Modeling an Explosion: The Devil Is in the Details


  • Peter W. Hart MeadWestvaco Corp.
  • Alan W. Rudie USDA Forest Products Laboratory


Within the past 15 years, three North American pulp mills experienced catastrophic equipment failures while using 50 wt% hydrogen peroxide. In two cases, explosions occurred when normal pulp flow was interrupted due to other process problems. To understand the accidents, a kinetic model of alkali-catalyzed decomposition of peroxide was developed. Modeling a normal start-up condition where peroxide and sodium hydroxide flow to a mixer in a stoichiometric ratio does not show a significant pressure rise, but a scenario in which peroxide enters the pump in advance of the sodium hydroxide displays a rapid pressure rise that greatly exceeds the rated pressure for the pumps.

Author Biographies

Peter W. Hart, MeadWestvaco Corp.

Peter W. Hart received a B.S. and M.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Maine and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. He has been employed by Westvaco Corporation (now MeadWestvaco) since 1992, where he has served in various research and mill technical positions throughout the 18 years. He currently serves as technical innovation lead for the Mill Operations Product Development Group. He is an adjunct associate professor to the Paper Science Department at North Carolina State University.

Alan W. Rudie, USDA Forest Products Laboratory

Alan W. Rudie received a B.A. from Wartburg College in chemistry and Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He took a position in the Process Research Group at International Paper Company in 1978, leaving in 1989 for an associate professor appointment at the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. Dr. Rudie took his current position as project leader of the Fiber and Chemical Sciences Work Unit at the Forest Products Laboratory in 2003.






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