‘Fire might have occurred in the outlet passage of the filter’
The high-level committee headed by former SAIL Chairman-cum-Managing Director S.R. Jain, which probed the blast at Visakhapatnam Steel Plant on June 13, said that the human loss due to the fire could have been prevented.
The panel comprising CMD of MECON K.K. Mehrotra, former Executive Director of MECON Navinder Gupta and Professor from IIT-Delhi Anjan Ray was set up by the Ministry of Steel a day after the blast.
The committee pointed out in the report that “there were no lapses in response to the disaster. Only if large number of persons were not present, where their presence was not at all required, the casualties would have been much less.”
The control room of oxygen pressure regulating station (PRS) of Steel Melt Shop-II where the accident occurred was only 6mX12m in size.
One shift operator should have been present. But at the time of incident, 19 were present just before the explosion.
After two blows, it was reported that the oxygen flow was not adequate. People not connected with oxygen PRS also rushed to the spot.
What action was taken to rectify the snag was difficult to pinpoint as vital evidence in the form of records and witness were lost in the massive fire, the report stated. The blast left no eyewitnesses.
Based on statements the panel gathered from various officials, the committee concluded that the fire might have occurred in the outlet passage of the filter.
“The PRS safety interlock system would have acted and quick shut off valve (QSV) would have closed due to high temperature and high pressure signals. With outlet of filter body open, high pressure oxygen along with burning material would have rushed out of the opening as a jet with extremely high velocity, which could be close to velocity of sound, resulting in backward thrust on filter body,” the report said.
The action recommended include specific orientation and awareness programmes for all those connected with design, testing, construction, cleaning, testing and commissioning and operation of oxygen supply systems.