. Three progress reports have since been published. The first progress report dealt with the response to the incident, and the second with the environmental impact of the explosion. The third report was published in May indicating that the main facts of the cause of the incident are now known, Fig.1

The Buncefield Investigation's Third Progress Report
Figure 1. The Buncefield Investigation's Third Progress Report

The combined UK HSE (Health and Safety Executive) and Environment Agency investigation team has reported that a storage tank (Tank 9, unleaded petrol/gasoline) at the Buncefield oil depot was overflowing for more than 40 minutes before it exploded. The tank had been filling for approximately  hours and was estimated to be full at 05h0 but gauges and safety devices did not function.

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