Citgo Refinery fire March 5, 2012

Been reviewing this fire at a Refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas a few years ago where the Chemical Safety Board investigated. One disturbing point they found was a flange had been having a slight leak for 6 months and had not been address barely at all! Quote from CSB report “In late January of this year, maintenance was performed on the flange, tightening the existing bolts, but the leak persisted. Further maintenance was performed on February 10 – over three weeks prior to the actual incident. At that time workers replaced the flange bolts and a work order was submitted to order a clamp to enclose the leak.”
What I find interesting is they did not mention the gasket anywhere! It seems to me they first did a “re-tightening” effort that might of been with a torque wrench but as you can see in the photo there were NO FLAT WASHERS! Also hard to see any anti-seize on the bolts but hard to say. Either way, the torque would have some errors. Second it seems they might of replaced bolts but kept the gasket in place since they did not bring the system down.

In summary, a flange leak in one of the most dangerous parts of the plant was left to leak and eventually caused massive damage to the plant. leaks are not something to take lightly in a refinery!
The CBS Letter here.
Report on CSB news conference here.

Mildred Dresselhaus – Graphite Pioneer

Mille Dresselhaus was a pioneer in Carbon/Graphite/Graphene/Nanotubes. She worked at MIT since 1968 up until her death earlier this year. I have been reading her papers and had a few correspondence with her a few times regarding her favorite subject of carbon. Her work will be a main catalyst for the next 100 years when Carbon will change everything! She will go down as someone who also let her work speak volumes and that gender does not matter for scientific greatness. Here is a great article she did recently at her Alta mater Univ. of Chicago.

Graphite has dominated the world of high temperature stationary sealing and her work on graphene will dominate it in the future.

I am so glad GE made this video about her to highlight her achievements and show a world who the real hero’s should be in a society. I am hoping it is not too late for something like this to actually happen with out scientists!

“Three years of Sundays” – Frank Nelson Cole

I first heard of Frank Nelson Cole a few years ago and about how he figured out one of mysteries in Mathnatics – the Mersenne number M67. M67 is computing increasing powers of 2 and finally subtracting 1. The result was the 21-digit number 147,573,952,589,676,412,927. Édouard Lucas had demonstrated in 1876 that M67 must have factors (i.e., is not prime), but he was unable to determine what those factors were.

Cole was an American mathematician born in 1861, was educated at Harvard. He lectured there and later at the University of Michigan and at Columbia University, New York. He had heard about M67 in college and it always interested him.

On October 31, 1903, Cole famously made a presentation to a meeting of the American Mathematical Society where he identified the factors of the Mersenne number 267 − 1, or M67.During Cole’s so-called “lecture”, he approached the chalkboard and in complete silence proceeded to calculate the value of M67, with the result being 147,573,952,589,676,412,927. Cole then moved to the other side of the board and wrote 193,707,721 × 761,838,257,287, and worked through the tedious calculations by hand.
Upon completing the multiplication and demonstrating that the result equaled M67, Cole returned to his seat, not having uttered a word during the hour-long presentation. His audience greeted the presentation with a standing ovation. Cole later admitted that finding the factors had taken “three years of Sundays.”
What have you done in the last 3 years on sunday? Let’s say he spent only 3 hours a sunday on this, that is 468 hours. The determination I think is amazing!

Shell Oil’s experiment with being less macho

I listened to a fantastic podcast yesterday about the oil industry and changing the macho culture. the story focuses on Shell oil was building a world class off shore platformed (the Ursa, pictured above) and was worried about how technical complex and dangerous it was. They wanted to make sure that compuciation between everyone was a peak levels to lower injuries and death.
They turned to the obscure physiological technique called EST where you force people who work together to share their life experience and break down barriers to help them communicate better. The experiment was well documented and showed massive drops in safety of 84%.
I have been to many similar places and have seen first hand this inward non cooperative behavior and could really see how these techniques could help. Also I could see how this is a generational thing that the millennials focusing more on coopartive work would get more out of this.

I highly recommend listening to this podcast.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition by the UN

I have been focusing on Methane emissions for many years in my job and just found this great resource from the United Nations. I was aware of what they were doing since they were the main backers of getting the protocol signed in Paris. But I was surprised about the detail on their website about how to stop leaks. One report they did last year (here) comes out and discusses how serious flange leakage is in methane leaks.

Also on the site is many interesting facts about heath effects from emissions. I thought this was a good overview here:

Here specifically they talk about reducing methane from sources in Oil and Gas.

Tragically Hip in Portland Maine, November 7th, 2012

It was a Wednesday night and the Tragically Hip was playing the State theater in Portland on their US tour. I have seen the Hip in Boston multiple times, Albany once, Montreal once, and this one time in Portland. It was the first snow storm of the year – and the drive up was OK but the drive home was in a blizzard. The snow kept the crowd down- I am say there was less then 250 people there. This is the same band that sells out outdoor stadiums in Canada!

This was an amazing show – to see the band still go on and play like there were 80,000 people there. Also the crowd was really into every song – I am guessing many in the audience were from Canada.

The lead singer, the amazing Gordon Downie, has been diagnoses with a serious illness and it is possible they will never play together again. They went on tour last summer as a chance for Gordo to get one last time out in front.

I am so grateful I got to see them as many times as I have. And especially on that snowy night in Portland..