When an oil tank collapses or ruptures any contained hazardous substance flows outwards and can damage nearby plant or people as well as lead to pollution of the local environment. In recent years, this and similar subjects have given rise to a new kind of engineering—spill prevention and control. However, theoretical background, backed by experiment, is lacking to work out reliable regulations. An intermediate-asymptotic analysis for late-stage spreading is carried out in this paper. This analysis reveals several characteristic features of the spill wave such as transition period and linear relationships between spreading area and time, and wave front velocity and the inverse of zone radius. Most of the latter results have been verified by model experiment. This paper also discusses the discrepancies between observations and the theory suggested in a recent UK Health and Safety Executive report. Finally, the present paper puts forward proper modeling rules for future work.

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