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SPE-184458184458-MS

Copyright 2017, Society of Petroleum Engineers


This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Health, Safety, Security, Environment & Social Responsibility Conference-North America held in New Orleans,
Louisiana, USA, 1820 April 2017.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents
of the paper have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect
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illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE copyright.

Abstract
This paper will discuss a simplified quantitative method for calculating the human health impacts of
failures during high-pressure fluid operations. The methodology ties catastrophic high-pressure failure
energies to specific human impacts. The methods are then applied to specific hazard situations found in
the oil and gas-operating environment through examples. Simplified graphical methods for standard
field piping iron at common design pressures are presented. These methods should assist engineers
and operators in performing rapid quantitative assessment of the high-pressure hazards to their
operations.
Since there has already been rigorous study of TNT explosions, we implement a TNT equivalent model
relating it to an equivalent potential explosion energy of a pipeline based on the volume of the gas it
contains. With an equivalent TNT energy, we can implement scaled distances for respective thresholds
of injury based on biological studies that have created pressure-duration curves related to survivability.
Using these survivability curves based on the overpressure and impulse respectively, we have created
safe standoff distances for pipelines with a specific diameter and length.
Since survivability of an explosion depends on both overpressure and impulse respectively, a literature
review was executed to account for these differences between a high explosive such as TNT and a
pipeline explosion. We conclude that the differing explosion factors (overpressure and impulse) in a
pipeline explosion counteract each other so that in terms of potential injury, a TNT explosion would
produce relatively similar results.
Another difference between the two respective types of explosions is that the geometry of a pipeline
explosion is highly directional and must be considered since it is not perfectly spherical as the TNT
equivalent model assumes. Nevertheless, the calculations of the graphs are conservative relative to a
TNT explosion in terms of both potential energy since the energy equation used represents an upper
boundary. Additionally, the same applies in terms of the energy available for the explosion of a pipeline

SPE-184458-MS

since not all gas will be readily available for detonation. In effect, we are describing a very complex
problem that could potentially have many different outcomes. Thus, the conservative assumptions will
allow the application of engineering judgement in assessing the risk of potential injury in specific
drilling scenarios.

Introduction
In oil and gas field operations, it is quite common to have a large amount of temporary pressurized
equipment and piping placed in and around the vicinity of the wellheads. These dynamic environments
also typically have many workers in the vicinity, often while the equipment and piping is operating
under pressure. Although most onshore rigs often have certain amounts of fixed locations for
equipment and piping that is physically attached, the rest of the site is usually constructed in a more
organic and free-formed nature. Hydrofracturing and enhanced oil recovery sites utilizing larger
amounts of temporary piping and equipment are usually organized in a practical and economical way,
often with regards to allowing accessibility and minimization of piping runs. However, unlike
downstream plant operations, in depth analysis of pressure hazards in order to create site zoning and
access areas is often impractical due to the temporary nature of the field operation. This hasnt
prevented the creation of so-called red, dead or no-go zones around high-pressure headers born
from common sense knowledge of high-pressure hazards.
In the downstream and offshore industry, chemical and safety engineers have the luxury of time in the
analysis of high-pressure hazards inside of their facilities or on their platforms. The more permanent
nature of the facilities demands efforts in localization of hazards and analyzing potential human
impacts. In depth analysis creates zones inside the plant that are closed to human access during
operations and also helps to locate critical equipment along with occupied buildings and structures to
minimize impacts of potential high-pressure hazards. An industry standard guide for this type of loss
prevention analysis is found in Lees Loss Prevention in the Process Industry, 4 th Ed. (Lees, 2005).
However, due to the complex and rigorous nature of the methodology found in this guide, it is
impractical for field engineers and technicians to utilize this resource for making on the spot decisions
for analyzing high-pressure hazards. Below we will describe the resulting simplified methodology for
tying the hazards to practicable impacts and then later elucidate some of the theory behind highpressure hazard assessment and limitations of this study. The end goal is to present a quick method to
analyze scenarios and enhance safety in the field environment.

