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Total’s Dirk Roosendans, Pol Hoorelbeke and Christian Kapp explain the company’s new technology

the oil industry operates installations and processes with important quantities of flammable substances within a wide range of pressures and temperatures. A particular hazard for this type of installations is an accidental release of a large quantity of flammable material resulting in the formation of a flammable cloud within the installation.

Historical evidence has shown that the ignition of such a cloud can lead to an explosion producing shock waves with enough energy to cause substantial damage to process plants and equipment and even lead to a total destruction of the installation. Such accidents are commonly named vapour cloud explosions (VCE). According to the insurance broker Marsh, VCEs account for the greatest frequency of losses in the energy sector.

Notorious examples include the VCE at Phillips Petroleum in Pasadena, US on 23 October 1989 (resulting in 23 fatalities and 130 ...

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