Explosion at Gas Station – Cell phone usage? – Facts Analysis


Story:

Dear All,

Please don’t use your mobile phones on the filling stations especially while filling. The video attached happened in Brazil last month. The service station employee didn’t follow the procedures during the discharge (It happened around 3:00AM). He used his mobile phone as a lamp to illuminate the tank to see if the product was right….. Unfortunately this man died two days after.

Analysis:

Several such incidents have happened in the past few years, which claim that cell phone usage in gas stations cause these explosions. However, not a single case has been documented officially till date stating cell phone as the reason for explosion. The RF waves generated by a cell phone cannot set gas on fire as the overall voltage used in cellphones is very low. Engineers design cell phones to avoid any such ignition or explosions at gas stations and other explosion hazards.

Accidents at gas stations generally happen because of the vapors that come out of the gas, when they come in contact with static charges. Static electricity is so powerful that its discharge can cause severe hazards while in contact with inflammable substances like gasoline. And this happens when some kind of electric spark ignites the inflammable substances, the gasoline here.

Similar thing was reported in this case. “the explosion was caused by the accumulation of fuel vapor accumulated in the roof of the station, which had destroyed the metal structure. Experts should investigate where the spark that set off caused the accident” – According to Globo.

If we watch the video clearly, we cannot tell what exactly the guy with mobile phone is doing in gas station. We can see the guy on top of the tank taking something out of his pocket, then looking inside the tank, likely dropping some object in the tank, taking another close look at it, and starting to move back when the flames erupt. Also to note that we do not know what the truck driver is doing meanwhile. So, it is possible that anything could have started the spark that ignited the vapors accumulated in the roof of the station. It could be because of the guy dropping some electrical object into the volatile fuel tank that could have broken and started sparks. And of course it could be because of discharge of static electricity through some means that generated spark and ignited vapors. However, failed mobile phones with battery problems can rarely cause sparks and may lead to explosions at gas stations. But cell phones in general cannot create explosions at gas stations.

Nevertheless, all the major oil companies have banned cell phone usage in gas stations as a preventive measures. And to avoid any accidents due to static electrical discharge, the Petroleum Equipment Institute(PEI) has stated 3 rules for safe refueling.

1. Turn off engine.
2. Don’t smoke.
3. Never re-enter your vehicle while refueling.

Hoax or Fact:

Hoax.

References:

Report of explosion at gas station
Static electric dischare – Ignition
PEI response
Similar accidents


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Explosion at Gas Station – Cell phone usage? – Facts Analysis

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