Fire and explosion involving runaway polymerisation - issue 257

Issue Number: 257


The hazards of exothermic polymerisation in bulk monomers are similar to, and indeed largely overlap, those of exothermic decomposition. This similarity is sometimes overlooked in the storage and handling of reactive monomers. This paper describes a fire and explosion that occurred at sea within a cargo hold on the MSC Flaminia, a German flagged container vessel en route from Charleston to Antwerp on 14 July 2012. Three crew members were killed and the ship had to be abandoned. Claims for damage to cargo and vessel totalled over $250 million. The investigation concluded that the incident was most likely caused by an inappropriately stowed container of 80% divinylbenzene (DVB) monomer which resulted in a runaway polymerisation in at least one of the DVB containers.

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).