Description and Application of Methodology


The results are culminated in three simplified figures describing the setback distances for each potential
health consequence: lung hemorrhage, eardrum rupture, and missile damage. Each of these
consequences represents a specific overpressure threshold at which value the likelihood of the physical
consequence is 1%. The overpressure created by a bursting pipe can be related to its stored pressure
energy. As will be described later in the paper, we first need to quantify the amount of stored energy in
the piping system. Standard practice is to relate this stored energy to a relative scaled amount of
equivalent mass of TNT explosion.
First one should calculate the stored potential energy from the pressurized gas. The energy (J) can be
found using Brodes equation (Cotes, 2016):

SPE-184458-MS

E=

( P1 - P0 )V
.....................................................(0)
-1

where P1 is the piping design pressure (Pa), P0 is the ambient pressure (Pa), is the ratio of specific
heats for the gas (cp/cv), V is the volume (m3) of stored gas inside of the piping calculated as
2

V=

d
L ........................................................(0)
4

where d is the diameter (m) of the piping and L is the length (m) of the piping.
Simplification of the calculation procedure starts at this level with two major assumptions. One is with
regards to the pressures (P1, P0). We assume ambient pressure (P0) remains constant at 103,421 Pa (15
psi) and piping design pressure (P1) is reduced to three standardized values: 34.474 MPa (5 ksi), 68.948
MPa (10 ksi), 103.422 MPa (15 ksi). Piping diameters are also set to standardized field iron values:
5.08 cm (2), 7.62 cm (3), and 10.16 cm (4). The piping length is left as part of the calculation. We
also assume the ratio of specific heats to be 1.21 in Eq (1), a value for CO 2, in order to have a
conservative calculation. The ratio for other typical gases in the field (methane, natural gas, air,
nitrogen) has a value larger than 1.21 and thus would be less conservative in the calculation.
The next step is to convert the piping pressure stored energy into the equivalent scaled mass of TNT:
M TNT =

E
E TNT

.....................................................(0)

where E is calculated from Eq (1) and (2), ETNT is the energy released by an explosion of 1 kg of TNT
(4,680 kJ/kg) and is the empirical explosion coefficient. The TNT equivalency method was designed
for spherical explosions, not cylindrical ground explosions. An empirical explosion coefficient () 1.8
is adopted per recommended practice of experimentally determined semi-hemispherical ground
explosions (Wu, et. al., 2016). Wus experiments show that because the steel pipe is relatively tough, it
does not burst evenly, but ruptures into one piece, and therefore the shock-wave for a pipeline burst is
highly directional emanating from the crack as a jet. In effect, the jet propagates in the y-axis where
overpressures can be four to five times larger than the x-axis 45 .
Finally, we determine the scaled setback distances (D) in ft based off of the energies we have
calculated. Three equations, one for each consequence, are developed as follows:
D1=z1 ( W TNT )1/3 ..........................................(0)
D2=z2 ( W TNT )1/3 ..........................................(0)
1/3
D3=z3 ( W TNT )
..........................................(0)
where z is the scaled distance for each specific consequence in ft/(kgTNT)1/3.

SPE-184458-MS

To quantify an acceptable level of risk, scaled distances can be calculated for the respective severity of
the explosion as follows:

for the worst case scaled distance of debris and missile damage
1

z1=200 ( ft / kg 3 ) .................................................(0)

for the worst case scaled distance for eardrum rupture


1
3

z2=15 ( ft / kg ) ..................................................(0)

for

the worst case scaled distance for lung damage


1

z3=6.7 ( ft / kg 3 ) ..................................................(0)
Table 1 provides these and other scaled distances for many different scenarios.
Combining all the above equations, we derive the working equations for setback distances (in ft) as
follows:

(
(
(

( P 1 - P0 )

d2
L
4

-1
D1=200
ETNT
( P1 - P0 )

d2
L
4

-1
D2=15
ETNT
( P1 - P 0 )

-1
D3=6.7
E TNT

d2
L
4

1/3

)
)
)

................................(0)

1/3

.................................(0)

1/3

.................................(0)

Units should be strictly carried out through the function inside the brackets to result in kgTNT. These
equations can be further simplified per the above-described assumptions and plotted as curves of
setback distance as a function of pipe length for various pipe diameters. These simplified curves are
presented in Figures 1, 2, and 3 for missile, eardrum rupture, and lung damage respectively. The
simplified curves allow for an easy field method to quantitatively determine hazards in the field.

