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Propane Explosion Destroys Building- Bird-in-Hand, PA

Steamhead
Steamhead Member Posts: 16,732
one of three such explosions in Lancaster County this year:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lZiN18QVnQ
All Steamed Up, Inc.
Towson, MD, USA
Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
Oil & Gas Burner Service
Consulting
ttekushan_3

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,942
    Yeah, propane will do that now and then. So will natural gas. Oil won't.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,469
    unless someone hit reset 30 times
    SuperTechkcoppIronman
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 21,874
    Every fuel has serious risks associated.
    Homeowners need to be aware and responsible.
    You can fix stupid.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    old_diy_guy
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 888
    edited December 2023
    You guys are right about the possibility of propane and nat gas destroying a house or building, however I have witnessed a few oil burner explosions in my career. Oil explosions usually will not totally destroy a building although it can affect parts of the structure. The latest was in a school in northern Washington County where the "delayed ignition", as we liked to call them, ruined a 4 day old, H B Smith 450-20 (20 section) boiler. The burner was blown off the front of the front boiler plate and the Induced draft fan was removed from its mount. Some of the boiler sections were actually broken and some of the threaded 2" nipples were ripped from their threads. The cast iron boiler base was blown out from under the boiler and the pre-cast refractory was strewn all over the boiler room floor. The walls of the boiler room were cracked floor to ceiling and the windows were blown out. The explosion was felt by everyone that was in the building even those at the far end of the building. I was more afraid of oil than I was natural gas. I my area oil was called liquid dynamite and for good reason.
    ttekushan_3
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,488
    edited December 2023

    Yeah, propane will do that now and then. So will natural gas. Oil won't.

    You can preach oil safety all you want but in the end such explosions hurt all fossil fuels.
    This will be used as another excuse to ban fossil fuels for safety reasons, including oil and more pushing for all electric.


    Even though such problems are very rare compared to electrical fires, those are ignored for some reason. Gas stoves seeping minute amounts of fuel so small no one could ever tell is an issue and all over the news but an electrical fire burning the joint down is fine.



    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    WMno57DerheatmeisterSuperTech
  • dko
    dko Member Posts: 562
    Sounds like the same thing with airplanes and cars. Scared to take a plane because it might crash, but drive a car every day.

    ChrisJGGrossSuperTech
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,395
    We all know what can happen to a water heater if its T&P valve is plugged and the thermostat goes wild... regardless of fuel.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGWmONHipVo
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,732

    You guys are right about the possibility of propane and nat gas destroying a house or building, however I have witnessed a few oil burner explosions in my career. Oil explosions usually will not totally destroy a building although it can affect parts of the structure. The latest was in a school in northern Washington County where the "delayed ignition", as we liked to call them, ruined a 4 day old, H B Smith 450-20 (20 section) boiler. The burner was blown off the front of the front boiler plate and the Induced draft fan was removed from its mount. Some of the boiler sections were actually broken and some of the threaded 2" nipples were ripped from their threads. The cast iron boiler base was blown out from under the boiler and the pre-cast refractory was strewn all over the boiler room floor. The walls of the boiler room were cracked floor to ceiling and the windows were blown out. The explosion was felt by everyone that was in the building even those at the far end of the building. I was more afraid of oil than I was natural gas. I my area oil was called liquid dynamite and for good reason.

    What state was this in?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,236
    edited December 2023
    Mayhem is everywhere. But we're not doomed to fate. Use the brains and skills we're given, do things right, and look out for others. Be helpful. Flippant responses of "that's not DIY" are not helpful. Instead, explain why something might be difficult for someone without the proper tools or experience. That way, they will either be a more educated customer, or a more educated DIYer.
    Wishing everyone a happy and safe New Year.


    I DIY.
    Larry Weingarten
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,943
    Do we really know what caused the explosion? Propane explosion, under investigation????? Could be both or neither. The media is not necessarily the authoritative source.
    ChrisJethicalpaulrealliveplumber
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,696
    And everyone's liability insurance now goes up again!
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,617

    Yeah, propane will do that now and then. So will natural gas. Oil won't.

    That's why i'm converting my car from gas to oil...fear of explosions.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,488

    Yeah, propane will do that now and then. So will natural gas. Oil won't.

    That's why i'm converting my car from gas to oil...fear of explosions.
    Not the best argument.
    Diesel is substantially safer to work with than gasoline. You'll never see a plume of fire engulf a person because someone tossed a match in a burn barrel after dumping diesel all over it.


