Identifying Hurricane-Induced Hazardous Material Release Scenarios in a Petroleum Refinery


Hurricanes and other natural disasters can induce hazardous material (hazmat) releases. However, researchers generally treat natural and technological disasters as separate entities rather than as conjoint events. This paper investigates hurricane-induced hazardous material (hurmat) releases in a petroleum refinery. The information developed in this study indicates the need to develop emergency response plans, mitigation measures, and design criteria to minimize health risks and property damage from conjoint disasters at industrial facilities. This paper identifies possible hurmat release scenarios in a refinery, and assesses the type of release that might result. Four hurricane threats are considered: high winds, tornadoes, flooding, and lightning. These hazards can lead to hazmat releases caused by damage to equipment, damage to pipes and connections, short circuits and/or power failures, punctured tanks and vessels, and structural damage to buildings and facilities. Hazmats can be released in fires and/or explosions, toxic gas emissions, and spills. The multiple consequences of each hazard scenario are analyzed, and the relationships between the different hazard types are illustrated. The present paper concludes that refineries are susceptible to all four hurricane threats and that these threats could serve as triggering mechanisms for hazardous chemical releases. For public policy application, risk quantification of the scenarios presented should be undertaken; the authors recommend that a strategy of expert elicitation be adopted for this purpose.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering


National Science Foundation (U.S.)

Keywords and Phrases

Emergency Response Plans; Hazardous Material Releases; Technological Disasters

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Natural disasters
Petroleum refineries

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2001 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.