November 2018

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Engineering Case Histories—Case 104: Energy in steam boiler explosions

Steam boiler explosions happen all over the world, as an internet search will reveal.

Sofronas, A., Consulting Engineer

Steam boiler explosions happen all over the world, as an internet search will reveal. As plant engineers and operators, we should understand their destructive potential and know why they occur. A steam explosion happens when some mechanism causes the shell of a vessel, containing high-pressure water and steam, to rupture. To help explain this, a simplified fire-tube boiler will be analyzed. FIG. 1. Fire-tube boiler vessel model. Fig. 1 shows a fire-tube boiler with hot gas inside of the tubes, instead of water. The boiler containment shell holds the pressurized water, which covers the tubes. Above the shell is pressurized water vapor (steam). T

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