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Journal of Applied and Industrial Sciences, 2014, 2 (4): 181-187, ISSN: 2328-4595 (PRINT), ISSN: 2328-4609 (ONLINE)

Research Article 181

Research Article
Estimation of Blast over Pressures of Possible Explosion in a Furnace in Khartoum Refinery by Using
MATLAB Software
Mohamed Almustafa*1, M. H. M. Abuuznien2 and Ibrahim A. Ibrahim3*
Faculty of Graduate Studies and Scientific Research, University of Karary, Khartoum- Sudan
*Corresponding Author Email: mmustafagader@gmail.com
Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Karary, Khartoum- Sudan
Email: abuuznien77@yahoo.com
Telephone: +249121021120
Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Karary, Khartoum- Sudan
*Corresponding author E mail: iahmed153@yahoo.com
Telephone: +249123989123
(Received: June 02, 2014; Accepted: August 22, 2014)

ABSTRACT – Due to the notable industrial development, controlled with a valve located before the burners [2]. During
safety side start to be taken more seriously. Fires and the start-up of the unit, this valve must be checked for any
explosions in the process industries, although rare, do malfunctioning, a passing valve will continue delivering fuel
occur, and can cause loss of life and damage to the gas which will fill the internal chamber of the furnace
environment. In Khartoum refinery, in the Crude resulting in a fuel gas cloud [3]. This may lead to one of two
Catalytic reforming unit during naphtha hydro-treating fatal cases, physical explosion and/or vapor cloud explosion.
process a vapor cloud explosion or a physical explosion Physical explosion occurs due to the sudden release of
can occur this may happen by a releasing of a compressed energy, by releasing a compressed fuel gas that formed inside
fuel gas inside the furnace during its shutdown. This case the furnace. A second case can happen if the released fuel gas
may occur because of improper maintenance or any is mixed with air and forms a vapor cloud inside the furnace.
failure in the process. The aim of this work is to analyze Starting-up the process again or existing of any source of
the effects of possible explosions by using several methods ignition in the presence of this cloud, a vapor cloud explosion
of analysis for safety purposes. Data collection from the will occur [4].
field includes the furnace and process parameters which
required for the methods of analysis. These data were II. MATERIALS AND METHODS
analyzed through MATLAB software. The analysis First Case: Physical Explosion
showed that the explosion can produce an overpressure
There are four methods to estimate the energy of
that will cause a significant damage to structures,
equipment and loss of life. It is shown that applying these physical explosion for a pressurized gas. These methods
methods will upgrading the performance of prevention are represented by Brode’s equation, isentropic expansion,
and mitigation of explosions. isothermal expansion and thermodynamic availability [5].
i. Brode’s equation
Naphtha is hydro-treated before sent to the reforming section.
It is heated, blended with hydrogen and sent to the hydro- Where:
treating reactor. With the action of the catalyst; sulfur, E = Energy of explosion (J).
nitrogen and unsaturated olefins in the naphtha will react P1 = Ambient pressure (Pa).
with hydrogen to give rise to hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and
P2 = Burst pressure of the vessel (Pa).
saturated hydrocarbons, while the metal impurities will be
adsorbed onto the catalyst. Hydrogen Produced during the V = Volume of the expanding gas in the vessel (m3)
reactions is recycled and reused. The hydro-treated naphtha is ϒ = Heat capacity ratio for the gas (unit less)
then sent to a stripper to get rid of the associated lighter ii. Isentropic expansion equation
hydrocarbons and impurities. The bottom product of the
stripper is heavy naphtha which is sent to the reforming
section to produce high octane number gasoline [1]. A iii. Isothermal expansion equation
reboiler (furnace) will provide heat into the stripping tower
using fuel gas “mostly composed from methane & ethane”. “3”
Fuel gas from the refinery network is fed to the furnace at the Where: Rg is the ideal gas constant and T1 is the absolute
bottom where the burners are located. The combustion flue
ambient Temperature (K)
gases travel upwards providing heat by radiation to the
radiant section tubes. Before leaving the furnace via the fuel iv. Thermodynamic availability equation
gas stack, they come in contact with the convection section [6] “4”
tubes to exploit the remaining heat. Fuel gas flow rate is
Journal of Applied and Industrial Sciences, 2014, 2 (4): 181-187, ISSN: 2328-4595 (PRINT), ISSN: 2328-4609 (ONLINE)
Second Case: Vapor Cloud Explosion i. Tri-Nitro-toluene (TNT) Equivalency
Three methods can be used to estimate the The TNT-equivalency method is originally used for
overpressure as a function of distance from the explosion [5]. prediction of a far field effect of vapor cloud explosions. The
principle is to convert the available combustion energy in a vapor cloud into an equivalent charge weight of TNT [5]. This method
needs to evaluate firstly scaled distance “5”
Z = Scaled distance (m/kg1/3).
R* = Distance from the explosion center (m).
W = Mass of TNT (kg).
From scaled distance and figure (1) scaled overpressure (Ps) and impulse (Is) can be estimated
The scaled overpressure is:
Ps = Scaled overpressure (unit less).
Po = Peak side-on overpressure (Pa).
Pa = Absolute ambient pressure (Pa).
The term “over -pressure” always refers to a gauge pressure.

