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Exploding Homes In Massachusetts?

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Sounds like too much pressure in the lines. You'd think that there would be overpressure pop-off valves in places. If I were in that area, I'd (1) get the hell out of my house, and (2) shut off the gas. We had a gas leak once and that's exactly what I did.

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Aging infrastructure and some questionable materials choices in the past are haunting the gas delivery companies.  The problem usually shows itself by blowing up a house or two or five.

When a home blew up here recently and killed a little girl in  Dallas ATMOS Energy had to replumb an entire neighborhood and many more neighborhoods will follow.

Atmos offices are in our tower.  After the explosions and death there were threats called in to their offices, a window was shot out on one of the towers and SWAT did a lock down, and we had police guarding the building for weeks.

Fun Times.

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23 minutes ago, Mr. Silly said:

My first though when I heard the news was this article about Russia hacking into a country's infrastructure and causing havoc.  

That crossed my mind also. Still there should be mechanical pressure relief valves that aren't controlled by anything but the pressure in the pipes.

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2 minutes ago, JerrySTL said:

That crossed my mind also. Still there should be mechanical pressure relief valves that aren't controlled by anything but the pressure in the pipes.

Wouldn't an exploding house act as a pressure relief value?

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2 minutes ago, Mr. Silly said:

Wouldn't an exploding house act as a pressure relief value?

Quite the opposite as the pressure wave from the explosion would increase pressure.

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8 minutes ago, JerrySTL said:

That crossed my mind also. Still there should be mechanical pressure relief valves that aren't controlled by anything but the pressure in the pipes.

One thing the Wired article mentioned was that the thing that saved Ukraine's electrical grid was that they had manual shut-off in their power plants.  They were able to pull a big switch and stop the spread of the virus.  In the US power plants everything is computer controlled so if we were in that situation then there would have been no way of shutting the system down.

The relief valves controlled by only pressure could have been replaced with censors and computer controlled valves because they're more flexible.

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33 minutes ago, Mr. Silly said:

One thing the Wired article mentioned was that the thing that saved Ukraine's electrical grid was that they had manual shut-off in their power plants. 

I just read that article earlier this week. Very interesting.

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2 hours ago, JerrySTL said:

Sounds like too much pressure in the lines. You'd think that there would be overpressure pop-off valves in places. If I were in that area, I'd (1) get the hell out of my house, and (2) shut off the gas. We had a gas leak once and that's exactly what I did.

...while that's an excellent thing to do, by the time houses start exploding around you it's usually too late.  Once you have enough natural gas accumulated (usually in the basement, if you're in Mass) to go boom and lift your house off the foundation, it's already there, and unless and until you vent it, you are at some risk of going boom too.  But yeah, with 80 houses affected, it does sound suspiciously like some sort of accidental over pressure problem, maybe just a surge that was enough to blow out all the water heater pilots.  Still, I'm having trouble picturing the mechanism because there are safeties built into those, too.

We went out on a couple of "construction idiots cut into gas main with backhoe" calls when I worked, and I don't mind telling you the utility guys looked a tad edgy when they arrived.:)

 

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And in a case of very bad luck the only death was that of an 18 year old sitting in his car when the homes chimney fell on him.  What do you have to do to achieve Karma like that?

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1 hour ago, maddmaxx said:

And in a case of very bad luck the only death was that of an 18 year old sitting in his car when the homes chimney fell on him.  What do you have to do to achieve Karma like that?

The story I read was that he had just driven to New England to talk to the Moderator of  some web site to get un-banned.

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35 minutes ago, Mr. Silly said:

The story I read was that he had just driven to New England to talk to the Moderator of  some web site to get un-banned.

Pffft, good luck with that...

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7 hours ago, JerrySTL said:

Sounds like too much pressure in the lines. You'd think that there would be overpressure pop-off valves in places. If I were in that area, I'd (1) get the hell out of my house, and (2) shut off the gas. We had a gas leak once and that's exactly what I did.

That's what the authorities are telling people to do in, of course, the opposite 1-2 order!

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7 hours ago, JerrySTL said:

Sounds like too much pressure in the lines.

I agree.  Typically each house has a regulator where the gas line comes up out of the ground.  Pressure gets too high, the regulator opens up and vents to atmosphere, much along the same concept of the pressure relief valve on your hot water tank.

However, pressure relieve valves are mechanical devices that can fail and that have limits.  The apparently random houses exploded, I think, will eventually be found out not to be random at all.  They will probably find the pressure relief valves that failed were all of the same manufacturer/model that couldn't handle the overpressure, or the houses contained an appliance that used the same type/manufacturer of control valve.  It might also be found that all the houses connected to the gas mains the same way, which by design or accident allowed more gas at higher pressure to flow into the houses that exploded.

The relief mechanism of the pressure regulator is designed - if you'll pardon the phrase - to only pass so much gas in relief.  If the overpressure exceeds the design limits of the regulator, the high pressure passes by the regulator and enters the piping in the house.  Appliances, hot water heaters, furnaces, and boilers are also designed within certain parameters.  The extra high pressure will ooze, leak, or blow by/around fittings, pilot lights, and control valves.

Leave the high pressure on long enough, and the gas will ooze, leak, or blow by enough to accumulate in the basement.  An electronic or standing pilot light would be all that's needed to light off the accumulated gas.

I would not be surprised in the least if the investigation found out the elevated gas pressure was an intentional act.  Doing so would cause exactly the type of chaos where apparently random explosions in sufficient quantity to overwhelm emergency responders (and potentially hospitals). Likewise selection of a single utility (as SW noted) where raising the pressure at one point by tampering with the one setting would affect an area large enough to make the news but on a distribution network small enough that it couldn't absorb the high pressure caused. 

Consider: any utility will have sensors to detect and alarm when their gas delivery pressure is either too low or too high, and procedures about who is to respond and how.  If so, the utility should have responded quickly to the alarms, and before the pressure was too high for too long to blow up houses.  I would not be surprised if the utility discovered the alarms were tampered with or disabled as well.

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38 minutes ago, MickinMD said:

That's what the authorities are telling people to do in, of course, the opposite 1-2 order!

The main gas shutoff valve on my house is outside next to the meter.

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