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Comox base rocked by explosion

Ouch - natural gas is an extremely violent gas. I have seen two houses reduced to the size of matchsticks because of a natural gas explosion.

I hope everyone is safe and well.
Holy crap... I hope everyone's OK:

Comox base rocked by explosion​

The explosion happened about 9:30 a.m. in a former barracks building that was under renovation.

Years ago, I was working at a remote monitoring station during my brief stint in oil & gas.

We would work in crews of 2, drive out to the building in a company truck, grab various testing equipment, then drive around to various sites & cross things off a checklist. The building was heated, had various rooms, a vehicle bay if need be, and a little eating area.

The area was being rejuvenated by Suncor. Part of ensuring the plants, grass, shrubs, trees planted, water areas, etc were safe for wildlife was ensuring the soil and water table weren’t contaminated.

(I was actually very surprised and impressed at how much money and effort they put into making sure it didn’t just look pretty, but was genuinely healthy.)

Anyways, we drove to site one morning and everything was fine. Grabbed the gear, checklists, locked up, and drove off to do our thing.

The route took us near a village that had a family owned restaurant in it, and it was KNOWN for having some of the best road food around. Amazing little place.

After lunch, we drove back to the building. Couldn’t find it. I figured I may have turned in the wrong range road, so I doubled back. Nadda.

After driving up and down the area, both of us extremely puzzled - we drove back to the main highway thinking somehow we must be both off our rockers. From the main highway, we started fresh and drove to the building using the same route we did every other day.

We weren’t crazy…there literally was no building…

Once we pulled up to where it should have been, there was wood and metal spread all over the ground. Not even the support pillars were still standing. Just a spread out mess of wood, metal, siding, and some metal piping.

Cause of the explosion? Long story short, natural gas explosion…

I didn’t realize just how crazy natural gas could get until then. Yikes!

I’m glad the incident in Comox wasn’t far worse 😬🙏🏻
That seems a bit more significant than ‘unoccupied.’ Would I be wrong in thinking it was a very loose interpretation of ‘unoccupied’ vs evacuated? Or was Lady Luck shining down on everyone yesterday?
It was a bit of luck that it happened while most live in personnel were at work. The injured folks were shift workers.

Evolving story - more details will be released as we get them. We are supporting the members affected.
Once we pulled up to where it should have been, there was wood and metal spread all over the ground. Not even the support pillars were still standing. Just a spread out mess of wood, metal, siding, and some metal piping.

Cause of the explosion? Long story short, natural gas explosion…

I didn’t realize just how crazy natural gas could get until then. Yikes!
Mississauga five years ago.


Literally what our building looked like, but with ours there just wasn’t anything still vertical. Like nothing.

That’s how we drove by the site a few times. It wasn’t until we got out of the truck and got ourselves elevated a few feet that we were able to see a very similar image to the one you posted.

I know they always say that natural gas can be dangerous, and we all know that that is true. But I personally hadn’t appreciated just how dangerous it can be until that day…

That’s quite the image FJAG, geepers!
Literally what our building looked like, but with ours there just wasn’t anything still vertical. Like nothing.
The things that are still vertical in this picture are the adjoining buildings which weren't totally destroyed.

A very quick Google search for images on natural gas explosions will very quickly show one how much one needs to respect that utility.

Here's another that shows even more clearly the effect on the house inside of which the explosion occurs as compared to neighbouring structures.


Assuming is was a gas leak - and it certainly looks like one - given enough time, the entire 'air space' inside can reach combustion concentrations. Given a source of ignition (furnace starting, even a light switch turned on) the air essentially explodes simultaneously.
Buddy of mine was one of the early members on scene for the Mississauga explosion. Total shit show. It was a double suicide by the residents, and there was evidence of that pretty swiftly. Saturating an interior space with natural gas is a pretty sure fire way to turn it into an exterior space as soon as there's a source of ignition... Sounds like we're exceptionally lucky that the casualties in Comox weren't much worse.
Natural gas can be pretty crazy; glad everyone is okay. This is why I have a CO/gas leak detector installed in my house.

Similarly, BLEVEs can be pretty insane; some good examples here; you can get pretty spectacular results from your water heater as well if all the safeties fail.

It's not just the over pressuring and ignition of the vapour in the container to the point of mechanical failure, but many hydrocarbon fuels, like natural gas and propane, are a gas at standard pressure (they are a compressed to a liquid for transport/storage). Once the tank ruptures, all the liquid is instantly reduced in pressure, turns to a gas and joins the party.

At least with a water heater, if the P/T valve fails, you 'just' get the spectacular rupture.
I remember back 35 years ago when there was a gas explosion in the Griesbach PMQ patch with tragic results.


(I've redacted names for privacy)
Update on this one; looks like the report is out as well. Didn't realize how big it was, glad no one was killed.