    I still use gasoline all of the time, but it's just not a good argument.

    I've actually wondered why gasoline is never used in heating equipment. They even use a special blend of oil in Antarctica rather than gasoline or similar. I think it's called AN8 or AN-8.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    WMno57SuperTech
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,696
    Yeah, propane will do that now and then. So will natural gas. Oil won't.
    That's why i'm converting my car from gas to oil...fear of explosions.
    There is a reason in the marine industry they preferred diesel over gasoline
    WMno57SuperTech
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,236

    That's why i'm converting my car from gas to oil...fear of explosions.

    Excellent choice! May I suggest a First Generation Dodge Cummins?



    I DIY.
    GGross
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,799
    Even though such problems are very rare compared to electrical fires, those are ignored for some reason. Gas stoves seeping minute amounts of fuel so small no one could ever tell is an issue and all over the news but an electrical fire burning the joint down is fine.
    Nobody thinks this is fine @ChrisJ, that’s delusional. Nobody wants home fires. 

    The more nuanced point is: given my home, like nearly all US homes, will have electricity, which I acknowledge is dangerous, we can ignore that decision. 

    The decision is “do I add a non-electricity fuel source (coal/wood/gas/propane/oil/whatever) which has risks to my home?” 

    Americans will make their own decisions on that. 
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,488
    Even though such problems are very rare compared to electrical fires, those are ignored for some reason. Gas stoves seeping minute amounts of fuel so small no one could ever tell is an issue and all over the news but an electrical fire burning the joint down is fine.
    Nobody thinks this is fine @ChrisJ, that’s delusional. Nobody wants home fires. 

    The more nuanced point is: given my home, like nearly all US homes, will have electricity, which I acknowledge is dangerous, we can ignore that decision. 

    The decision is “do I add a non-electricity fuel source (coal/wood/gas/propane/oil/whatever) which has risks to my home?” 

    Americans will make their own decisions on that. 


    Suggesting that adding other fuel sources is added risk but adding additional circuits or current capacity is not should be questioned.



    I see what's being reported and talked about and with all due respect I'm not delusional.



    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    GGross
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,799
    edited December 2023
    @ChrisJ nobody’s advocating unsafe practices. Most Americans have AC: it’s the same circuit that a heat pump uses. The decision to use electricity widely has been made, there’s little incremental risk here. To think that people are somehow okay with electrical fires, I just don’t know what to say. That’s such a bad faith reading of the situation. We all know electricity can be dangerous! 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,732

    Do we really know what caused the explosion? Propane explosion, under investigation????? Could be both or neither. The media is not necessarily the authoritative source.

    Not yet. It's still under investigation. What's notable is, according to the media, this is the third such explosion in Lancaster County, PA this year. Makes me wonder if there is a common factor here.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Hot_water_fanethicalpaulGGross
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,558
    Three in one town? Could be as simple as one person making the same mistake.
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 888
    @ Steamhead; That was in Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh, Pa, and just before I retired.
  • dko
    dko Member Posts: 562
    Two of them were suspected propane leaks with no more updates I could find and one confirmed a propane leak. As for the confirmed one...

    "A worker who was going into the building this morning smelled propane, saw that a heater had fallen out of the ceiling, and got out of the building. The worker did not turn on any lights or do anything that might have caused a spark.

    "Of all six employees, he never turns the lights on when he walks through the door, and he's the only one of the six. It's just a habit. Even if he hadn’t smelled the gas, he wouldn't have turned the lights on," Swarr said.

    Somehow, the propane ignited and leveled the main storage building. Swarr said it was like somebody dropped a bomb on the place."


    ChrisJ
  • PeteA
    PeteA Member Posts: 171
    ChrisJ said:

    Yeah, propane will do that now and then. So will natural gas. Oil won't.

    You can preach oil safety all you want but in the end such explosions hurt all fossil fuels.
    This will be used as another excuse to ban fossil fuels for safety reasons, including oil and more pushing for all electric.


    Even though such problems are very rare compared to electrical fires, those are ignored for some reason. Gas stoves seeping minute amounts of fuel so small no one could ever tell is an issue and all over the news but an electrical fire burning the joint down is fine.



    This is true since the anti-fossil fuel lobby is very coordinated but the truth of it all is that even with the handful of oil, natural gas or propane fuels experiencing catastrophic failures, electric fires and loss of life and property is a significantly greater concern. Just look how many homes have fires due to electric heaters or appliance being misused, batteries failing while a toy or vehicle is charging inside the premise. I still believe fossil fuels are the best for reliability and safety compared to the new religion alternatives.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,942
    Just wait until we start using hydrogen. Great fuel, but... when it's burning, the flame is colourless. And very hot. Gotta love it.

