Ethane is a compound made up of hydrogen and carbon. According to the National Fire Protection Association, ethane is highly flammable and easily creates explosive mixtures when mixed with air. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, this gas should not be allowed to mix with air.
When it encounters active oxidizing agents, it explodes. Moreover, flames, sparks, and heat affect the stability of the compound. Ethane is soluble in ether, acetone, alcohol, chloroform, and other organic solvents. Nevertheless, the compound is insoluble in water (Henni, Tontiwachwuthikul and Chakma 64-67).
Ethane is a colorless gas at room temperature. The gas has a faint sweetish scent. The compound has a molecular mass of 30.06904 grams per mole. Its boiling point is – 88 degrees Celsius. The vapor density of ethane is 1.05 grams per cubic centimeter.
The freezing point for ethane is – 2110 degrees Fahrenheit and remains in gaseous form at standard room temperature and pressure. Ethane’s vapor pressure is at 37.95 atmospheres. The specific gravity for ethane (when that of water =1) is 1.0378 at 20 degrees Celsius (Henni, Tontiwachwuthikul, and Chakma 64-67).
Ethane is highly flammable and may lead to a flash fire if not handled with care. Hence, it calls for proper storage and transport mechanisms. Ethane is stored and transported in tightly closed containers to ensure that it does not encounter oxidizing agents. Also, the compound is kept away from direct sunlight. Storage rooms are supposed to be dry and cool at all times to minimize chances of auto-ignition (Mumma 1310). Ethane is shipped using tightly closed container tracks or ships.
Ethane is mainly used in chemical industries. The gas is used in the manufacture of ethane. Besides, the gas is used to manufacture acetic acid that is used as vinegar. Else, ethane is used as a refrigerant in refrigeration systems. In scientific studies, the compound is used in cryo-electron microscopy.
In Canada, ethane is used as raw material for the petrochemical industry. The industry uses ethane to manufacture ethylene, which is a crucial resource in the manufacture of plastics and other chemical products. Besides helping in the production of ethylene, ethane is also used as a solvent to facilitate in recovering oil from old oil producing fields (Mumma 1312-14).
Employees were working in an ethylene manufacturing plant when the fire broke out in the firm. To manufacture the ethylene, the workers cracked ethane, which was supplied through pipes.
Employees stuffed many brick chips into the guide sleeve making it hard for the pipes to release a thermal expansion. Eventually, the pressure developing cracks through which ethane gas leaked into the atmosphere overwhelmed the pipes. Since the gas can travel in the air and cause flash fire, it reached the combustion furnace leading to a fire outbreak in the premises.
The staff reported the incidence to the control room, which responded immediately and managed to extinguish the fire before it consumed the entire premises. When examining the cause of the fire outbreak, staff from the control room noticed a crack on the piping system that triggered the fire outbreak.
They sprayed steam at the crack to extinguish the fire. To avoid further damages, the employees ordered an immediate closure of the combustion furnace. The staff introduced nitrogen gas into the room to neutralize any traces of ethane, ethylene, and hydrogen gas that were not consumed by fire.
Henni, Amr, Paitoon Tontiwachwuthikul, and Amit Chakma. “Solubility study of methane and ethane in promising physical solvents for natural gas sweetening operations.” Journal of Chemical and Engineering 51.1 (2006): 64-67. Print.
Mumma, Michael. “Detection of Abundant Ethane and Methane, along with Carbon Monoxide and Water, in Comet C/1996 B2 Hyakutake: Evidence for Interstellar Origin”. Science 272.5266 (1996): 1310–1314. Print.