Engineering Ethics: The East Ohio Gas Company Explosion (WEBINAR)

Course Number: ET-2020W
Credit: 2 PDH
Subject Matter Expert: Mary McElroy, P.E.
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In Engineering Ethics: The East Ohio Gas Company Explosion, you'll learn ...

  • The project history of the liquefied natural gas storage facility located on Cleveland’s east side
  • Factors that resulted in the explosion of a liquefied natural gas storage tank and the ensuing fire
  • Warning signs that were overlooked by both the East Ohio Gas Company and the tank fabricator
  • Impacts of the tragedy on the community
  • Lessons learned from the disaster


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Considered by many to be one of the top ten worst engineering disasters, the gas leak, tank explosion and resulting fire from one of the liquefied natural gas storage tanks in the East Ohio Gas Company’s 10-acre facility killed 130 people and destroyed at least one square mile of homes, businesses and property on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. The extent of damage was significantly increased because of gas leakage into the local sewer system. As the gas mixture flowed and mixed with air and sewer gas, the mix ignited. In the ensuing explosion, manhole covers launched skyward as jets of fire erupted from depths of the sewer lines. One manhole cover was found several miles east.

This disaster, which occurred at approximately 2:30 pm on Friday, October 20th, 1944, could have been avoided. Because of the high demand for energy from the community, the East Ohio Gas Company had opted to construct a natural gas liquefication-regasification facility. Unfortunately, that facility was located adjacent to a congested residential neighborhood comprised mainly of immigrants of Slovenian origin. Deemed the #2 Works, the plant originally consisted of three spherical above ground storage liquefied natural gas storage tanks. Those tanks were completed in January, 1941, at the beginning of the United State’s involvement in World War II. Because of the commercial success of the plant, a fourth storage tank was proposed for construction. The tank designer and fabricator, Pittsburgh-Des Moines Company, recommended a larger capacity cylindrically shaped tank. Due to wartime restrictions on raw materials and steel alloys, this tank would cost less to fabricate and insulate with an alternate type of insulation. Based on these recommendations, the East Ohio Gas Company contracted for the fabrication and construction of a cylindrical tank for LNG Storage Tank #4. The design modifications along with other factors significantly contributed to the ensuing tragedy.

Special Note: Course ET-2020W and course ET-2024 are alternate presentations of the same course material. Therefore, only one version, either the course or webinar, can be taken during a renewal cycle. If you have any questions regarding course eligibility, please contact our Customer Service Team.


Specific Knowledge or Skill Obtained

This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:

  • Why a potentially dangerous facility was located adjacent to a heavily populated area
  • How profitability led to the modifications in the design of Storage Tank #4 (increase in size and modification of tank configuration).
  • How wartime economies led to the modifications in the materials utilized in the construction of Storage Tank #4.
  • Warning signs that were overlooked or ignored by employees of the East Ohio Gas Company and the tank fabricator, Pittsburgh-Des Moines Company.
  • Impacts of the tragedy on the local community and resultant financial settlements.
  • Problems with the tank revealed during a court case.
  • Lessons learned from the disaster and long-term impacts on the engineering community.
  • Failure to comply with the NSPE’s #1 Canon which ethically requires engineers to place public safety and welfare above the wants of the individual.
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Utah (P.E.) Virginia (P.E.) West Virginia (P.E.)
Wisconsin (P.E. Live Course) Wyoming (P.E.)

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