Figure 1. Scaled overpressure and impulse curves for TNT explosion on a surface [5].
The equivalent mass of TNT is estimated using the following equation:
W = Equivalent mass of TNT (kg).
ɳ = Empirical explosion efficiency (unit less)
m = Mass of flammable gas (kg).
Ec = Heat of combustion of the gas (J/kg).
ETNT = Energy of explosion of TNT (J /kg)
A typical value for the energy of explosion of TNT which is equal to 4620 kJ/kg. Notice that the scaled overpressure data in
Figure (1) are for a TNT explosion on the ground at sea level. Overpressure correlations are frequently presented for free-air
explosions, with a distant ground surface. To convert surface data to free air data, the mass of TNT is halved to account for the
loss of energy reflected by the ground Surface [5].
ii. TNO Multi-Energy Method
The TNO method identifies the confined volumes in a process, assigns a relative degree of confinement, and then
determines the contribution to the overpressure from this confined volume. Semi-empirical curves are used to determine the
overpressure [5].
Journal of Applied and Industrial Sciences, 2014, 2 (4): 181-187, ISSN: 2328-4595 (PRINT), ISSN: 2328-4609 (ONLINE)
Where: shape, is to assume maximum initial blast strength of 10
= Sachs-scaled distance from the charge (dimensionless).
R = Distance from the charge (m). iii. Baker–Strehlow–Tang Method
E = Charge combustion energy (J).Pa = ambient pressure The Baker–Stehlow–Tang method is based on a
(Pa). flame speed as shown in table 1, which is selected based on
Equation above is represented by the following figure three factors: the reactivity of the released material, the flame
expansion characteristics of the process unit (which relates to
confinement and spatial configuration) as shown in table 3,
and the obstacle density within the process unit as shown in
table 3 [7]. A set of semi-empirical curves is used to
determine the overpressure, apply to free air blasts level, the
energy of the cloud is doubled to account for the strong
reflection of the blast wave [7].

Figure 2. TNO multi energy model for (Vapor Cloud

Explosion) VCE [5]. Figure 3. Baker-Stehlow Model for VCE [8].

The blast peak side-on overpressure is calculated by the This curve provides the scaled overpressure as a function of
following equation: the Sachs scaled distance [8].
Reactivity is classified as low, medium, and high
according to the following recommendations of TNO.
The scale 1 to 10 is the initial blast strength. Figure 2 can be
Methane and carbon monoxide are the only materials
used for determine. If environmental and atmospheric regarded as low reactivity, whereas only hydrogen, acetylene,
conditions are such that vapor cloud dispersion can be ethylene, ethylene oxide.
expected to be very slow (during stable atmospheric And propylene oxide was considered to be highly reactive.
conditions), the possibility of a vapor cloud detonation All other fuels are classified as medium reactivity. Fuel
should also be considered if, in addition, a long ignition delay mixtures are classified according to the concentration of the
is likely. In that case, the full quantity of fuel mixed within most reactive component [9]. The Baker–Strehlow pressure
detonable limits should be assumed for a fuel–air charge curves apply to free air blasts. Since the vapor cloud for this
whose initial strength is 10 [5]. The most conservative example is at ground level, the energy of the cloud is doubled
approach to this work, according to the confined furnace to account for the strong reflection of the blast wave [11].
Journal of Applied and Industrial Sciences, 2014, 2 (4): 181-187, ISSN: 2328-4595 (PRINT), ISSN: 2328-4609 (ONLINE)
Table 1. Flame Speed in Mach Number for Soft Ignition Sources [10].

1D Obstacle Density
Flame Expansion Case (Unit less)
(not in use) High Medium Low

High 5.2 5.2 5.2

Medium 2.27 1.77 1.03
Low 2.27 1.03 0.294

Obstacle Density
(Unit less)
Flam Expansion Case
High Medium Low

High DDT DDT 0.59

Medium 1.6 0.66 0.47
Low 0.66 0.47 0.079

Obstacle Density
(Unit less)
Flam Expansion Case
High Medium Low

High DDT DDT 0.47

Medium 1.0 0.55 0.29
Low 0.5 0.35 0.053

3D Obstacle Density
Flam Expansion Case
High Medium Low

High DDT DDT 0.36

Medium 0.5 0.44 0.11
Low 0.34 0.23 0.026
DDT = Deflagration to detonation transition
Journal of Applied and Industrial Sciences, 2014, 2 (4): 181-187, ISSN: 2328-4595 (PRINT), ISSN: 2328-4609 (ONLINE)

Table 2. Geometric Considerations for the Baker-Strehlow Vapor Cloud Explosion Model [10]

Dimension Description Geometry

“ Unconfined volume” almost completely

3D free expansion

Compressor shelters with lightweight roofs;

