Learning from a chemical explosion at Optima Chemical LLC

Learning from a chemical explosion at Optima Chemical LLC

On Tuesday, December 8, 2020, at approximately 10 PM EST, an explosion occurred at Optima Chemical LLC in Bell, West Virginia. This unfortunate event resulted in one death and two injuries, necessitating a shelter-in-place order for community members residing within a two-mile radius of the facility.

Learning from a chemical explosion at Optima Chemical LLC

Image credit: Scitegrity

The explosion was caused by a pressure-rated double-cone rotary dryer containing a chlorinated isocyanurate compound known as sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate (NaDCC dihydrate), marketed under the trade name CDB-56.®. This led to a fire and the release of toxic chlorine gas at Optima Belle LLC in Belle, West Virginia.

The estimated property damage suffered by Optima Belle as a result of this incident is $33.1 million. In response to this incident, the United States Chemical Safety Board recently issued a report that includes several recommendations.

One of these recommendations relates to the adoption of an evaluation process known as Oreos road.

This method evaluates whether a chemical poses a risk before using it in scale-up or synthesis processes. OREOS was initially detailed in a paper published by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Sperry in 2021 et al.

This approach involves in-depth evaluation of various chemical properties, including explosive functional groups, oxygen equilibrium, adherence to rule 6, starting temperatures, Yoshida affinities, and scale.

Scitegrity’s DG Assessment Tool incorporates this methodology, and is believed to be the only commercially available tool capable of doing so. Had it been accessible in 2020, it would have quickly and accurately identified the chemicals in question as being at high risk of explosion, as shown below.

Learning from a chemical explosion at Optima Chemical LLC

Image credit: Scitegrity

Learning from a chemical explosion at Optima Chemical LLC

Image credit: Scitegrity

The example provided includes the results (Tinit and released energy) from a differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) instrument, enabling the DG Assessor to calculate and take into account Yoshida correlations.

However, DSC data are only sometimes readily available. Even without this data, a DGP evaluator could classify this substance as a high-risk chemical based on its chemical structure alone.

This tool was developed in collaboration with the safety and process chemistry groups of a major pharmaceutical company.

Its algorithms and checks also help meet the requirements and assessments outlined in the UN Manual of Tests and Standards for evaluating chemicals for potential safety concerns before handling or shipping, as well as the ECHA CLP assessment procedures (Section 2.1.4) regarding “screening”. Procedures and Testing Waiver for Chemicals.

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By automatically checking all chemicals in an organization at the structure level, it allows for automatic enterprise-wide compliance checks against hundreds of regulations globally, even for new and proprietary chemical collections running into the millions.

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    (Marks for translation) Chemical explosion

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