Air Dispersion Modeling of Chemical Plant Fire


A chemical plant reported a fire and release of ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride and hydrogen chloride to the atmosphere from its cracking unit. A class-action suit resulted and a settlement was reached with damages. The case was dependent on when the chemical cloud reached the various class members and the chemical concentrations in the cloud at that time. A Water & Air scientist was selected by both sides to perform air dispersion modeling to predict the exposure of the population to the chemicals.

Task Summary

  • Determined the release rates for hydrogen chloride.
  • Obtained and analyzed local meteorological conditions.
  • Selected an appropriate atmospheric dispersion model and performed the modeling.
  • Prepared exhibits for the legal proceedings.


Clients fulfilled the settlement guided by the results of that modeling. This project assessed the impact of the plant failure on local air quality using emission inventory, air modeling and meteorological data to assess the impact of the incident upon local air quality. This project exemplifies Water & Air’s capabilities to provide technically and legally defensible data on behalf of our clients.

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