Explosions, Deflagrations & Detonations

For almost 50 years, Exponent’s engineers and scientists have investigated several thousand separate explosions that have involved a wide range of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. Our clients have included companies in the petroleum and chemical fields, defense and aerospace industry, oil and gas utility companies, insurers, law firms, and various federal and state agencies.

Our investigations have included theoretical analysis, experimental studies, and numerical modeling to determine:

Why Did the Explosion Occur?


  • What were the specific fuel and oxidizer?
  • What process upset or mechanical failure allowed the fuel and oxidizer to accumulate in a quantity sufficient to cause the explosion? 

How Did the Explosion Occur?


  • What was the ignition source?
  • How did the explosion propagate? What was the pressure profile that developed in the explosion, and how did it vent?

What Was the Strength of the Explosion?


  • What pressure profile developed in the explosion, and how did it vent? Was anyone injured, and were any structures damaged?
  • What was TNT equivalence of the blast, as determined from damage indicators around the seat of the explosion? 

 How Can a Similar Explosion be Avoided in the Future?


  • What process improvements are necessary?
  • Were any applicable state or federal codes or industry-accepted standards violated?

Exponent also assists clients in developing strategies to prevent or mitigate an explosion by conducting process hazard analyses of new or existing facilities, implementing methods to reduce explosion hazards, and designing testing programs to evaluate the hazards of various fuel and oxidizer mixtures.

Our staff actively serves on Industry Standards and rule-making committees, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Technical Committee on Explosives (responsible for NFPA 495, Explosives Materials Code), the Committee on Combustible Metals and Metal Dusts (responsible for NFPA 484 Standard for Combustible Metals, Metal Powders, and Metal Dusts), and the Committee on Wood and Cellulosic Materials Processing (responsible for NFPA 664 Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities).

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