The security and economic stability of many nations and multinational oil companies are highly dependent on the safe and uninterrupted operation of their oil, gas and chemical facilities. One of the most critical impacts that can occur to these operations are fires and explosions from accidental or political incidents. This publication is intended as a general engineering handbook and reference guideline for those personnel involved with fire and explosion protection aspects of critical hydrocarbon facilities. Design guidelines and specifications of major, small and independent oil companies as well as information from engineering firms and published industry references have been reviewed to assist in its preparation. Some of the latest published practices and research into fire and explosions have also been mentioned.


Safety engineers, plants managers and hygiene personnel in the chemical and petrochemical industries.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction Historical Background Legal Influences Hazards and Their Prevention Systems Approach Fire Protection Engineering Role Risk Management and Insurance Senior Management Responsibility and Accountability 2. Overview of Oil and Gas Facilities Exploration Production Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Secondary Recovery Tertiary Recovery Transportation Refining Typical Refinery Process Flow Marketing 3. Philosophy of Protection Principals General Philosophy Worst Case Conditions Independent Layers of Protection (ILP) Design Principles Accountability and Auditability 4. Physical Properties of Hydrocarbons General Characteristics of Hydrocarbons Lower Explosive Limit (LEL)/Upper Explosive Limit (UEL) Flash Point (FP) Autoignition Temperature (AIT) Vapor Density Vapor Pressure Specific Gravity Flammable Combustible Heat of Combustion Description of Some Common Hydrocarbons 5. Characteristics of Hydrocarbon Releases, Fires and Explosions Hydrocarbon Releases Gaseous Releases Mists or Spray Releases Liquid Releases Nature and Chemistry of Hydrocarbon Combustion Hydrocarbon Fires Nature of Hydrocarbon Explosions Semi-Confined Explosion Overpressures Vapor Cloud Explosion Overpressures Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosions (BLEVE) Smoke and Combustion Gases


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© 1996
William Andrew
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About the author

Dennis P. Nolan

Dr. Dennis P. Nolan has had a long career devoted to risk engineering, fire protection engineering, loss prevention engineering and systems safety engineering. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Business Administration from Berne University, Master of Science degree in Systems Management from Florida Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland. He is a U.S. registered professional engineer in fire protection engineering in the state of California. He is currently on the Executive Management staff of Saudi Aramco, located in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, as a Loss Prevention Consultant/Chief Fire Prevention Engineer. He covers some of the largest oil and gas facilities in the world. The magnitude of the risks, worldwide sensitivity, and foreign location make this one the highly critical fire risk operations in the world. He has also been associated with Boeing, Lockheed, Marathon Oil Company, and Occidental Petroleum Corporation in various fire protection engineering, risk analysis, and safety roles in several locations in the United States and overseas. As part of his career, he has examined oil production, refining, and marketing facilities under severe conditions and in various unique worldwide locations, including Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and North and South America. His activity in the aerospace field has included engineering support for the NASA Space Shuttle launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center (and for those undertaken at Vandenburg Air Force Base, California) and “classified” national defense systems. Dr. Nolan has received numerous safety awards and is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, He is the author of many technical papers and professional articles in various international fire safety publications. He has written four other books, Handbook of Fire and Explosion Protection Engineering Principles for Oil, Gas, Chemical and Relat

Affiliations and Expertise

Loss Prevention Manager and Chief Fire Prevention Engineer, Saudi Aramco