Delegates to the IABSE (International Association for Bridge & Structural Engineering) conference in Lisbon in September 2005 heard Klaas van Breugel from the Netherlands discuss tank failures at petrochemical plants.
He pointed out that in 75% of all cases where domino effects could occur, they really took place. Structural engineers are familiar with the need to avoid the results of an extreme event being disproportionate to the original cause.
Most people would think that 20 tanks being destroyed in a fire that burned out of control for over two days as a result of one tank being set alight was disproportionate.
So how long will it be before the criteria for buildings are applied to tank farms?
Stuart Alexander, group technical co-ordinator, WSP Group, Buchanan House, 24-30 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HS