From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A BLEVE erupting from a tanker.
A BLEVE erupting from a tanker.
BLEVE concept
BLEVE concept

BLEVE, pronounced /ˈblɛvi/, is an acronym for "boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion". This is a type of explosion that can occur when a vessel containing a pressurized liquid is ruptured. Such explosions can be extremely hazardous. When the liquid is water, the explosion is usually called a steam explosion.

A BLEVE can occur in a vessel that stores a substance that is usually a gas at atmospheric pressure but is a liquid when pressurized (for example, liquefied petroleum gas). The substance will be stored partly in liquid form, with a gaseous vapour above the liquid filling the remainder of the container.

If the vessel is ruptured — for example, due to corrosion, or failure under pressure — the vapour portion may rapidly leak, dropping the pressure inside the container and releasing a wave of overpressure from the point of rupture. This sudden drop in pressure inside the container causes violent boiling of the liquid, which rapidly liberates large amounts of vapour in the process. The pressure of this vapour can be extremely high, causing a second, much more significant wave of overpressure (i.e., an explosion) which may completely destroy the storage vessel and project fragments over the surrounding area. BLEVEs can also be caused by an external fire nearby the storage vessel causing heating of the contents and pressure build-up.

A BLEVE does not require a flammable substance to occur, and therefore is not usually considered a type of chemical explosion. However, if the substance involved is flammable, it is likely that the resulting cloud of the substance will ignite after the BLEVE has occurred, forming a fireball and possibly a fuel-air explosion, also termed a vapour cloud explosion (VCE). If the materials are toxic, a large area will be contaminated.[1]

Significant industrial BLEVEs include accidents at Feyzin in France in 1966, Kingman, Arizona in 1973, Texas City, Texas in 1978, and San Juan Ixhuatepec in Mexico in 1984. In 1978, a BLEVE occurred after a road accident with an LPG truck in the Los Alfaques Disaster in Spain.

If a gas cylinder is venting, a BLEVE can be avoided by cooling the cylinder involved with water or foam, taking care not to extinguish the flame, until the cylinder is empty, or the leak is plugged.

Other fire mitigation measures are listed under liquefied petroleum gas.


  1. ^ accessed 2006-11-04

See also

External links