CUI Major Incident# 9: E.I. Dupont De Nemours & Co., Inc. Methyl Chloride Release

cui incidents Sep 08, 2020

Date and Place of Incident:

On January 22 and 23, 2010, three separate incidents of releasing methyl chloride, oleum and phosgene were occurred at the DuPont plant in Belle, WV

Summary of Incident:

  • The first incident occurred was the methyl chloride releasing and venting to the atmosphere.
  • The second incident occurred the next morning was the oleum release, from a leak in an overhead pipe and the fuming cloud of oleum were escaping to the atmosphere
  • The third incident occurred later that very day was the release of phosgene when a hose failed catastrophically which was used for transferring phosgene from a 1ton cylinder.

Root Cause:

  • The cause of oleum release was the corrosion under the insulation which caused a small leak in the oleum pipe
  • 304L stainless steel was the piping material, 304L stainless steel, used to carry this amount of oleum which had expected lifetime of 40 years but this pipe was led to failure only after the 19 years.
  • The reason of failure was during the inspection of service lifetime, the piping material was not properly checked under the conditions in which it is expected to use in acid services.
  • The standards of DuPont were not properly followed of the change-out of phosgene transfer hoses which ultimately causes hose failure

Financial Loss to Freedom Industries

The plant was fined $1.275 million for not following the SOPs and failed to avoid toxic releases of hazardous materials. $2million was spent on corrective action to avoid future incident.

Environmental Impact of the Incident:

The release of phosgene, methyl chloride and oleum in to the atmosphere was hazardous to health and polluted the environment.

Fatality or injury

1 fatality and No injuries was reported in the incident

Non-Compliance of Safety Guidelines and Reliability Practices:

  • DuPont did not address the corrosion problems linked with the acid service during inspection while the oleum sample line was within the design specifications.
  • Lack of audible or visual alarm indication in or around the phosgene shed.
  • Unable to receive emergency responder timely and could not informed in detail on how to properly prepare to respond to the incident.
  • Unawareness of operators of the hazards of liquid thermal expansion and lack of safety measures to control heat distribution

Recommendation to Avoid Corrosion:

  • Electric tracing is the preferred method to easily control and prevent hot spots through even heat distribution.
  • Proper safety alarms and indications in case of incidents should be used.
  • Proper inspection before and during the service of the piping materials and to adopt procedures which prevent corrosion problems.

Links to Photos and videos of incidents:




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