Methanol is a ubiquitous chemical used in many industrial processes and found in a wide range of consumer goods (Methanol Institute, 2011a). In addition to established uses as a fuel and as a chemical feedstock in the production of formaldehyde or acetic acid to produce consumer goods, methanol is playing a strategic role in emerging technologies for energy sustainability such as hydrogen fuel cells (Crawley, 2007), and renewable biomethanol production to supplement fossil energy sources (Methanol Institute, 2011b). Methanol is also a highly flammable and toxic material whose hazardous properties can easily go unrecognized and result in incidents with substantial human and material impacts. The following incident report is an example of the high severity potential of methanol releases.
On Nov. 16, 2013, a large explosion at the Southern Energy Co. facility in Shelbyville, TN (photo, right), sent one man to the hospital with burns on more than half of his body, destroyed a tanker truck and partially destroyed a chemical storage building (News Channel 5, 2013). According to the news report:
A tanker truck was trying to transfer methanol into an external storage tank outside the building. In order to take the shipment, they had to draw down methanol in the external storage tank by draining it through plumbing that went inside the building, to a larger vat of methanol inside. The chemist in charge of mixing fuels went inside to operate a pump to begin transferring the fuel.
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