    The truth is that all fuels are hazardous -- or they wouldn't be fuels. Why is diesel preferred for marine uses? Very low vapour pressure, so you don't get fumes building up in the bilges, and diesels are more efficient (horsepower per gallon) than gasoline engines. Why is gasoline preferred for aircraft piston engines? Lower internal pressures at combustion, so lighter engines. Every fuel is a compromise in some way or other. Any fuel can be safe, if the equipment is properly maintained and the installation is good and the operator knows what he or she is doing. Any fuel can be a hazard if any of the above is missing...

    Electricity? Now that we've figured out the problem with aluminium wiring in residences, most electrical fires seem to be compromised wiring (the little mice really like to chew on Romex, for instance) or "operator error" -- overloaded extension cords or power strips, extension cords under rugs, plugs not all the way in sockets, that kind of thing.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,799
    @PeteA I don’t see the relevance of comparing electrical fires (which are terrible, tragic, etc) to incidents related to other fuels. Electricity is in nearly every US house and that’s not changing despite its known dangers. 

    In my opinion, the decision is: Should Americans use a second, additional source of risk or not. 

    We’re not going back to whale oil lamps! Electricity is staying independent of American’s heating, DHW, and/or cooking fuel(s). The productive focus should be on adding that second risk or not, and how best to mitigate that risk if it’s added. 
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,558
    edited December 2023
    Danger can be mitigated but never completly eliminated. This is true with all sources of energy. It is true in all facets of life.

    Look at me getting all philisophical while cold sober!

    Hot_water_fanGGross
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 21,874
    PeteA said:

    ChrisJ said:

    Yeah, propane will do that now and then. So will natural gas. Oil won't.

    You can preach oil safety all you want but in the end such explosions hurt all fossil fuels.
    This will be used as another excuse to ban fossil fuels for safety reasons, including oil and more pushing for all electric.


    Even though such problems are very rare compared to electrical fires, those are ignored for some reason. Gas stoves seeping minute amounts of fuel so small no one could ever tell is an issue and all over the news but an electrical fire burning the joint down is fine.



    This is true since the anti-fossil fuel lobby is very coordinated but the truth of it all is that even with the handful of oil, natural gas or propane fuels experiencing catastrophic failures, electric fires and loss of life and property is a significantly greater concern. Just look how many homes have fires due to electric heaters or appliance being misused, batteries failing while a toy or vehicle is charging inside the premise. I still believe fossil fuels are the best for reliability and safety compared to the new religion alternatives.
    40% of electricity generated in 2022 was with NG, so fossil fuels are more and more the fuel for generating electricity.

    Although in my home state of Utah, 3 Uranium mines are reopening and one in Arizona. Utah a has the highest amount of Uranium. So possibly we see more small scale nuke plants being permitted and built.

    57 nuclear plants under construction worldwide, two in Georgia one at 99% completion.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    PeteA
  • Bob Harper
    Bob Harper Member Posts: 1,030
    In order to smell LP while standing means you're in a sea of explosive gas at the boundary with oxygen. Where the concentration is between 2.15-9.6% fuel to air, it can go 'Poof!' You should have an intrinsically safe LP gas alarm at the floor level since LPG is heavier than air (1.50-1.57 Sp.Gr.) typical depending upon the makeup of the gas. LP is a witch's brew of various species of long chain aliphatic hydrocarbons. It's autoignition temperature is only 455C/851F so it doesn't take much energy to ignite, unlike methane (NG). When using an electronic gas sniffer to detect LPG, hold it near the floor level. NG is lighter than air so you would hold the wand up for methane.
    When these buildings blow up, there is always some initial report, most often by a bystander or fire fighter who are not licensed Cause & Origin fire investigators. Let them do their jobs and wait for word to leak out maybe in a few years after the litigation is over. Until then, it's just speculation. Even where there is gas service to a building doesn't mean that's the source. How do you know there wasn't some other explosive material that caused it? My frat house smelled of gas my whole college career and it never went Poof! even with all the smoking. How do you know it wasn't a water heater blowing up causing the rupture of a gas line with a secondary fire/ explosion?
    One thing we all should have learned over the last few years is that the media can be counted on to get 100% of all stories incorrect at the outset. Wait for the facts.
    realliveplumberChrisJSTEAM DOCTOR