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J Hazard Mater. 2007 Jul 19;146(1-2):106-23. Epub 2006 Dec 5.

Using transportation accident databases to investigate ignition and explosion probabilities of flammable spills.

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Centre d'Estudis del Risc Tecnològic (CERTEC), Department of Chemical Engineering, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Diagonal 647, 08028 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.


Risk assessment of hazardous material spill scenarios, and quantitative risk assessment in particular, make use of event trees to account for the possible outcomes of hazardous releases. Using event trees entails the definition of probabilities of occurrence for events such as spill ignition and blast formation. This study comprises an extensive analysis of ignition and explosion probability data proposed in previous work. Subsequently, the results of the survey of two vast US federal spill databases (HMIRS, by the Department of Transportation, and MINMOD, by the US Coast Guard) are reported and commented on. Some tens of thousands of records of hydrocarbon spills were analysed. The general pattern of statistical ignition and explosion probabilities as a function of the amount and the substance spilled is discussed. Equations are proposed based on statistical data that predict the ignition probability of hydrocarbon spills as a function of the amount and the substance spilled. Explosion probabilities are put forth as well. Two sets of probability data are proposed: it is suggested that figures deduced from HMIRS be used in land transportation risk assessment, and MINMOD results with maritime scenarios assessment. Results are discussed and compared with previous technical literature.

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