SPE-184458-MS

To quantify the magnitude of the difference in explosion characteristics between pressure vessel burst
and a high explosive blast, which is what our injury model is based on, a scaled distance R can be
calculated with the following equation (CCPS, 2010)
R=r

Po
Eex

1 /3

( )

............................................(0)

where r is the distance from the explosion (m), P0 is the ambient pressure (Pa), and Eex is the energy
calculated from Brodes equation (J).
If R > 2 (far-field), as is the case for missile damage, the pressure vessel burst blast wave will behave
as a high explosive, so no corrections for overpressure and impulse need to be made.
If R <2 (near-field), as is the case for ear and lung damage, then overpressure is overestimated and
impulse is overestimated in terms of the x-axis 45 even though they are both under-estimated in the
y-axis (Wu et al., 2016). Even though the problem is complex in nature, the TNT equivalent model
provides a conservative result for most scenarios except directly above the pipe.

Procedure
The field engineers and technicians, to quickly ascertain a quantitative notion of the hazards involved
with a particular piping configuration, can conveniently use the plots in Figures 1, 2, and 3. An
example mitigation program might be as follows: determine the pipe diameter and design pressure (ex.
3 and 5ksi), pace the rough length of the pipe (33 paces ~ 100 ft), using Figures 1, 2, and 3 determine
the setbacks (406, 30.5, 13.6). This information could be used to determine the siting, as an example
non-reinforced occupied space should be located more than 406 from the piping. One might also desire
the outer fenced boundary of the facility to encompass 406 diameter from the piping to prevent the
public from unnecessary exposure. One might also use engineering judgment to determine inside 13.6
as the red zone where no personnel should enter or occupy during operations at pressure. How to best
utilize this quantitative information is left to the judgment of those analyzing the particular situation.

Conclusions
Even though the calculations in this paper yield exact results, the graphs created are only a quick rule
of thumb to help quantify a complex hazard scenario. In order to address the simplifications, on which
the model is based on, further experimentation should be conducted or perhaps even numerical
simulation should be implemented. The main shortcoming of the TNT equivalency method is to assume
that a pipeline pressure vessel burst explosion is scalable to an equivalent TNT explosion. After a
literature review, we know that a pressure vessel burst has a significantly higher impulse at all distances
since the time duration for the energy release is smaller than a TNT explosion, as shown in Figure 7.
This rapid pressure rise can cause more physical damage in the near field, especially in the case of
lungs since the body has less time to react (increase its internal pressure by implosion). In terms of
overpressure however, the TNT equivalency method over predicts in the near field and under predicts

SPE-184458-MS

in the far field. Therefore, except for the case of impulse, the TNT equivalency method provides
conservative estimates by assuming ideal gas, isentropic expansion, and point source characteristics.
Nevertheless, since the potential energy calculated is assumed to be the upper bound and since a realworld scenario would not consume all the potential energy, our models are considered even more
conservative in that respect. In comparison to a TNT explosion, overpressure and impulse for a pipeline
explosion will vary, but it is our belief that these two effects counter each other further to give a valid
quantitative estimate on the setback distances.
Another assumption of the TNT equivalent models is that the explosion propagates spherically. We
modified it to be hemispherical for our case since a typical oil and gas pressurized equipment explosion
is a ground blast. Even though the blast at far field can eventually be scaled spherically, in the near
field, the geometry of the explosion is cylindrical for our case. In comparison with the spherical case,
the cylindrical case will have a much higher length to diameter ratio, and therefore, the pressure rise
will be much slower in the beginning and show a more rapid rise later (Wu et. Al, 2016). This also
would help to push the system back into meeting the TNT equivalent model.

