Refinery Explosions: How the list of explosions from 1990-1998 was compiled : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

There's been much discussion on the increase of explosions now ... from previous years. Most of this information has come from via Marsha Peters. Here are my thoughts.


"I first started thinking about electrical generating plant explosions when one blew up in my neighborhood in February 1999 ... More recently, this subject came up as a discussion thread on the Time Bomb/Yourdon list ... There seems to be a feeling that beginning with the fall of 1998, there has been an increase in such incidents [explosions]. So I have started doing web searches [in mid-1999] of newspaper archives, others have contributed information in the [TimeBomb/Yourdon] thread found on government and industry publication sites, and I have received some private email.

[So the info started to get compiled primarly from the net ... sometime after Feb '99.]

IMHO - This "report from" that has been making the rounds on the web as a seemingly true reflection of what has occurred in the past vs. what is occurring now ... is DIS-INFORMATION. While intentions were good in tracking this stuff ... figures prior to 1999 are VASTLY under-reported.

I'm surprised that Marcia Peters continues to publish this useless information on her site

In her own words: "This graph shows's 1990 through mid-1999 data on a time line. If their data is accurate, it's interesting how the number of reported explosions suddenly increases rapidly, starting around July 1998 ..."

The data is NOT accurate.

According to the FEMA report Fire in the United States 1987-1996 (Eleventh Edition) ... "there were 5,922 fires reported to FEMA in manufacturing/industrial facilities in 1996". Further, FEMA believes there were far more fires at manufacturing facilities than officially reported to the agency.

Of course, not all of these fires involved explosions. However, according to the "report from" that Marcia continues to use on her site ... out of 5,922 fires reported in 1996 for manufacturing/industrial facilities ... there were only 3 explosions in the entire United States. [Does this seem reasonable?]

FEMA goes on to state "With minor variations, the data in 1996 are similar to each of the preceding 9 years." [Yet the report shows 1-3 explosions for those previous years.]

Here's where you can find the 214 page report:

If anyone's really interested, check out page 126. The majority of fires at manufacturing/industrial facilities were caused by: #1-Other Equipment; and #2- Electrical Distribution. Here are 1996 statistics on manufacturing/industrial fires:

OTHER EQUIPMENT: 1892 reported cases; 2298 unknown apportioned ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTION: 438 reported cases; 545 unknown apportioned

It's obvious the figures [particularly prior to '99] from are NOT accurate. But, Marcia on her website chooses to only question the validity of the 1999 figures, with this qualifier: "1999 - 90 reports (note: Sept.-Dec. 1999 data is missing, tending to under-report the problems)." [She never questioned the period prior to 1999 as possibly being "under-reported".]

Personally my gut feel is that explosions and disruption HAVE increased directly or indirectly because of Y2K.

I think Marcia Peters is doing a disservice to herself and others, with keeping those figures on her web site here:

Marcia is spending a lot of time and effort in compiling current information on industrial explosions ... for which I applaud her. But, IMHO she should remove that stuff, because it diminishes her credibility and puts here objectivity in question.

And it makes it difficult for us to objectively ascertain whether the reported incidences are actually increasing.

My gut feel is that they are. Unfortunately we don't have hard data to measure against.

The information IS out there. Unfortunately it takes a LOT of time, effort ... and money ... to put this info together.

Without this, we can only speculate.

-- Cheryl (, January 30, 2000


Thanks, Cheryl. I laud Marcia for her work in compiling wire stories into stats and graphics: no one else has made a similar effort, certainly, unles it be NSA or the Chief's ICC bunker crew in Washington -- and we'll never see their tabulations. And the effort is critical to ever relaxing anything more than that amorphous "Sense" that things are not normal.

So I don't agree that Marica is doing a dis-service - certainly not in the compilation, certainly not in the presentation, certainly not in the maintenance of the web page. Perhaps however her pages could use a few caveats posted for the benefit of the surfer, pointing out the (alleged? asserted?) limitations of wire-service reports in preceding years. IN FACT, however, if the source for the reports remains the same throughout -- that is, if she accesses the same databases for January 2,000 that she accesses for January 1997, then the results -- while limited by the source -- are unimpeachable, though not conclusive. That is, if the archived nature of reports from earlier years doesn't further "wieght" the result in favor of "current" blowups.

