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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bomb? What bomb?


UPDATES:

Manila Times: Stinky Explosion

Phil. Daily Inquirer: Metro Manila cop chief: ‘Bomb theory hard to sustain’ and Ayala: 'Nothing extraordinary' about G2 basement conditions

GMANews.TV: Ayala Land says PNP theory of methane gas blast unlikely

PDI Editorial: Don’t rush

GMA Photo Gallery: Great Pics Here

(NOTE: Please click on the "Comments" link below to view more and updated details from exchanges with commenters. Some are too long to rewrite here. Thanks - Tongue



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Original Post


Four days after. Nothing conclusive still. No suspects, no arrests. Not even the cause of explosion. They're floating a new spin: Diesel and/or methane probably did it. Aaah...

Diesel or bunker will not ignite, much more explode, without heat and/or high pressure. That is why you don't need to use spark plugs in diesel engines. Diesel engines instead use heaters that raise the air temperature in the combustion chamber. As the injector nozzle sprays atomized fuel into the chamber, the approaching piston increases the pressure in the fast-diminishing free space inside the cylinder. The increasing pressure produces more heat to vaporize the droplets of diesel to mix with the heated air and just as the piston reaches Top Dead Center in the compression stroke, rapid combustion (explosion) takes place in the chamber, the tremendous force pushes the piston down again (power stroke) to rotate the crankshaft one cycle. This are the second and third strokes of your typical four-stroke diesel engine. The other two are the intake and exhaust strokes.

Compression in the manner I described here is very difficult to recreate accidentally. It is a slow process requiring an almost perfectly sealed environment (like the engine's cylinder). That is also why diesel engines are slower than gasoline-fed ones. Compression bears a heavier load on the power components (pistons, rings, rods).

If the diesel tank, which by the way is almost always filled especially in applications such as malls and other establishments frequented by many people, did cause the huge explosion, it should have been blown beyond recognition. Generators used for critical applications such as Glorietta's are typically run with and without load weekly both automatically then manually for about fifteen minutes just to make sure the Genset (engine + alternator/dynamo w/ Auto-start/Auto-shutdown circuits) and the electrical controls (Automatic Transfer Switch, Paralleling Switchgear, etc.) will work in the event a real power interruption (brownout) does occur. It also ensures that the batteries are recharged regularly. Without batteries, generators are worthless. This regular process, called Plant Exercise, makes it imperative that the fuel tank/s are always filled to its upper limits. Meaning very little space for compression and combustion in the tank's upper chamber.

What did the pictures show? A fuel tank standing perfectly by itself, except for a small hole and with a portion of the top cover appearing to me as intentionally pried open. The tank did not appear to have "bloated" or puffed out as it should be if it had exploded from inside. The small hole? It looks to me like it was there all the time. Maybe a vent punched out by maintenance for pressure release. This is necessary especially if the fuel delivery pipes to the engine operate by gravity (think pressurized water tanks vs. gravity tanks).

Or it could have been used as inspection hole to check fuel level either visually or by using a dipstick. Some tanks usually have level indicators using a transparent plastic tubing stretched vertically outside with both ends connected to metal tubes welded at the top and bottom of the tank's side. The level outside is the same inside since liquids seek their own level. But since this type of indication is neither rigid nor durable, at some time maintenance people disable this and use the more reliable dipstick method.

Again, the metal plate that this hole was created in did not look dented in nor puffed out that would have indicated any explosion either coming directly from the top or from the inside, respectively.

I now also remember talking to military officers from the Electronics group called AFPCES some years back who wanted me to design and build diesel tanks thick enough to repel bullets. I was told the NPAs use AFPCES' tanks for target practice (including soldiers climbing their antenna masts) but when I asked how many have died in the explosions, I was told the bullets just punctured the tanks and at worst, it would deprive them of a week's supply of diesel but no explosions. Either I was watching too many cowboy movies at the time or totally ignorant to have asked that.

I need not discuss it if there was fire in the aftermath or if soot or black smoke or blue flame was present because judging from the condition of the tank alone and my discussions regarding diesel combustion, I'm amazed some dorks posing as investigators are still looking at the diesel tank angle.

Those who still are inclined to believe the spin that the blast was caused by diesel or bunker are, well, bonkers!

Now what about the sewage tank angle?

From what little I know about sewage treatment plants (I designed and installed electrical controls including semi-automation modules for, what do you know? A high-rise 5-star Hotel and a mall complex!), the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA)- if your establishment spills a huge volume of effluent towards the Laguna Lake or any of its tributary rivers, or the DENR - if your sewers lead to floodways or esteros flowing to any of the seas in Luzon, sewage treatment plants (STPs) ARE required by either gov't offices before Environmental and Sanitation Permits are issued, thus construction permits are withheld in their absence. A mall the size of Glorietta, or the whole Makati Commercial Complex or Ayala Center as it is now called, IS required to operate a Sewage Treatment Plant.

