Friday, October 21, 2016


METROPOLITAN has performed an analysis of more than 300 fire or explosion incidents that occurred between 2002 and November 2014 during the ethanol production and transportation life cycle.   
METROPOLITAN has identified four root causes of fires and explosions inside the ethanol plants.  These root causes are:

  • Failure of the grain or other material drying process; organic material built up in the duct work of the dryers are a very common source of fires or explosions.
  • Quite a few fires have occurred during storage of hazardous materials, such as ethanol, acids, bases, etc.  Ethanol or denatured ethanol storage tanks have caught fire.  In addition, silos or stockyards containing the grains have also caught fire.
  •  The transportation risks of ethanol have been well established; it is a very flammable liquid that has caught fire or exploded several times during the last several years.  These fires and explosions will only increase in number and frequency as the industry continues to grow.
  • Many of the fires and/or explosions occurred during maintenance activities at the plant. 

With the advent of the cellulosic ethanol plants that use much higher pressures and temperatures, it is our expectation that we will see much higher number of fires and explosions at the plants.  In fact, on July 20, 2014, a fire occurred at the biomass stockyard at one of the 3 currently active cellulosic plants in the states.  The plant was the Poet-DMS plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa.  

We believe that many industries (especially the oil and gas industry) took advantage the Great Recession that hit our country in 2007 to push for unsafe and rapid development of oilfields, shales, plants, unsafe railroad transport, unsafe roadway transport, and excessive utilization of aging pipelines.   
The results of these impudent actions have been all over the news during the last several years due to the massive releases of oil and gas and ethanol into the environment.  The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Kalamazoo River massive contamination from pipeline ruptures and the New Brighton ethanol derailment are just some examples of the unsafe operations of these processes.

Metropolitan Engineering, Consulting & Forensics (MECF)
Providing Competent, Expert and Objective Investigative Engineering and Consulting Services
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Tenafly, NJ 07670-0520
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