Nomenclature
d = piping diameter
D1 = minimum setback distance for less than 1% incidence of missile injury (ft)
D2 = minimum setback distance for less than 1% incidence of eardrum injury (ft)
D3 = minimum setback distance for less than 1% incidence of lung injury (ft)
ETNT = released energy equivalent of one kg of TNT explosion (4,680 kJ/kgTNT)
L = length of the piping (m)
MTNT = equivalent scaled mass of TNT (kg)
P0 = ambient pressure (Pa)
P1 = piping design pressure (Pa)
V = volume of the piping system (m3)
z1 = scaled missile damage distance (ft/(kgTNT)1/3
z2 = scaled eardrum damage distance (ft/(kgTNT)1/3
z3 = scaled lung damage distance (ft/(kgTNT)1/3
*The unit (ft/(kgTNT)1/3 is the convention even though both SI and English Units are combined
= the ratio of specific heats for the gas (cp/cv)

References
10 CFR 851. (2006) Worker Safety and Health Program. Code of Federal Regulations, U.S.
Department of Energy.
American Society of Mechanical Engineers. (2008) PCC-2 - 2008 Repair of Pressure Equipment and
Piping. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York, New York.
Baker, W. E., Cox, P. A., Westine, P. S., Kulesz, J. J., & Strehlow, R. A. (1983) Explosion hazards
and evaluation.

SPE-184458-MS

Baum, M. R. (2001). The velocity of large missiles resulting from axial rupture of gas pressurized
cylindrical vessels. Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, 14(3), 199-203.
Bubbico, Mazzarotta, (2013) Analysis and Comparison of Calculation Methods for Physical
Explosions of Compressed Gases.
Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS). (2010) Vapor Cloud Explosion, Pressure Vessel Burst,
BLEVE and Flash Fire Hazard (2nd Edition).
Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS). (2012) Guidelines for Evaluating the Characteristics of
Vapor Cloud Explosions, Flash Fires, and BLEVEs.
Cotes A. (2016). Explosions. Section 2, Chapter 8 in Fire Protection Handbook, Volumes I and II
(20th Edition),
Craven, A. D., & Greig, T. R. (1968). The development of detonation over-pressures in pipelines. In
Inst. Chem. Eng. Symp. Ser (Vol. 25, pp. 41-50).
Esparza, E. D., & Baker, W. E. (1977). Measurement of Blast Waves from Bursting Pressurized
Frangible Spheres.
Geng, J., Baker, Q.A. and Thomas, J.K. (2009) New Adjustment Factors for Non-Spherical PVBs.
To be submitted to Process Safety Processing.
Kurttila, H. (2003). Isentropic exergy and pressure of the shock wave caused by the explosion of a
pressure vessel. Acta Universitatis Lappeenrantaensis.
Mannan, Sam, and Frank P. Lees. (2012) Lees' loss prevention in the process industries: hazard
identification, assessment, and control, 4th ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (2009) Part 18.2, Pressure Vessel and System Design.
In Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Environment, Safety and Health Manual. Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California.
Los Alamos National Laboratory. (2003) Pressure, Vacuum, and Cryogenic Systems. P101-34, Los
Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Paulsen, S.S. (2006) Pressure Systems Subject Area, PNNL Standards Based Management System.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington.
Zalosh R. 2008. Explosions. Section 2, Chapter 8 in Fire Protection Handbook, Volumes I and II
(20th Edition),
Thomas, G., Oakley, G., and Bambrey, R. (2010). An experimental study of flame acceleration and
deflagration to detonation transition in representative process piping. Process Safety and
Environmental Protection, 88(2), 75-90.

SPE-184458-MS

White, C. S. (1966) The Scope of Blast and Shock Biology and Problem Areas in Relating Physical
and Biological Parameters. Technical Progress Report. No. DASA--1856. Lovelace Foundation for
Medical Education and Research, Albuquerque, N. Mex.
White, C. S., R. K. Jones, E. G. Damon, E. R.Fletcher, and D. R. Richmond. (1971) The
biodynamics of air blast. Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Albuquerque, N.
Mex.
Wu, J., Long, Y., Ji, C., Xu, Q., Mao, Y., & Song, K. (2016). Full-scale experiments to study shock
waves generated by the rupture of a high-pressure pipeline. Process Safety Progress, 35(4), 414-423.

