Home Podcasts THMG105 – Propane Scenarios, Part II: Leaking Tank

THMG105 – Propane Scenarios, Part II: Leaking Tank


In part two of this two-part series, Bob and Mike conclude their discussion of propane tank scenarios. In this scenario, the tank is leaking, rather than on fire.

Complete Show Notes

3:15 Mike’s Leaking Propane Tank Scenario

  • Responding to a warehouse forklift that’s powered by propane
  • The warehouse measures 200 x 100 and has a lot of garage doors
  • You can smell the propane from around 50 feet away as you approach the building – your meters aren’t picking anything up, though
  • Everyone has evacuated the building
  • Warehouse building has a basement and a loft area above with office space

4:00 Bob’s Initial Thoughts

  • Because it’s inside, there’s a whole new set of problems – nowhere for the vapors to escape, wind isn’t in your favor, etc.
  • You do have ventilation options due to the multiple garage doors, but you may want to keep them closed to ensure proper monitoring
  • The basement is problematic because propane is a heavy, low-lying gas that wants to move downstairs
  • The offices aren’t a big concern since the propane vapors aren’t going to rise up into the air

8:00 Metering on Arrival

  • Put on your bunker gear and SCBA and bring your metering up – use this to guide your PPE selection
  • Look at both the LEL and oxygen, but pay more attention to the oxygen numbers – remember that they’ll drift slightly away from normal, though

11:45 Scene Size-Up

  • If the cylinder is leaking after the valve, you’ll probably see a vapor cloud since it’s a liquid leak
  • If you don’t see a vapor cloud, you’re probably dealing with a vapor leak – these are preferable
  • When you’re dealing with liquid leaks, the head pressure is a static number based upon the ambient temperature
  • If it’s a vapor leak, the tank is leaking at a 1:1 ratio – this is very different from liquids, which leak over 250 times faster than gasses

19:05 Addressing the Leaking Tank

  • Shut off the cylinder, disconnect the connections to the forklift, uncouple the straps, and bring the tank outside
  • If it’s a fast leak that can’t compensate for the decreasing head pressure, remember that it will auto-refrigerate – carry it outside and sweep up the debris
  • If you’re dealing with a slow leak, you have to shut the cylinder off and ventilate the area (if you can)
  • Use your 4-gas meter and thermal imaging camera to help you throughout this process, and always wear your bunker gear and SCBA

24:55 Handling the Basement

  • Remember that propane is a low-lying gas, so it wants to find the low spots in the basement
  • Keep in mind that there are lots of ignition sources in the basement, so you should shut off circuit boxes and utilities as soon as possible
  • Your solution in this case is dilution of air – can’t use fans, though, since they all have sparks
  • Try using ventilation fans upstairs with trunks that move air downstairs – goal is to hyperventilate the basement so it ejects the contaminated air on its own

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  1. HI GUYS:

    • I don’t think you would be too successful in that. Propane (as per NIOSH) is only 0.01% soluble. So all you would do would be to hydraulically move it.


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