Bhopal Gas Tragedy

Bhopal Gas Tragedy & Safety in Refinery & Chemical Plants

Mohit Goel
MBA in Oil & Gas
University of Petroleum & Energy Studies

On the evening of 2nd December,1984 in Bhopal, there occurred the most shocking industrial disaster where a deadly gas methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from the plant of union carbide India limited (UCIL) at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh which is a pesticide producing plant on the north edge of the city. Due to which thousands of people lost their life and millions of people suffered from various injuries caused due to the effects of methyl isocyanate (MIC). The accident happened because of the carelessness of the workers and their supervisors who neglected the signs and endangered the life of themselves as well as the life of the people who are living in the surroundings of the industry.

History of the accident
It was a clear night with no chances of rain when the most catastrophic disaster occurs in Bhopal. The workers on the night shift identified a smell but they disregarded the smell as they don’t have a clue about that because of poor maintenance and precautions, the water was spilling into tank E610 which convey 42 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) prompting to a fierce response. Before the workers can identify the blame, the tank burst out of its solid casing and detonated which leaves a billow of methyl isocyanate into the air. Due to the wind, the cloud gets carried away to the nearest slums and surrounding into the city of Bhopal. Other than MIC, the gas clouds contained methylamine, dimethylamine, trimethylamine, chloroform, dichloromethane, hydrogen chloride and carbon dioxide which was either in the tank or was produced in the capacity tank when the blast happens.

The leak and its effect
The idea of using methyl isocyanate (MIC) to produce pesticide was a big mistake as lot of complications were tagged to it. The fluid MIC must be stored 0 degree Celsius constantly even during the transportation of barrels from the storage to production house which is relatively unthinkable. It should be kept at high pressure using inert nitrogen which is also a difficult task to maintain.
The supervisor ignores the complaint of the workers about the smell caused by the MIC gas which allows the gas to travel to the city. No alarm was raised by the company to alert the residents of the nearby area about the leak. The people realised it when they started to feel the symptoms. The underlying impacts of the gas were coughing, extreme eye irritation, feeling of suffocation, shortness of breath, burning in the respiratory tract, stomach pains and spewing.
The next morning, several thousands were lying dead on the streets of Bhopal, where post mortem declaring the cause of death was due to highly necrosis lungs, filled with fluid and holes appeared in the lungs due to the reaction with MIC. Till date, 20,000 people have died and 150,000 people are still suffering from the aftermath of the disaster.

Aspects of the tragedy
1. Economic Aspects
In February 6th 2001, The Dow chemical company assumed Union Carbide after which Union Carbide company turned into completely claimed auxiliary. Union Carbide remained a different substance but Dow owned all the stock of UCIL. After that Dow declared that the stockholders and the Union Carbide did not have any obligations in the catastrophe.
2. Social Aspects
In 1984, lots of people belonging to lower caste migrated to Bhopal and started staying near the factory areas doing small business. These slum areas were the first to be affected by the disaster and majority of the people died during the tragedy belongs to these communities. UCIL hired the best lawyers and the poor people suffered as they were affected by the rampant corruption in the Indian Democracy. The compensation money of Rs.10,000 set aside for the casualty families was not circulated properly. So due to lack of power the poor people suffered even after the disaster by the hand of rich people who had both power and money.
3. Legal Aspects
For preparing of remuneration by the Bhopal Gas leak act of 1985, the government of India named itself as the sole illustrative of the casualty for any legal dealings with the Union Carbide Corporations. The government of India documented a case suit against Union carbide Corporation for remuneration and harms in the United States district court in New York.
On February 15th 1989, Supreme Court of India passed a judgement and approved a settlement of $470 million dollars, upon which all claims, rights, litigations and liabilities identified with and from the Bhopal Gas disaster was likewise viewed as settled.
4. Environmental Aspects
Even several years after the tragedy, the groundwater is still contaminated. The soil still available is a harmful threat to not only to those currently exposed but also to the future generations. Dow chemicals are slacking in the cleaning efforts and claim that it has no duty.
Most people in the affected area are poor and uneducated and are not aware of the contaminated water but others still drink that water because the government does not provide any other alternatives of clean water in that area. A few tons of lethal waste in the form of corroded metal and other waste are scattered and uncovered in the close by areas which worsened the sufferings of the general population living there.

Future measures that can be taken
While working in developing countries various measures should be considered to avoid any disaster some of them are listed below:
? The workers who are assigned to the job should be more diversified to the work and the surroundings.
? The supervisors who are appointed should take the responsibility of any problem that occur during the course of work.
? The supervisors should be trained in American value System so that when any issues if brought in front of American judge/jury the person will not lack the ethics.
? Political stability should be considered before planning such ambitious projects in the developing nations.
? Regular check-ups should be held for both the people who work there and the machinery which is used for production and storage.

