The Anonymous Widower

Gas Should Be Banned In All Buildings With Multiple Occupation

I am now remembering more and more of the conversations I had in the 1960s, with fellow engineers, whilst I was working at ICI Plastics Division at Welwyn Garden City.

I arrived just after the explosion in Polythene Plant No 6 at Wilton had killed two plant operators. That and the dark shadow  of the Flixborough disaster changed the way the company looked at process design. My role was to do the dynamic calculations to make sure that the mathematics of the plant were safe and correct. In the design of one new plant, we looked at all possible combinations of vessels to make sure we were designing the best plant.

If this work led me to any personal conclusions, it was how dangerous gases like hydrogen and methane can be. I remember that it was found by investigators that the Six Plant explosion was caused by perhaps a couple of kilograms of ethylene gas that ignited and did a large amount of damage.

The Section I worked in, had actually installed an IBM 1800 process control computer on this plant and I heard rumours it went up in the air and when it came down, it continued to work.

Since then, I have only lived in one flat that relied on gas for cooking and that was a flat that was converted when we lived there from town gas to natural gas.

We nearly had a serious fire there, when one of the children got the matches from the gas stove and set fire to a duvet. Luckily, I smelt burning and put out the fire.

Our first real place to live was in Cromwell Tower in the Barbican. This is my thoughts as I expressed them in an e-mail to the BBC. They intended to put me on air, but the previous more important interview overran.

My late wife and myself brought our three children up in a high-rise 1960s block in the Barbican.

For safety there were escape passages everywhere, as I suspect there were in Grenfell Tower.

These passages would be ideal places for gas to seep and propagate the fire.

In my view, no tower block is safe with a gas supply, as a leak compromises safety.

According to The Times, the new gas supply was an unprotected  steel pipe up the stairwell installed by National Grid! Talking to an engineer with lots of experience of pipework on oil rigs, could it just have buckled and fractured in the heat? If so, that is criminal!

Sprinklers wouldn’t have contained the resulting gas fire and the intense heat got the cladding to burn.

Note that. I joined ICI in the 1960s and worked on process design, just after a series of serious gas-related explosions in UK chemical plants. All those stories about Flixborough and other disasters told over pints of beer have come back to me.

I’ve never trusted gas in a house, and my next dwelling will probably be an all-electric flat.

Gas should never be allowed in any multiple-occupation dwelling.

This will never be made law, as so many people swear by their gas cookers and the Big Six Gas companies would lobby against it.

 

June 16, 2017 - Posted by | World | , ,

3 Comments »

  1. A bit over the top for gas heating, but I concur that open flame gas cooking is unnecessary risk in a tower block. A decade or so ago there was a gas explosion in a flat in a tower block in Manchester (calor gas heater IIRC). Properly built , all that happened was the walls blew out leaving a gap about ten floors up – structural integrity maintained.

    Comment by Mark Clayton | June 16, 2017 | Reply

  2. Heating and hot water should be provided centrally, as I think it was in Grenfell Tower after the refurbishment. In Europe, there are so many more district heating systems than we have.

    Comment by AnonW | June 16, 2017 | Reply

  3. Only difference between Cromwell Tower and Grenfell Tower is that, Grenfell Tower only had one central staircase.

    Comment by Alan Mac Ailbhe 擊殺納粹 (@28481k) | June 20, 2017 | Reply


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