Large explosion and fire loss at a tank farm

Large explosion and fire loss at a tank farm

By John L. Schumacher, MChE, PE, CFI, CFPS and Zachary J. Jason, PE, CFEI

There has been a lot talk in the news lately about hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to stimulate oil and gas wells in order to increase their production. Fracking is simply artificially splitting or chemically degrading the reservoir rock to increase formation permeability, thereby increasing production of hydrocarbons from the treated well. This is accomplished by injecting fluids under high pressure down the well, and is controlled through a highly complex process. The fracking fluid typically consists of two main components, the base fluid and the propping agent. (The base fluid is normally low-gravity oil, water mixed with proprietary chemicals including strong acids and/or gelatinizing agents, or water carrying dissolved gases such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide. The base fluid carries with it a propping agent or proppant – small sand grains or plastic pellets – which helps to maintain the fractures in the rock after the fracking fluid is withdrawn.

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