Risk in Refinery and Chemical plants
Numerous measures are taken at oil and chemical refineries to increase safety, expanding gas monitoring in an easy, financial savvy approach to rapidly enhance security and reduce the danger. Oil refineries, Chemical assembling plants, and comparable mechanical offices use tremendous measure of unsafe and hurtful substances that could be discharged amid a mischance, putting plant laborers, administrators in control and the general population living adjacent in danger for here and now and in addition long haul wounds, ailment, disease or demise.
The main causes of accidents in any refinery and chemical plants are:
1. Human Error
The larger part of the modern mishaps that occur in industries are an aftereffect of human mistakes. Many of them are due to the worker failing to follow the safety procedures that have been instituted by the organization where they work. When the workers fail to utilize proper equipment, accidents can happen. Many of them occurs due to mishandling of the tools and also using improper tools to work on an equipment. This can harm the machine and as well as create a safety hazard.
2. Manufacturing Defects
Most of the accidents that occur in any plant are due to the manufacturing defects. These defects can be available in a bit of gear or in the material utilized. In spite of many organizations utilize a few quality control measures during the process, some of them can fail. This is basically because several of them are handled by humans. Where people are included there is always a chance of human mistakes. The inspector might miss any imperfection occurred during manufacturing. The issue remains undetectable until after an accident has happened.
3. Improper Training
When the workers are not trained properly, industrial hazards are most likely to occur. The workers should be trained how to use the equipment and the way of using it. They should also be instructed to use safety procedures when they are working on any machine. Representative ought to be knowledgeable in what to do if something turns out badly and how to solve the problem before it gains out of power.
4. Improper Maintenance
A common reason that any industrial accident happen is because of improper maintenance of equipment. Regular maintenance at regular intervals of time following the manufacture recommendation is needed to check the working of equipment. If any equipment is not properly maintained, it can breakdown and at last came up short. This can result in desperate outcomes to the staff who are operating and working around the machines.

Safety Measures
1. Preventing the release of Chemical hazards
Chemicals that are released from the plant if not properly maintained can have harmful effects on the surroundings such as release of toxic fumes, fires and explosions that may cause serious injury or death, damage to the property and severe effects on the environment. So before releasing the chemicals they should be treated well to reduce the harmful contents present in it.
2. Personal Protective equipment for workers
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used to diminish workers exposure to potential risks in the working environment. The supervisor is responsible of providing PPE to the workers but the workers are responsible of assessing the work and identifying the possible hazards that may require the use of PPE, which they should likewise, obviously, know how to wear correctly. There exists several types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) covering each part of the body like head, eyes, face, body etc. depends on the task provided.
3. Environmental Pollution Prevention
A few wellsprings of contamination incorporate the fumes of motors, generators and blowers. The release of petroleum gas straightforwardly into the air can build the temperature of the encompassing. The causes of emission of these facilities is vents, leaks in pipes and turbines, valves, open pits and loading and unloading operations. These pollutants can cause severe sickness or death that can lead to human and economic loss, damages to crop and plants as well as harm to livestock.
4. Corrosion problems and prevention
Corrosion destroys the metal and also reduce its lifetime. It is relatively difficult to avoid corrosion. Most ideal arrangement is to endeavour to control the erosion rate through checking. By perceiving and understanding the process of corrosion, engineers may begin to eliminate the corrosion by design.

To minimize such lethal hazards various measures should be considered before initiating any work. Some of the measures are suggested below:
1. Keep equipment for emergency responses onsite.
2. Install alert systems for employees at work.
3. Various sensors to detect the presence of gases in the atmosphere.
4. Train the workers on how to use safety equipment.
5. Use Personal Protective Equipment to minimize the risk of danger.
6. Proper ventilation and respiration of fumes.
7. Regular checking for corrosion of metal and other machinery.
8. Proper handling of the waste product before dispatching it into the surrounding.
9. Work together with the local emergency response team.

As we have seen there are many factors due to which an accident can happen. Some of them are due to human mistake and some of them are due to machine failure but the consequences of this accident can cause danger to both lives and property. We must stay aware and follow the safety precautions so that we can minimize the wrath of an accident. The industries like refineries and chemical plants where hazardous substances are produced and stored have maximum chances of accidents. Even a slight mishandling of these stuff can be very lethal and cause fire and explosion which can very dangerous for the life of the people working in and around the factory. Follow the safety measures and avoid any carelessness and the chances of any accidents can be reduced.