2.5D dense pipe racks Between 3-D and 2-D

Platforms carrying process equipment;

space beneath cars; open-sided multistory

Tunnels, corridors, or sewage systems


Table 3. Confinement Considerations for the Baker-Strehlow Vapor Cloud Expansion Model [10]

Obstacle Blockage Pitch for Obstacle

Type Geometry
Ratio per Plane Layers

One or two layers of

Low Less than 10%

Two to three layers of

Medium Between 10% and 40%

Three or more fairly

closely spaced obstacle
High Greater than 40% layers

In this work the reactivity of fuel gas is: medium, because ethane is more reactive than methane in fuel gas [12], flame expansion
is: 2D according to the furnace shape and obstacle density is: high. The resulting flame speed from Table 3 is 1.6, and used figure
3 to get PS, then calculated PO from eq. 11:
Journal of Applied and Industrial Sciences, 2014, 2 (4): 181-187, ISSN: 2328-4595 (PRINT), ISSN: 2328-4609 (ONLINE)

Results for Physical Explosion

Energy of explosion for a pressurized gas is estimated by Results for Vapor Cloud Explosion
four methods: Overpressure as a function of distance from VCE explosion
Input Data are: estimated by three methods and shown in table (5) and figure
P1= 1.01 bar, P2= 1.4 bar, V = 286.7 m3, ϒ = 1.26 (4):
Results of this case (physical explosion assumption) are
shown in table (4) below:

Table 4. Results for Physical Explosion

Method Brode Isentropic expansion Isothermal expansion Thermodynamic availability
Energy (bar m ) 430.05 100.6 131.1 19.52

Table 5. Results for Cloud Explosion at Different Distances

Results Type Unit
TNT TNO Baker–Strehlow
ɳ % 5 - -
m Kg 267.8 - -
EC Kj/Kg 38871.5 1003450 2006900
ETNT Kj/Kg 4602 - -
W Kg 56.6 - -
PO @ R3 m 1013.00 1013.25 303.98
PO @ R 50 m K Pa 9.50 15.20 283.71
PO @ R 100m 3.00 5.67 0.71
Pa K Pa 101.325 101.325 101.325



Po Ba ker–Strehl ow
K Pa


0 20 40 60 80 100 120

Distance (m)


Figure 4. Cloud explosion at different distance

Investigation the results of the analysis of the expected the center of the explosion, so in matter of safety the highest
explosion, table 4 showed that the thermodynamic value must be chosen in terms of prevention and mitigations
availability method produces the lowest value, while the of risk, in this case that will be the results estimated by TNO
Brode method produces the largest value. Table 5 showed the Multi-Energy Method. TNT Equivalency and TNO Multi-
pressure resulting is very high compared to the tolerable Energy Method at 3 meters distances away from the VCE
pressure which could cause a real disaster by destroying of showed almost same results, but at 50 and 100 m it showed
buildings, equipment and killing people on the surrounding different results which correspond to the theory, the
[5]. The results showed a variation in the amount of pressure overpressure curve for TNT tends to over-predict the
could occur depending on analysis method and distance from overpressure near the VCE, and under-predict at distances
away from the VCE.
Journal of Applied and Industrial Sciences, 2014, 2 (4): 181-187, ISSN: 2328-4595 (PRINT), ISSN: 2328-4609 (ONLINE)
It is concluded that these methods can be used to [4] AICHE (1996a), Guidelines for Use of Vapor Cloud
give a reasonable results, in the area of safety, to predict the Dispersion Models, 2 , New York: American Institute
effects of explosions that may occur in industries. To get of Chemical Engineers.
more accurate results, application of these methods needs
American Institute of Chemical Engineers, New York.
precise assumptions, and taking into account the special
[6] Crowl, D. A. 1992, Calculating the Energy of Explosion
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function of distance from the explosion. Once these are Developments in the Baker-Strehlow, VCE Analysis
known the damage effects can be estimated by using the Methodology, 31 Loss Prevention Symposium,
standard tables of Damage Estimates Based on Overpressure Houston, TX. New York: American Institute of Chemical
for Process Equipment and Damage Estimates for Common Engineers.
Structures Based on Overpressure. [8] M.J. Tang, Q.A. Baker 2000, Journal of Loss Prevention
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT from vapor cloud explosions.
[9] Zeeuwen, J. P., and B. J. Wiekema 1978, the
This paper was produced from the Ph.D. Measurement of Relative Reactivities of Combustible
Dissertation of the first author. The generous support and Gases, Conference on Mechanisms of Explosions in
Dispersed Energetic Materials.
assistance provided by the graduate faculty of Karary
[10] Baker, Q. A., M. J. Tang, et al. 1994, Vapor Cloud
University to complete this work is hereby duly th
Explosion Analysis, 28 Loss Prevention Symposium,
acknowledged and appreciated. Atlanta, GA. New York: American Institute of Chemical
[11] Tang, M. J. and Q. A. Baker 1999, A New Set of Blast
Curves from Vapor Cloud Explosions” Process Safety
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