The Long View on Longford

Article by Trish Kerin CEng FIChemE and Andrew Hopkins

20 years on from Australia’s infamous gas explosion, what have we learned, and what should we do to prevent another one?


ON 25 September 1998, a vessel in the Esso Longford gas plant 1 fractured, releasing hydrocarbon vapours and liquid. Explosions and a fire followed. Two employees died and eight more were injured. Pumps had tripped, halting the flow of hot oil. Cold oil and condensate continued to flow, causing the temperature in a heat exchanger to drop considerably. When hot oil was reintroduced, the heat exchanger had a brittle fracture. The resulting fire burned for two days and full supply of gas to the state of Victoria was not restored until 14 October.

As the 20th anniversary of the incident approaches, I spoke to Andrew Hopkins, who was an expert witness at the investigation into the disaster, to discuss the lessons learned.

Article By

Trish Kerin CEng FIChemE

Director - IChemE Safety Centre

Andrew Hopkins

Safety consultant, author of ‘Lessons from Longford’

Andrew Hopkins, emeritus professor at the Australian National University is an internationally-renowned presenter, author and consultant in the field of industrial safety and accident analysis. He was consultant to the US Chemical Safety Board investigation of the BP Texas City accident. In 2008, he was awarded the EPSC prize for extraordinary contribution to process safety in Europe, and in 2016 he was made an Honorary Fellow of IChemE for his contribution to process safety. Hopkins has written numerous articles and books on safety- related topics, and conducted many presentations to government, union and industry conferences internationally.

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