Blast Furnace Explosion

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Blast Furnace Explosion at Port Talbot

Blast Furnace Explosion at Port Talbot


In the evening of Thursday, November 8th' 2001, at the Corus steel plant, Port Talbot, South Wales, an explosion occurred in Blast Furnace Number 5 that resulted in the tragic deaths of three employees and significant injuries to several others. The blast followed an escape of molten iron at the plant's furnace five. This paper describes the investigations carried out till now, which give a sufficient understanding of the failure mechanisms.

The paper explores the need for a detailed understanding of the technical history and workings of this blast furnace. It offers a brief detail of the incident and the events that led to it. The paper also draws conclusions and lessons for the steel industry and other process industries.


Corus, which came out in 1999 through the merger of British Steel and Dutch firm Koninklijke Hoogovens, employed more than 3000 workers at the Port Talbot plant. Steel-making makes up a dangerous industry particularly because of the high temperatures involved and the potential for gas escapes. Plant worker Neil Morgan, speaking after the explosion, said: "This is a risky job and something like this could happen in any part of the plant" (

Corus (UK) Ltd at Port Talbot has been one of the top tier sites for the COMAH. Corus was one of the biggest producers of steel in Europe. The company suffered a huge blow to its integrity and reputation as a serious fire and blast within one of its blast furnaces, i.e. Blast Furnace 5, on 8th November' 2001 resulted in both the loss of lives and release of highly flammable and toxic gases including carbon monoxide in the air in unknown quantities.

The furnace was built in two sections vertically. The upper half had a restricted movement through a lap joint with the lower half of the furnace. The outer walls of the furnace had a steel shell that was 3.5 cm thick, while it had a refractory lining that contained a total of about 1400 copper coolers.

The coolers used water pumped through them for cooling the furnace down. The furnace had a height of 90cm with the shape of a shallow cone with the base being 12m in diameter. It had a capacity of about 2000 tons of material including coke, iron ore and limestone with 24 nozzles installed at its base over the hearth (

The process typically involved the blasting of hot air through the nozzles into the furnace bottom through the nozzles fitted at its base. The process led to the production of thousands of tons of iron every day. The oxygen from the air would burn with the coke and produce a large amount of heat as a result of the carbon monoxide formed. This carbon monoxide would move up the blast furnace and extract the oxygen from the iron ores as they moved down. This would in turn give iron. The heat trapped inside the furnace would melt the iron down into molten ...
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