TSBC report: https://assets.contentstack.io/v3/a...25071_II-1288074-2021_Incident_Report_(1).pdf


Severed natural gas line led to 2021 explosion at Vancouver Island military base, report finds​

Social Sharing​

Technical Safety B.C. finds that contractor working at base misunderstood risks of severing natural gas line​


Akshay Kulkarni · CBC News · Posted: Oct 30, 2022 1:09 PM PT | Last Updated: 2 hours ago

A large explosion is visible behind a military aircraft.

A still from the airfield surveillance camera at Canadian Forces Base Comox on Vancouver Island shows the impact of an explosion on Nov. 18, 2021. A report into the blast, which injured dozens, showed it was caused by an excavator severing a gas line. (Technical Safety B.C.)
An investigation into an explosion at a Vancouver Island military base last year has found that contractors working near a live natural gas line misunderstood the risk of a blast.
The explosion happened on Nov. 18, 2021 at Canadian Forces Base Comox — also known as 19 Wing Comox — and left 28 people injured, including six civilians and multiple members of the military.
Technical Safety B.C. (TSBC), a regulator of technical systems and equipment in the province, released a report into the incident last week.

A completely leveled building with debris strewn around.

The east side of the barracks building after the explosion on Nov. 18, 2021 at CFB Comox on Vancouver Island. No aircraft were damaged in the incident. (Technical Safety B.C.)
It found that the explosion — which was caught on the military airfield's camera and threw debris more than 100 metres from its epicentre — was caused by an excavator accidentally severing a gas line.
The excavator was being operated by a contracting company that is unnamed in the report and was at the military base installing a perimeter drain around the barracks.
"No actions were taken prior to the excavation work commencing to anticipate for an accidental gas release," reads the TSBC report.
"There was no spotter directly observing the excavator work at the time. The excavator bucket contacted the gas line where it re-entered the ground, severing it completely."

A satellite image showing a military base, with arrows indicating '90m' and '106m'.

A satellite image from the report shows the extent of the blast at CFB Comox, with debris found 100 metres away from the site. (Technical Safety B.C.)
After the line was severed, gas leaked into a nearby mechanical room through an open door. The explosion happened approximately 10 or 15 minutes later, according to the report.
Once the gas accumulated to explosive concentrations, it met an ignition source and caused the barracks to blow up. It happened before the barracks and mechanical room were fully evacuated. One of the people caught in the blast was injured seriously enough to require an airlift to a nearby hospital, though the report notes their injury was "moderate," and the other injuries were minor.
CBC News has asked WorkSafeBC, B.C.'s workplace regulator, if any fines were levied in the incident.

Supervisor believed risk was low​

The report says one of the factors that contributed to the explosion was that the contractors, including the site supervisor, did not understand the risks of severing the gas line.
According to the report, the contracting company had earlier identified the gas line and a worker had exposed it by hand.
However, the report notes that B.C.'s regulation and guidelines "are focused on prevention of damage through identification and exposure of gas lines and [have] not been found to directly consider explosion risks."
The excavator operator quoted in the report says they believed they had "done everything right" after exposing the gas line, and they did not know how or why the line was cut.
In a statement to TSBC, the site supervisor is quoted as saying that "they [the supervisor] were told the risk of ignition of a gas leak is one in a million and it can't ignite."
"Gas lines get hit all over Vancouver Island all the time, multiple times a week ... and nothing ever blows up, ever," the supervisor is quoted as saying, going on to state they do not understand how the building exploded.

A CAT excavator is shown with its windows blown out and significant damage.

The excavator was significantly damaged by the blast. The operator quoted in the report said they had 'little perceived risk' working around the exposed gas line. (Technical Safety B.C.)
The leader of incident investigations at TSBC, Ryan Hazlett, said in a statement that the incident demonstrates the need for education and awareness for people working around gas lines.
"We are urging workers and those undertaking DIY excavation to better understand the risks involved with digging near gas lines and the extra precautions they can take once gas lines are exposed," he said.

An image showing a person holding up a severed section of a yellow pipe.

A person holds up the severed end of a natural gas line that led to the explosion at CFB Comox. (Technical Safety B.C.)
The authority says there should be a plan in case an explosion or leak occurs after a gas line is exposed.
No damage occurred to aircraft or air field facilities, but the report notes "extensive damage" to the barracks building, which was built at least 60 years ago.
A spokesperson for Canada's Defence Department told CBC News that the estimated cost to replace the building is $8 million, plus approximately $300,000 in deconstruction costs.
I work in this area, and honestly that comes up a lot. A weird carry over from Latin, but really strange that inflammable and flammable are synonyms.

I stick with combustible and non-combustible to be safe, but working in French it's back to inflamabble. Argh.

Couldn't believe that statement when I looked at the report, the fact that the guy had done it before with nothing happening and thinks that means it's safe (vice a near miss) is surprising, but very on brand for the RCN.