Barring a federal grant, no one has the time to catalogue and graph all the dozens of types of reports that FEMA has received over the last five years. And at least one other federal data-base -- wasn't it the EPA events site ? -- was closed as of Rollover, leaving comparisons within that context impossible too. So, I for one am grateful to Marcia for her efforts in at least creating a BEFORE/AFTER data-base from sources available to her, and I will continue to log onto her wite to look for further developments.

AT THE VERY LEAST, we can ignore her data from preceding years, and use the lists to track developments just since rollover. It may be that there alone there will also be a pattern developing. As ou say, we all "sense" a DRAMATIC escalation in the rates of failure at pipelines adn refineries; there's price increases and spot shortages that may go hand in hand with the outages, etc. etc. I think it make much more sense to treat Marcia's work as "hearsay" and accept it for what its worth. There's certainly nothing better out there.

I wish we had something half so good for Nukes, etc.



-- Squirrel Hunter (nuts@upina.tree), January 30, 2000.

Cheryl, I hope you have your asbestos underwear on, I think you're going to be flamed (but not by me).

Also this statement on Marcia's page next to the nonsense graph "2000 reports 64 explosions so far (between 1/1/00 and 1/22/00)" I didn't find any such statement on the web site -- if I missed it perhaps someone can point it out. Or maybe it was a post by Robert Waldrop in which he counted up all of Carl Jenkins' posts.

-- Mikey2k (, January 30, 2000.

Squirrel Hunter,

So, I for one am grateful to Marcia for her efforts in at least creating a BEFORE/AFTER data-base from sources available to her, and I will continue to log onto her wite to look for further developments.

I too am grateful for Marcia's efforts. She's doing a dynamite job of documenting what has recently been occuring. I applaud her for, and appreciate her effort. However, the only "BEFORE" data-base ... is the one from --- That's the one I have a problem with. Keeping that stuff on her site, without better qualifiers is what I consider to be a disservice to her and others. Not her recent input.

And, I want to give credit to for being the first person/organization actually trying to document failures. I know how time consuming it is to do this stuff!!

When JustPeace started to compile this, I'm sure they didn't mean to imply that the explosions they found were the ONLY ones that occured. They were simply trying to keep track of what appeared to be an increasing number of explosions. But, somehow now this is what recent occurrences are being measured against.

My point is that only 1-3 explosions per year prior to 1997 is WRONG. Marcia should not continue posting this stuff, because some believe it without delving further.

Her recent information is far more accurate. That's what she ... and we ... should focus on.

-- Cheryl (, January 30, 2000.

And what's wrong with peace? 'Peace' destroys her credibility???? What???

-- Sheri (, January 30, 2000.


I knew when I made this post that there might be some flack. I've never been one to like these "polly" and "doomer" references.

But if anyone asked which camp I was in, I've always been more on the "doomer" side ... particularly when it comes to oil/gas/refineries. I'm from Houston and know people in the industry ... primarly CEO's of major independent oil companies.

But, I try to base my reasoning on fact or logic. It AMAZES me how some people are looking at this compilation of 1-3 explosions/year as factual information.

If Marcia continues to keep these 1990-1999 figures on her site, some will view them as "fact" [which has already happened]. These 1990-1999 figures will eventually become "urban legend", as they are spread throughout the web. This is why I think keeping this stuff on her site is a disservice to her and others.

-- Cheryl (, January 30, 2000.

I posted here earlier stating that from a layman's perspective Marcia's methods (internet based) of gathering data seem ludicrous. It **is** misinformation at best. Disinformation, I believe, would entail a concious choice to publish questionable or bogus data. I think Marcia truly believes in her stats. That is a shame because there is no statistic you can gather on the internet that can be considered accurate.

