Industrial Fire Familiarization: Furnace tube rupture

Industrial Fire Familiarization: Furnace Tube Rupture

Industrial furnace
Industrial furnace

HMN-On this installment of Industrial Fire Familiarization, we will be going over industrial furnace tube rupture, and first in priority.

What’s going on inside?


Furnaces are generally used to raise the temperature of a product for processing means. It is not uncommon for these temperatures to be well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Providing the heat, are burners fueled by natural gas, or other fuel sources. The product flows into the furnace and through pipes, or tubes, absorbing the heat and flowing on down the line. The moving liquid wicks the heat away from the tube itself, allowing less stress on the metal.

Tubes in a fired furnace
Tubes in a fired furnace

The walls of the furnace are commonly lined with a refractory brick for holding in heat and keeping the process efficient. And finally, any excess heat is routed through the top stack and to the atmosphere. This is a very general overview of the key parts of the furnace.

Tube rupture

The rupture of the furnace tube can happen for many different reasons. However, as you can imagine, the outcome is potentially very serious and can require our assistance. One positive thing to take away is that the fire is somewhat contained already. We already under normal circumstances have fire inside the furnace, albeit we have increased the fuel load tremendously, the fire is somewhat staying put in the beginning. Over time, the furnace skin can begin to crack, or melt giving us flames out and a potential for exposure impingement.

Where to focus attention

First order of business, is our apparatus placement. The stacks can rise well over three to four stories in the air, and the softening metal of the furnace can surely have one crashing down.  Use pressure as your friend, and let’s put a good buffer between us and the furnace. Next up, exposures. It’s drilled into our head in the municipal world as well as the industrial world that exposures will kill us, and rightfully so. With all of the other process lines, utilities, and vessels, an uncontrolled exposure can quickly become a big problem.

Isolating our fuel source is the only way we can gain the upper hand on an event of this nature. Protecting refinery responders and operations is key to blocking in the needed valves and bringing the situation to an end.

I wholeheartedly believe that an understanding of the equipment involved, is key to a safe, successful, response.

Stay prepared, keep training.

Check out our other industrial articles on floating roof tanks, and hydrogen sulfide.

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