Deflagration - Damaging Deflagration Events

Damaging Deflagration Events

Damage to buildings, equipment and people can result from a large-scale, short-duration deflagration. The potential damage is primarily a function of the total amount of fuel burned in the event (total energy available), the maximum flame velocity that is achieved, and the manner in which the expansion of the combustion gases is contained.

In free-air deflagrations, there is a continuous variation in deflagration effects relative to the maximum flame velocity. When flame velocities are low, the effect of a deflagration is to release heat. Some authors use the term flash fire to describe these low-speed deflagrations. At flame velocities near the speed of sound, the energy released is in the form of pressure and the results resemble a detonation. Between these extremes both heat and pressure are released.

When a low-speed deflagration occurs within a closed vessel or structure, pressure effects can produce damage due to expansion of gases as a secondary effect. The heat released by the deflagration causes the combustion gases and excess air to expand thermally. The net result is that the volume of the vessel or structure must expand to accommodate the hot combustion gases, or the vessel must be strong enough to withstand the additional internal pressure, or it fails, allowing the gases to escape. The risks of deflagration inside waste storage drums is a growing concern in storage facilities.

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