From time to time, we like to share perspectives of members in our connected communities. We’d like to thank both Jack Rubinger and John Puskar, two experts in industrial safety, for providing today’s guest post:

The NFPA released a standard to prevent fires and explosions during cleaning and purging of flammable gas piping systems. NFPA 56 prohibits the use of flammable gas as a cleaning agent for interior pipes.

The standard is a response to the 2010 explosion at Kleen Energy Power and another at a food processing site that happened within less than a year of each other. The Kleen Energy Explosion killed six workers and injured nearly 50 others.

Crews working in the plant used a highly pressurized flammable gas (natural gas) to clean welding debris from pipes. The discharge was then released, without controls, into the atmosphere. Once in the atmosphere, the gas ignited and created a devastating explosion.

Pipe cleaning for natural gas and other flammable gas systems is critical for combustion turbine systems. It is increasingly being understood to impact fuel system component reliability.

The standard goes far beyond pipe cleaning. The real impact will be on everyday piping maintenance and new installations of flammable gas piping systems.

Recommendations by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) following their investigation, requested the NFPA write standards to address this specific pipe cleaning practice.

Although this standard was originally developed around industrial sites and power plants, it applies to many oil and gas well development piping processes and mid-stream processes.

NFPA 56 outlines a broad range of gas process activities, such as pipe cleaning, repair, replacement, and removal procedures.

In addition to the CSB’s urgent recommendation to eliminate the use of flammable gas for interior pipe cleaning, NFPA 56 expands on the CSB recommendations by including cleaning and purging of all flammable gas piping systems at any inlet pressure for electric-generating plants, industrial, commercial and institutional applications.

As for its potential impact on the chemical industry, a lot of education will need to happen, starting with purchasing the standard and communicating with your employees. For example, using a label on flammable gas piping, could notify workers that a line break permit was required by your company before the flange could be separated.

The chemical industry has many hydrogen related gas processes. A number of accidents have occurred because of hydrogen’s extreme range of flammability. For example, the range of flammability of natural gas in air is about 4% to15%. In the case of hydrogen, it’s 4% to 75% concentration in the air. In other words, almost any concentration of released hydrogen in the air can ignite.

As companies embrace this new standard, rewards will include increased safety, greater productivity, and decreased risk of liability regarding injury claims.


Jack Rubinger,, has 20 years of industrial copywriting experience. Graphic Products is the global leader in workplace labeling and signage. Email: [email protected].

John Puskar is President of Prescient Technical Services, LLC. Puskar authored “Fuels and Combustion Systems Safety:  What You Don’t Know Can Kill You.” Puskar served on the technical committee to develop NFPA 56. Email: [email protected] or visit