Tables
Table A-1 Scaled Distances and Overpressure for Various Consequences (adapted from Cotes, 2016)

Scaled
Distance
z (ft/(kgTNT)1/3
3000-890
420-200
200-100
82-41
44-32
44-28
44-24
28-20
20-16
16-12
11-10
15-9
14-11
6.7-4.5
3.8-2.7
2.4-1.9

Overpressu
re (psi)

Consequences

0.01-0.04
0.1-0.2
0.2-0.4
0.5-1.1
1.0-1.5
1.0-1.8
1.0-2.2
1.8-2.9
2.9-4.4
4.4-7.3
10.2-11.6
5.1-14.5
5.8-8.7
29.0-72.5
102-218
290-435

Minimum damage to glass panels


Typical window glass breakage
Minimum overpressure for debris and missile damage
Windows shattered, plaster cracked, minor building damage
Personnel knocked down
Panels of sheet metal buckled
Failure of conventional wood siding
Failure of concrete block walls
Self-framing paneled buildings collapse
Utility poles broken off, serious building damage
Probable total building destruction
Eardrum rupture
Reinforced concrete structure severely damaged
Lung Damage
Lethality
Crater formation in soil

SPE-184458-MS

Figures

10

SPE-184458-MS

Missile

1,000
4 inch 15,000 psi

3 inch 10,000 psi


Standoff (ft)

4 inch 10,000 psi

3 inch 15,000 psi

4 inch 5000 psi

2 inch 15,000 psi

2 inch 10,000 psi

2 inch 5000 psi

100

3 inch 5000 psi

10
1

10

100
Length (ft)

Figure 1 Missile Damage Setback as a Function of Pipe Length [English Units]

1,000

SPE-184458-MS

11

Ear

100

4 inch 15,000 psi

3 inch 10,000 psi


Standoff (ft)
10

3 inch 5000 psi

4 inch 10,000 psi

3 inch 15,000 psi

4 inch 5000 psi

2 inch 15,000 psi

2 inch 10,000 psi

2 inch 5000 psi

1
1

10

100
Legnth (ft)

1,000

12

Figure 2 Eardrum Rupture Setback as a Function of Pipe Length [English Units]

SPE-184458-MS

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13

Lung

4 inch 15,000 psi

4 inch 10,000 psi

3 inch 15,000 psi

3 inch 10,000 psi

2 inch 15,000 psi

3 inch 5000 psi

2 inch 10,000 psi

10
4 inch 5000 psi
Standoff (ft)

2 inch 5000 psi

1
1

10

100
Length (ft)

1,000

14

Figure 3 Lung Damage Setback as a Function of Pipe Length [English Units]

SPE-184458-MS

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15

Missile

4 inch 15,000 psi

4 inch 10,000 psi

3 inch 15,000 psi

3 inch 10,000 psi

2 inch 15,000 psi

3 inch 5000 psi

2 inch 10,000 psi

100

4 inch 5000 psi


Standoff (m)

2 inch 5000 psi

10
1

10
Length (m)

100

16

Figure 4 Missile Damage Setback as a Function of Pipe Length [SI Units]

SPE-184458-MS

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17

Ear

4 inch 15,000 psi

4 inch 10,000 psi

3 inch 15,000 psi

4 inch 5000 psi

2 inch 15,000 psi

2 inch 10,000 psi

2 inch 5000 psi

10

3 inch 10,000 psi


Standoff (m)

3 inch 5000 psi

1
1

10
Legnth (m)

100

18

Figure 5 Eardrum Rupture Setback as a Function of Pipe Length [SI Units]

SPE-184458-MS

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19

Lung

4 inch 15,000 psi

4 inch 10,000 psi

3 inch 15,000 psi

4 inch 5000 psi

2 inch 15,000 psi

2 inch 10,000 psi

2 inch 5000 psi

10

3 inch 10,000 psi


Standoff (m)

3 inch 5000 psi

1
1

10
Length (m)

100

20

Figure 6 Lung Damage Setback as a Function of Pipe Length [SI Units]

Figure 7 Peak Pressure as a Function of Time Scale for Energy Release for Various Explosions (Cotes, 2016)

SPE-184458-MS