5CASE STUDY OF A BORANE–THF EXPLOSION

David J. am Ende*

Nalas Engineering Services, Inc., Centerbrook, CT, USA

Richard M. Davis

Global Environmental, Health and Safety, Pfizer, Inc., Groton, CT, USA

5.1 INTRODUCTION

Borane–THF (BTHF) is a specialty chemical supplied as a solution in tetrahydrofuran (THF) often used in pharmaceutical research and industrial applications as a reducing agent for aldehydes, ketones, amides, and other functional groups [1]. In 2002, a large cylinder of BTHF experienced a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE) upon storage at Pfizer's R&D site in Groton, CT. This chapter provides a case study specific to the thermochemical aspects of BTHF, its storage condition and how the analysis ultimately provided understanding into the cause of the explosion.

5.2 BACKGROUND

The original lot of six cylinders of BTHF, each with a capacity of 400 L (350 kg) was purchased with the intention to be used in a pilot plant campaign to perform a chemical reduction step in the synthesis of a drug candidate. The cylinders were shipped from the manufacturer on 4 March 2002 and delivered to Pfizer R&D (Groton, CT) on 6 March 2002 and placed in one of Pfizer's flammable materials storage buildings external to the site's pilot plant. A little less than four months after receiving the cylinders, on 25 June at 8:00 a.m., one of the six cylinders exploded, resulting in a large fire ball and significant structural damage to the warehouse and adjacent buildings. Multiple ...

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