The big flaw in such a scheme is that ten years ago you had maybe one fifth the number of regional newspapers on line. Now they are on line. Invariably, the stats will be skewed proportionately from one era to the next. She has to make a correction for the skew in available on line publications, if she wants to even attempt to see the real data.

If we were positive that Reuters was capable of collecting the same data ten years ago that they do today, we might make a Reuters search and compare those. But who could claim such a thing? When you start adding in search engines that didn't even exist ten years ago, and links to many news sites that may have very specialized data, it's no wonder the numbers are skewed to the extreme.

There are probably more failures happening now than any time in our history. But the issue gets murkier, not clearer, the more bad data we throw around. Marcia did a lot of good work with this newer data, and perhaps she should reconsider the far historic view of the data and withdraw it before she goes down the tubes with it.

-- paul leblanc (, January 30, 2000.


"Peace" doesn't destroy her credibility. JustPeace never intended this report to be a factual compilation of ALL explosions. But, Marcia by posting and referencing it on her site as a measurement against recent occurrences kinda of implies that. did a great job of tracking what they could find out on the web. But, it's not a true picture of what actually occurred. I admire JustPeace for taking the initiative to track this stuff.

-- Cheryl (, January 30, 2000.

Paul LeBlanc,

You're right. Mis-information is the better term, rather than dis-information.

perhaps she should reconsider the far historic view of the data and withdraw it before she goes down the tubes with it.

I agree.

-- Cheryl (, January 30, 2000.

On Marcia's site... go to "clues"

Slide 8 confirms our notion that there are an unusual number of refinery problems leading to reduced supply. It shows refineries running at about 87% capacity in January 2000, whereas 95-100% capacity is the norm in mid-winter.

OK, that's pretty from DOE of a 10% reduction in capacity.

-- LOOK HERE (, January 30, 2000.

Recognizing the limits of the data Marcia's got up, it still is after all just a one-man website, and is simply better -- for all its limitations -- than if no-one made a start at the subject to begin with. I don't consider incomplete data-gathering to be mis- information or mistaken -- just incomplete. That web-site has been up for maybe two weeks now? I think, and the events were investigating are four weeks old ......

It's really no different from most of the material posted on this Board. You have to take the posts for what they're worth, as hearsay with questionable validity becuase the facts simply cannot always be cross-checked. IN short order, and under the circumstances of a very rapidly developing CHANGE in the price of oil and availabilty of distillates, it seems to me that Marcia has provided us a GREAT SERVICE in at least making a start at the question no one can really answer: how ordinary is this rate of Year 2000 refinery problems?

I sure do hope Marcia has time and patience to refine her data. I only know I wouldn't. I'd drift along wondering only .....


-- Squirrel Hunter (nuts@upina.cellrelaytower), January 30, 2000.

LOOK HERE, Squirrel Hunter & Sheri,

This is the 3rd time I'm saying, Marcia is doing a GREAT job! I admire what she's doing. It's a lot of hard work.

What I've been trying to say here ... is she should get rid of that info. Particulary those years that say that there were only 1-3 explosions per year.

OR ... do you guys believe that JustPeace presented an accurate and factual picture that, in fact, there were only 1-3 explosions per year in the entire United States???

As I indicated previously, I was impressed that was the first entity to actually try and track this info ... however limited or innacurate the information might have been because of lack of resources to adequately and realistically track this information.

The intentions were good and worthwile. It's gotten us to the point where Marcia is trying to track this in a more systemic fashion. Accolades to Marcia. She deserves a lot of credit.

-- Cheryl (, January 30, 2000.

Cheryl, I agree with you that the data is damaging Marcia's credibility and while I have criticized that part of her site on other threads I haven't criticized the other part of her site with current data. I think that the disclaimers she's added to the data are too little, too late, particularly when she still has the graph at the top of the page. The damage has already been done.

But you indicate that you feel there are problems. I'm curious as to what makes you feel that way. Perhaps some conversations with oil CEO's.

