Last Updated S012019


Unit Code MSR602
Unit Duration 1 Term (online) or 1 Semester (on-campus)

Master of Engineering (Safety, Risk and Reliability)

Duration 2 years   

Year Level Two
Unit Creator / Reviewer Raj Sreenevasan
Core/Elective: Core
Pre/Co-requisites None


Credit Points


Masters total course credit points = 48

(12 credits (Thesis) + 3 credits x 12 (units))

Mode of Delivery

Online or on-campus.

Combination of modes: Online synchronous lectures; asynchronous discussion groups, videos, remote and cloud-based labs (simulations); web and video conferencing tutorials. High emphasis on personal and group self-study.  

Unit Workload

Total student workload including “contact hours” = 10 hours per week:

Lecture – 1 hour

Tutorial Lecture - 1 hour

Practical / Lab - 1 hour (if applicable)

Personal Study recommended - 7 hours

Unit Description and General Aims

This unit aims to provide students with practical knowledge about hydrocarbon fires / explosions, dust explosions and how to mitigate the risks associated with these events. In Australia under the safety case / Major Hazard Facilities (MHF) regulation, the company responsible for managing the risks of the plant or facility is required to assess the risks and demonstrate that these risks are understood and have been reduced to ‘as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP)’. Codes and standards are only used once it can be demonstrated that they are appropriate. For all MHF a safety case / safety report is required.

These aspects are addressed in this unit.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students are expected to be able to:

1. Understand and appreciate fire hazards from hydrocarbons and combustible dusts

2. Apply both prevention and mitigation techniques in design and operations

3. Reduce the probability of fires and explosions happening at their plant / work by identifying Safety Critical Elements (SCE) used in their plant / workplace and assessing their effectiveness in managing the fire or explosion risks

4. Improve the layout and siting of process plant equipment areas to minimize the likelihood and consequences of a fire or explosion and the dangers to the workforce and general public

5. Engage with the community / local councils in land use planning initiatives

Student assessment

Assessment Type

(e.g. Assignment - 2000 word essay (specify topic) Examination (specify length and format))

When assessed

(eg Week 5)

Weighting (% of total unit marks) Learning Outcomes Assessed

Assessment 1

Type: Quiz

Word length: n/a

Topic: Fundamental concepts of fires and explosions and prevention techniques.  

Week 4 20% 1, 2

Assessment 2 - mid-semester test

Type: Report (Midterm Project)

[This will include a progress report; literature review, hypothesis, and methodology / conclusions]

Word length: 2000

Topic example: Report on Safety Critical Elements (SCE) or Management of Change (MoC).   

Week 8 25% 3, 4

Assessment 3

Type: Report (Final Project)

[If a continuation of the midterm, this should complete the report by adding sections on: methodology, implementation / evaluation, verification / validation, conclusion / challenges and recommendations / future work. If this is a new report, all headings from the midterm and the final reports must be included.]

Word length: 4000

Topic example: Submit a project that addresses National Land use planning issues   

Week 12 35% 5

Practical Participation

Design and planning of a report      

Continuous 15% 3

Class Participation


Continuous 5% 1-5


Prescribed and Recommended readings

Required Textbook

D. P. Nolan, Handbook of Fire and Explosion Protection Engineering Principles, 2nd Edition, Elsevier, 2011

Reference Materials

Number of peer-reviewed journals and websites (advised during lectures). Some examples are listed below.

  •  N. Cheremisinoff, Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Handbook – A Guide to Good Industry Practices, Wiley, 2014
  •  A review of HSE's risk analysis and protection based analysis approaches for land use planning
  •  Land use planning for pipelines, CSA Standard
  •  S. Jung, Facility siting and layout optimization based on Process Safety, PhD thesis
  •  Explosion at Concept Sciences, CSB Report, 2002
  •  Guidelines for Facility Siting and Layout, CCPS, 2003
  •  Guidelines for Evaluating Process Plant Buildings for External Explosions, Fires and Toxic Releases, 2nd Edition, CCPS,  2012
  •  Management of Hazards Associated with the Location of Process Plant Portable Buildings, API 753, 2007
  •  Management of Hazards Associated with the Location of Process Plant Permanent Buildings, API 752, 2009
  •  Guidelines for Vapor Cloud Explosion, Pressure Vessel Burst, BLEVE and Flash fire hazards, 2nd Edition, CCPS, 2010
  •  Safe design and operation of Process Vents and Emission Control Systems, CCPS, 2006
  •  Guidelines for Safe Handling of Powders and Bulk Solids, CCPS, 2004
  •  Dow's Fire & Explosion Index Hazard Classification Guide, 7th Edition, 1994
  •  Guidelines for Safe Storage and Handling of Reactive Materials, CCPS, 1995
  •  US EPA Risk Management Planning, Section 112 regulations and application guidelines
  •  IDC /EIT notes and Reference texts as advised.
  •  Other material advised during the lectures

Unit Content

One topic is delivered per contact week, with the exception of part-time 24-week units, where one topic is delivered every two weeks.


