Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spooner Explosion-Dust or Vapor?

The catastrophic Tuesday chemical plant explosion at the Cortec aerosol can filling facility in Spooner, Wisconsin is still a mystery to local, state, and federal investigators. Luckily, most of the workers were in the break room when the mysterious explosion destroyed the facility. Yet two injuries occurred with the burn victims still in the hospital.

Cortec is a global leader in corrosion protection technology with its proprietary vapor-phase corrosion inhibitors. VCIs are environmentally friendly organic chemicals that condense on metal surfaces, creating an invisible barrier to moisture. Products that are filled in aerosol cans include rust removers, rust preventers, biodegradable cleaners, and degreasers.

With hundreds of diverse corrosion protection products manufactured at their other facilities, Cortec provides corrosion protection products for over 70 countries in conjunction 500 local distributors. For instance, NASA uses the products’ on the space shuttle and the U.S. military has a multitude of uses for the products in the adverse conditions which it operates whether land, sea, or air.

Normally aerosol can filling can be a potentially dangerous operation in the manufacturing process. Yet Cortec has alleviated that hazardous aspect with its EcoAir aerosol can product which utilizes unique technology in the form of aerosol products that are powered by compressed air which is not flammable. So how did the facility explode if it doesn’t use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), dimethyl ether (DME), difluoroethane (DFE), or butane as a aerosol propellant?

That’s the mystery. Additionally, newspapers have stated through witness accounts, that no one can recall smelling any vapor such as a flammable gas leak. Furthermore, a business owner across the street heard a primary explosion then a larger secondary explosion followed by the huge fire.

Is it possible that the vapor corrosion inhibitor (VCI) in a dust form, prior to filling the aerosol cans, had accumulated over a period of time on overhead surfaces and ledges unbeknownst to plant management and the workers? That’s the big question even with the aisles and passageways spotless through conscientious housekeeping yet a hidden danger could be lurking above.

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