The failure of a high-pressure natural gas pipeline can lead to various outcomes, some of which can pose a significant threat to people and property in the immediate vicinity of the failure location. The dominant hazard is thermal radiation from a sustained jet or trench fire. An estimate of the ground area affected by a credible worst-case failure event can be obtained from a model that characterizes the heat intensity associated with rupture failure of the pipe where the escaping gas is assumed to feed a sustained trench fire that ignites very soon after line failure. An equation has been developed that relates the diameter and operating pressure of a pipeline to the size of the area likely to experience high consequences in the event of an ignited rupture failure. The model upon which the hazard area equation is based consists of three parts: 1) a fire model that relates the rate of gas release to the heat intensity of the fire as a function of distance from the fire source; 2) an effective release rate model that provides a representative steady-state approximation to the actual transient release rate; and 3) a heat intensity threshold that establishes the sustained heat intensity level above which the effects on people and property are consistent with the adopted definition of a so-called High Consequence Area. The validity of the proposed model is established by a comparison between the predicted extent of the damage area and the actual extent of damage for significant gas pipeline failure incidents reported in the public domain.

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