Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Inland & Ocean Marine

Interpreting Industrial Incident Data – Lesson Learned

This is a case study about an incident I investigated involving a major upset in a distillation column.  This blog builds on the previous blogs about the Distributed Control System, DCS – Data is the Key.

Distillation is a method of separating mixtures of compounds with differing boiling points.  Uncle Bill with his still on the hill separates ethanol, that boils at 173°F, from water that boils at 212°F.  If the mixture is heated to above 173°F, but below 212°F, the ethanol will boil, the vapor will travel up out of the unit and then can be condensed and served over ice with an olive…   Any mixture of two or more chemicals with different boiling points can be separated in this way.  The distillation Read More

Warren Welcomes George Sanford, Structural Engineer

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Warren is pleased to announce that George Sanford, P.E. has joined our team as an engineer specializing in structural issues, building envelope performance, and construction defect investigations.

George brings over 20 years of applied structural engineering experience with a strong background in residential, commercial, and industrial structural design to Warren. Read More

Stress Corrosion Cracking of Stainless Steel in Marine Environments

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Stress corrosion cracking involves the slow growth of small, often microscopic, cracks through a metal part in a corrosive environment.  The cracking can continue to the point that the part fails suddenly and unexpectedly even though it still appears new and in good condition.

My first experience with stress corrosion cracking happened in the Charleston harbor when the stainless steel rudder suddenly separated from a sailboat during moderate winds. What had been a pleasant evening sail turned instantly into being in a difficult to control boat in the middle of the busy shipping channel. The rudder remained attached only Read More

The Paths of Chemical Exposure

The Safety Hierarchy states that hazards should be mitigated first by engineering controls, secondly by guarding, and lastly by warning/training.  When the first two, engineering controls and guards, fail in a manufacturing setting, a chemical release could occur. A forensic chemical engineer can help determine the root cause of that failure. Read More

Load Holding Valves in Hydraulic Cranes

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Hydraulic cranes absolutely rely on the integrity of their high-pressure fluid systems for safe operation.  A crane can become out of level when an outrigger cylinder leaks over time, possibly leading to a tip over.  A boom can collapse if a hydraulic hose ruptures.  It is not possible to absolutely prevent hydraulic cylinders from developing leaks or prevent hoses from rupturing during the life of a typical crane, therefore crane manufacturers provide load holding valves at key components to prevent these dangerous incidents.  In fact, ASME B30.5, Mobile and Locomotive Cranes, requires load holding valves or equivalent devices at outrigger cylinders, boom support cylinders, and boom telescoping cylinders. Read More

Working on the Waves While Working the Waves…

The rumors of my pending retirement have been greatly exaggerated…..

Ever since I heard about The Great Loop I have wanted to cruise it (www.greatloop.org).  To successfully complete the Loop, one needs to have 3 things: adequate equipment, adequate time, and adequate health. I had the first and third.  To secure the second, I had floated the idea of a two-year sabbatical.  A year to complete any existing cases and a year to execute The Great Loop.

With the arrival of COVID-19, our firm went to remote work. Read More

Ammonia – The Good, The Bad, The Smelly… Part Two

Now that you know what ammonia is (see Part One here), how it behaves, and how to safely store it and work with it, let’s look at some areas in industry where it is used.

Anhydrous ammonia has a use in pollution control.  Industrial boilers and power plants burn coal or natural gas to make steam and/or electricity. When the fuel is burned using air as the oxygen source nitrogen gets exposed to the heat as well because air is 79% nitrogen.  The nitrogen gets oxidized and forms several compounds referred to as NOx (NO, NO2, NO3).  NOx compounds are harmful to Read More

Ammonia

Ammonia – The Good, The Bad, The Smelly… Part One

Ammonia is a compound consisting of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms and is denoted by the formula NH3. Its boiling point is -28°F at atmospheric pressure, so unless it is under pressure, it is gaseous at room temperatures. Therefore, pure ammonia is typically stored under pressure in a liquid form. Household ammonia is only 5-10% NH3, the remaining 90-95% is water. Ammonia is extremely soluble in water. It is often depicted  like this: Read More

Crane Incident Handbook

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Cranes are powerful lifting devices that we see everyday in construction areas, shipping terminals, and industrial sites. They are so common that we often pass by them with little thought. Cranes, however, can sometimes become involved in incidents that injure people or damage equipment. Read More

Machine Guarding and Risk Assessment

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The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) “Top 10 for 2018” violations once again have Machine Safeguarding earning a position on the list. Machine safeguarding was the 9th most cited standard as noted in the list below:

  1. Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
  2. Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
  4. Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
  5. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
  6. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)]
  7. Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
  8. Fall Protection–Training Requirements (29 CFR 1926.503
  9. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212)
  10. Eye and Face Protection (29 CFR 1926.102)

(Source: www.osha.gov/Top_Ten_Standards.html)

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