Watson Millican and Company - Consultants • Engineers • Experts
Pearson Watson Millican and Company - Consultants • Engineers • Experts

Incident Investigations

Refined Petroleum Products Pipeline Leak

Investigated the volume and origination of motor gasoline spilled from a ruptured products pipeline in Texas.  Utilized SCADA data to locate product batches, and determined leaked volume based on gravity drainage and siphoning effect.  Demonstrated that client’s product was not involved in spill.

Gas Plant Excess Liquids Incident Investigation

Investigated cause of gas plant shutdown due to excessive liquids received from an unprocessed gas stream delivered to the plant by a third party pipeline.  Investigation included review of the third party pipeline design and operation including pipeline pigging procedures, inlet separation facilities at gas plant and downstream units, and operator actions during event.  Prepared expert report on review findings and in response to expert reports prepared on behalf of pipeline company.

Refined Petroleum Products Terminal / Truck Rack Fire

On behalf of a petroleum product trucking company, investigated the root cause of a vapor cloud ignition and flash fire at a oil refinery truck rack.  Considered applicable NFPA, OSHA and EPA standards for metering and loading hazardous liquids. Prepared expert reports on cause & effect, business interruption, and property damage. .

Refinery LPG Fractionation Tower Collapse and Fire

Investigated and assessed actions and safety practices of the operators and contractors that led to LPG release, vapor cloud ignition, collapse of 125 foot tall LPG tower and fire at U.S. Gulf Coast refinery.

 Fire at Retail Gasoline Station

Investigated cause of flash fire at retail gasoline station during tanker truck unloading.  Reviewed owner and contractor operating and safety procedures and practices.  Reviewed equipment design.  Reconstructed incident from surveillance video, interviews and physical evidence.

Salt Water Disposal Tank Explosion

Investigated the cause and origin of a storage tank explosion at an oil and gas saltwater disposal facility in Colorado.  Conducted site investigation and facility/equipment inspections, evaluated system design and operation, and conducted witness interviews.  Determined cause of explosion and worked with company management to evaluate existing policies and procedures for potential areas of improvement.

Electrical Power Line Maintenance Fatality

Investigated cause of fatality during power line maintenance.  Analyzed the physical evidence, reviewed owner and contractor boom truck operation, line workers’ maintenance and safety procedures and practices, and developed probable accident scenarios.  Developed virtual reconstruction of the incident.

Petroleum Product Pipeline Explosion

Investigated the cause of a motor gasoline pipeline leak and subsequent explosion and fire in northwest Washington.  Witnessed excavation of damaged pipe by the National Transportation Safety Board and evaluated pipeline system design, maintenance, and operation.

Gas Plant Explosion and Fire

Conducted incident investigation at gas processing plant in North Dakota involving fire during tanker truck loading.  Truck driver claimed design and safety deficiencies at facility resulted in tank overflow and fire.  Prepared expert report responding to claims.  Case settled prior to trial.

Electrical Power Plant Steam Turbine Failure Analysis

Performed root cause failure analysis of 125 Megawatt (MW) power generating steam turbine after overhaul.  Evaluated vibration data, maintenance records, material failure analysis, and inspected site.  Determined failure caused by poor steam path cleanliness practices during maintenance activities.

Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) Pipeline Failure

Investigated the cause of a natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline failure and explosion.  Determined the leak was initiated by the failure of a downstream main line gate valve.  Reviewed the actions required to return the pipeline to service based on a Corrective Action Order and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.  Calculated a business interruption claim for lost NGL production from a gas processing facility served by the NGL pipeline.

Refinery Pipeline Overpressure and Failure

Investigated cause for the failure of a 6 inch diameter high pressure LPG pipeline which was isolated without pressure relief during freezing weather.  Upon warming temperatures, a rapid rise in internal pressure ruptured the pipe forming a very large vapor cloud which ignited resulting in multiple fatalities and wide spread damage including loss of 13 tanks.

Delayed Coking Unit Thermal Radiation Exposure

Investigated incident involving a claim of thermal radiation exposure as a result of large refinery unit fire.  Analysis of unit design drawings, damage reports, fire video footage, weather conditions, and published literature on large hydrocarbon fire heat exposure was required to support the defense in this litigation.

Industrial Fatality Litigation

Investigated cause of fatality at an alumina extraction facility.  Reviewed owner and contractor operating, maintenance and safety procedures and practices.  Virtually reconstructed incident.  Examined physical evidence.  Provided expert report and testimony.

Chemical Plant Fired Heater Explosion

Investigated the root cause for an explosion of a process heater.  The heater was destroyed resulting in several million dollars of property damage and business interruption leading to litigation.  Provided expert testimony.

Well Site Accident and Fatality Investigation

Investigated cause of fatality at a drilling rig during rig set up.  Inspected site, evaluated factual evidence and reviewed owner and contractor maintenance, construction and safety procedures and practices.

Gas Plant Incident and Repair

After equipment rupture and subsequent fire at 200 MMscf/d cryogenic gas processing plant in Oklahoma, assisted owner with preparation of property damage insurance claim and review of carrier’s loss estimate.  Evaluated costs, schedule, and reasonableness of component repair approach versus complete replacement with skid mounted gas plant.  Prepared reports, reviewed costs estimates and schedules, and participated in technical reviews with underwriters.

Refinery Vapor Cloud Formation and Fire

Investigated causes for a large release of light naphtha which subsequently formed a vapor cloud and ignited resulting in a large pool fire resulting in injuries and equipment damage.  Provided expert report and testimony.



Watson Millican & Company consultants have investigated industrial accidents involving fires, explosions, falls, equipment collapse, and chemical exposure, leading to injuries, fatalities, and tens of millions of dollars in property damage and business interruption losses.

Our investigations have determined root cause through rigorous examination and forensic analysis of physical evidence, engineering design, video and photographs, operating data review and interviews following standard industry investigation protocols.

Incidents at refineries, gas processing plants, chemical plants, storage terminals, retail gasoline stations, power generation and distribution facilities, pipelines, drilling sites, and other manufacturing facilities and construction sites have been investigated.

Our consultants have provided expert reports and testimony in arbitration, state and federal courts, and in international legal venues. Services have been provided to owner/operators, contractors and service companies along with legal and insurance clients.