Propane tank explosions

People seem to think that if they are not handled properly, propane tanks are likely to explode. This is very far from the truth: unless you light a fire under a propane tank and let it burn for a very long time, it will not explode – not if they fall over, not if they are bumped into, etc.

Focus on employee training and user information

In fact, accidents are far more probable if the person handling the tank has not been trained or informed properly than through a manufacturing fault. Like any hazardous material container, propane tanks are manufactured to respect the highest possible safety standards.

Rather than focusing on propane tank explosions, new or potential propane users should be aware that the most important element for your safety is high quality employee training and good consumer information. Indeed, you are far more likely to have a propane leak in your home than seeing your propane tank explode (and given how rare propane leaks are, it shows how unlikely a propane tank explosion can be).

Therefore, as you request quotes from different propane companies to establish which best suits your requirements, enquire as to the training each company provides its employees in terms of safety and ensure you will be adequately briefed on residential safety issues.

Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion – BLEVE

Propane is stored in an ASME tank as a liquid. If submitted to heat, propane expands and the pressure inside the tank increases. This is why propane tanks are equipped with safety relief valves: when the propane tank pressure goes beyond a certain level, excess pressure is released into the atmosphere through this valve.

If a propane tank is subject to extreme heat (e.g., fire), a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE) may happen if the pressure inside the propane tank increases to a level that is higher than that to which the safety valve is manufactured to handle. Under so much pressure, there is a risk that the propane tank will rupture. And if there is an ignition source close by, propane will ignite, causing an explosion.

This shows how important propane tank fittings are. In cases of intense heat, the propane tank safety relief valve plays a fundamental role in ensuring your propane tank handles increasing pressure properly.

How to react if you have a propane emergency

The most likely propane emergency to lead to a BLEVE is a fire. Although your propane tank is more likely to resist to a fire than to explode, it is still recommended that you:

  • SHUT OFF the service valve;
  • CALL your local fire department;

CALL your propane company.