No I'm not trying to draw you out so I can flame you. I have more respect for someone who's up front about their limitations and doesn't try to b.s. me.

I'm not totally rejecting that there are an unusual number of refinery problems. But in addition to my normal skepticism, I'm going to wonder if the data as amplified by Marica is at the root of any report I see.

I'm wondering if you have access to any oil industry periodicals that would be in a position to determine whether or not there are an unusual number of problems.

-- Mikey2k (, January 31, 2000.

Question: are the failure reports being compiled from web-based news sites? Since the Internet is growing astronomically, doesn't it make sense that there is a lot more reporting recently (in general) now than a few years ago? Or is this offset by the dumbing-down and spinning of news and increasing tendencies to obfuscate information needed by the public to learn the truth? I remember reading that some industries have protected themselves from public disclosure. Any insiders who reveal Y2k status or vulnerability of certain power plants or chemical plants can be prosecuted! I think for national security reasons. Sorry I don't keep track of everything I've read, but other better-prepared participants on this forum can probably back me up.

-- Ceemeister (, January 31, 2000.


<are the failure reports being compiled from web-based news sites?> Yes

<Since the Internet is growing astronomically, doesn't it make sense that there is a lot more reporting recently (in general) now than a few years ago?> Yes


<But you indicate that you feel there are problems. I'm curious as to what makes you feel that way. Perhaps some conversations with oil CEO's.>

No. Not conversations with CEO's at this point in time. My concern is based primarly on what's happening with oil futures. And the ridiculously low inventory. I know they try to keep year-end inventory as low as possible because of taxes. But I find their doing this in late '99 as reprehensible. Particularly when there were so many unknown variables related to Y2K.

Last time I talked to these oil guys seriously was in Oct/Nov '98 before I moved to Oregon. I gave them technical papers on embedded systems and process control. I spoke on these issues at conferences in NYC and Washington D.C. But the disregarded the info. One guy even said, "I don't want to know about the problems. I want to know how I can make money off this Y2K deal."

My circle of friends in Houston for 18 years included owners of oil related companies in the $25-$60 million dollar range. In the fall of '98 these guys were doing NOTHING. All were planning on "fixing on failure". One guy even told me, "Don't you worry about that Y2K deal. Bill Gates is gonna fix it." Perhaps in '99 they decided to do something. If they did, IMHO ... it was too late and band-aids would be applied to buy time. Just my opinion. So my factual information is dated.

Now I just talk to the wives about social stuff. C'est la vie.

Maybe they were right and I was wrong. Who knows?

My "ex" who sold his company to a NYSE listed company called a couple of days ago. He said, "You know what most of these guys did? They set back the clocks back wherever they could to buy time. They did short-term band-aid fixes. Hope it works."

-- Cheryl (, January 31, 2000.

Sorry Cheryl

I'm not trying to sound impenetrable, and I don't disagree with your points. I'm just using a little positive reinforcement with Marcia, since, as you have said, it is she that's put her time on the line to compile the data & create the website (etc. etc.) and I don't want to risk discouraging that effort, as I see some of her editorial commments on the web=page show she's miffed at recent criticism of her efforts. I've been hoping SOMEONE would have the resourcefulness and time to accomplish something just like Marcia has on her site; and I've been asking for it occassionally in my posts on the Board. Also hoping there might be something similar with nukes, trainwrecks, etc. although those areas are JUST AS OBVIOUS to one's sense of proportion. I really DID read your posts. I am just playing that inane role of Mr. Nice .... FWIW. ;^)


-- Squirrel Hunter (nuts@upina.cellrelaytower), January 31, 2000.

Thanks for all the perspective Cheryl!

And of course the additional information.

The thing that worries me is that even when compared to last year at this time, we are still seeing an increase. I'm sure some of this has to do with weather differences, but there's just a LOT of stuff blowing up. I hope the clock winding helps and we sure are not headed to Infomagicland, but I also don't like it when people get blown up for no good reason.

Thanks for staying on the watch.

-- nothere nothere (, January 31, 2000.

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