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What happens during a gas explosion?

An EU-funded project modelled how gas explosions move around obstacles. Using a combination of scientific disciplines, the study accurately determined the complex processes for both hydrogen and natural gas.
What happens during a gas explosion?
The detonation of a cloud of flammable gas is very rapid but also an extremely complex mix of chemistry and physics. The rapidity makes determining exactly what happens all the more challenging.

Working on this task was the EU-funded project DETONATION (Advanced numerical study of flame acceleration and detonation in vapour cloud explosions). The project modelled the complex processes in flame acceleration and sought to transfer that knowledge to Europe. In particular, the model focused on the path of the flame around single and multiple obstacles. The study fell under the Seventh Framework Programme's (FP7) Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowships (IIF) sub-programme, and ran over two years to July 2013, completing all planned objectives.

First, the study developed a technique for modelling large-scale hydrogen combustion and explosion. The method combines single-step chemistry and air flow parameters. In addition to combustion, the model incorporates the exploding gas' interaction with obstacles in open space, using modified OpenFOAM code. The study also simulated propagation of a detonation wave under various physical contexts, including U-bends and a flat semi-confined layer.

The model developed for hydrogen showed good agreement with test measurements. The steps laid important groundwork for developing a large-scale chemistry model. A modified version was developed for liquefied natural gas (LNG), illustrating how changes to pipe diameter affect flame motion. The LNG calculations also agreed with testing.

Scientists also developed new solvers for flame acceleration and the transition from deflagration to detonation. Simulations showed good agreement with test measurements, and the solvers were implemented in China to evaluate explosion hazards of industrial chemicals.

As a result of the DETONATION project, the chemical and physical actions of explosions in flammable gases are more completely understood. The work has both academic and industrial applications.

Related information


Gas explosion, hydrogen, natural gas, detonation, flame acceleration
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