Topic 1 and 2

Unplanned Hydrocarbon Releases and Ignition

1. Types of unplanned releases – Gas, spray (liquid to gas transition), liquid, fluid properties and their effects on release (composition, temperature, pressure, volume etc.)

2. Physical consequence modelling – Gas plumes, pool accumulation, upper and lower explosive limits, toxicity

3. Release mechanisms – Flange leak, rotating equipment seals, erosion / corrosion, dropped objects, operator interventions, PTW (permit-to-work) isolations, leak frequencies used in Quantitative Risk Assessment

4. Prevention measures to reduce the likelihood of a release – Safety-in-Design, minimise leak potential, QA / QC during fabrication and construction, verification and inspection during commissioning / start-up, Management of Change (MoC) in operations, brownfield modifications

5. Mitigation measures to reduce the consequence of a release – ventilation (equipment layout and spacing), isolatable sections of the plant, bunding and hazardous material drainage, pipe connection, and fugitive emission management

6. Flammability of gas and liquid hydrocarbons – Combustion phenomena

7. Types of ignition and ignition sources – Auto ignition, static electricity, electrical equipment, hot work (welding / cutting), internal combustion engine exhaust, hot process piping

8. Prevention measures to reduce the likelihood of ignition – Gas detection, hazardous area classification, Control of portable hand tools, static electricity management, equipment layout to enhance ventilation

Topic 3 and 4

Fires and Explosion

1. Immediate ignition (jet / spray / pool) – Calculation of thermal radiations, effects of surroundings, heat / smoke / toxicity, escape impairment, escalation potential

2. Delayed ignition – Vapour Cloud Explosion (VCE) and fire, explosion (deflagration / detonation)

3. Escalation potential of Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion (BLEVE)

4. Effects of fire and explosions on personnel and structures – Thermal loading, Explosion overpressure criteria

5. Prevention measures to reduce consequences of a fire or explosion – Equipment layout, isolation, venting / blowdown, bunding and drainage, active and passive fire detection and protection, blast walls, egress arrangements / emergency exits, location and minimisation of occupied areas

6. Case study – Henderson Nevada solid rocket fuel for space shuttle explosion

7. Process controls and emergency shutdown systems

8. Fire Water systems – Design and Planning

Topic 5 and 6

Safety Critical Elements (SCE)

1. Identification of the systems used in the process facility to detect, prevent, control and mitigate the effects of a release / fire / explosion event

2. Development of the SCE performance standards based on the assessment of potential fire and explosion consequences

3. Activities required in the design, fabrication, transport, preservation, construction, commissioning, start-up and operations to ensure that the performance standards of the SCE are maintained

4. Requirements for managing SCE deviations in design, construction and operations using Management of Change (MOC) procedures

5. Role and function of Technical Authority (TA) in maintaining the SCE framework

Topic 7

Combustible Dust Fires and Explosions

1. Fire pentagon

2. Combustible dusts – Metrics, sizes and shape, distribution

3. Why some dusts are combustible and others are not

4. Basics of dust explosions and factors influencing dust explosibility

5. Common causes of dust explosions and risk mitigation

6. Coal mining operation and safety

7. Preventing fires and explosions involving metals

Topic 8

Dust Explosion Prevention Techniques

1. Explosion prevention in grain dust elevators

2. Coal dust suppression, confinement and re-suspension

3. Ventilation and dust collection systems

4. Phlegmatization, diluent dusts and the use of inert gases

5. Control of ignition sources

6. Hazardous area classification

Topic 9 and 10

Facility Siting and Land Use Planning

1. Plant siting

2. Latest incidents that define regulatory changes related to facility siting

3. Public safety and land use

4. Roles and responsibilities of local authorities, facility developers and operators (case study – Illinois crystal explosion, OR West Fertilisers (2013) explosion)

5. Latest developments in land use planning regulations

6. Regulator’s role in providing land use planning advice


Topic 11 and 12

Project and Unit Review

In the final weeks students will have an opportunity to review the contents covered so far. Opportunity will be provided for a review of student work and to clarify any outstanding issues. Instructors/facilitators may choose to cover a specialized topic if applicable to that cohort.

Project – due at end of term


Software/Hardware Used


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