Longford Esso Gas Plant Explosion

On September 25th, 1998 a pump circulating lean oil to a heat exchanger in Gas Plant No. 1 stopped and stayed off-line for several hours. The heat exchanger, operating at 48C, continued to cool vessels to low temperatures. Lean oil was added at 230C, causing a brittle fracture at 12:26pm.

Plant No. 1 had been noted as requiring a Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) study, a technique widely used in the process industry, but it had never been carried out.

Approximately 25 tonnes of hydrocarbon vapour were released, and the resulting fire and explosion killed two and injured eight employees.

The political and social implications of the gas supply being cut off to all of Victoria for two weeks were considerable.

Relocation of all the plant engineers from the Longford Esso Gas Plant to Melbourne had impacted heavily on the operational practices at Longford. In addition to the isolation preventing informal communication, there was inadequate training of operators and supervisors and inadequate procedures.


Carrying out safety audits may not be useful unless corrective actions are enforced.


"Lessons from Longford: The Esso Gas Plant Explosion" by Andrew Hopkins