Two possibilities, therefore. Either Glorietta has its own or it pumps its sewage into a central STP operated by Ayala Center. If not, then either LLDA or DENR did not do its job here. Or were bribed. In the late nineties, 2 or 3 malls/condos in the Ortigas-Shaw corridor were issued Cease and Desist Orders by LLDA because they were found pumping sewage straight to the city lines. They were heavily fined and closed temporarily until they constructed their own STPs. At least, that's what the papers said.

What does an STP do?

To simplify, it first screens solids out of the influent waste from the mall, breaks down into "digestible" size large sediments like a giant blender with many agitator blades at the bottom of the tank; then pumps all of it into an aeration tank where air produced by big fan blowers is pumped from under the sludge, making aerobic bacteria digest organic waste. The next tanks would separate liquid from the remaining sludge. Liquid undergoes chlorination before the effluent is released to the city sewers while the remaining sludge repeats the process. This is where methane gas is produced. In large quantities, it may be dangerous as 14% methane mixed with oxygen explodes when ignited. Some large STPs use the gas to heat and dissolve the sludge but in this size (Glorietta's) there is not enough methane produced to install a collector-burner stage. Abroad, it is common in city-size STPs but of the 3 private-owned medium-sized STPs I've worked on in the past, I have not seen one with a methane collector-burner stage, much less one that exploded.

It would be stupid likewise that Glorietta, or Ayala for that matter, would maintain a large septic vault holding raw sewage under one of its public buildings. They employ the finest architectural firms in the world to design their projects, any firm of that caliber would definitely not skip the basic requirements in their designs. So will sanitation and safety engineers, too. Even our houses' pozo negros have vent pipes with which to "breathe" out the gas. Further, Methane does not stay stable for long. It breaks down into Hydrogen Sulfide which is a very toxic gas. We haven't heard anyone die of gas poisoning in Glorietta prior to the incident, have we? Instead, what many witnesses and victims smelled was a gunpowder-like odor. Or in one victim's words, "amoy-paputok", which is characteristic of a C4 blast. A explosion caused by methane could be preceded or followed by flames and we haven't heard of any such thing in Glorietta. Let's take a look at the simplified chemical equation of burning methane in ordinary air:

CH4 + 2(O2 + 3.76N2) = 2H2O + CO2 + 2(3.76N2 + energy

where energy may be all or combination of Sound/Heat/Light/Shockwave

It is standard that explosion relief vents are constructed in STPs, more so one under a Generator room. The Generator Room itself, depending on the size and quantity of gensets, may have several exhaust fans to evacuate the hot air around the engines, the cooling system's radiators (or water pipes to the external cooling towers for large installations), and the exhaust mufflers. I will not accept any excuse that the generator room is a totally contained/enclosed one, meaning a sealed vault where the operators can die from fumes inhalation either from the fuel or the engine exhaust. It is therefore safe to conclude that the generator room was well ventilated. Blast waves and shock waves cannot be produced like that as in Glorietta (blasting through the flooring up to the 4th floor) if it was not a sealed container.

Now, a room that has many vents and openings, doors, windows, vents, etc. should have allowed the smell at least of the foul-odored sewage, or methane gas, or hydrogen sulfide (when methane breaks down) and it would have been detected earlier by Ayala personnel or reported by shoppers. Any reports? Nothing I'm sure.

That being the case, and all the foregoing arguments here from my raw experience and stock knowledge, all debunks either the methane or diesel theory or the combination of both.

Here's one link emailed to me, it used 9,000 liters of methane gas (about to fill up a tanker truck) and totally enclosed. Watching the resulting blast, you can estimate that it wont even be sufficient to rip a hole that large through the thick concrete floor slab and even send shock waves up to the building's ceilings. I doubt there was even that amount ( a tanker truck) of methane concentrated in the Glorietta sewage.

DILG's Marius Corpus rattling out that the mixture of of methane and diesel could have caused it, is of course, another attempt at cover-up.

These liars never stop, don't they. I bet the next day it will be spontaneous combustion!

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35 Comments:

At 1:33 PM, October 23, 2007, Blogger DJB Rizalist said...

tongues wrath, I am fairly sure neither you nor I have inspected the basement personally. What we have to go on are descriptions of what is down there as well as some pretty sketchy video. You are obviously technically well versed, but if any of the conditions you mention are different from what you say, your conclusion could certainly be wrong. Let me mention just a few.

(1) The "small hole" is described by one of the investigators as a 5 to 6 inch gash along the top seam weld of the diesel storage tank which is said to be capable of containing 4,000 liters max. I saw a video of it this morning and from the "opening leaf" like appearance of that gash, I would conclude there was pressure build up from inside the tank. Moreover, the investigator mentioned two more openings on the tank which were not shown in the video, but he seemed to indicate they were similar type ruptures.

(2) Surely you cannot assume it is always FULL as that would hardly be the economic way of operating such a tank. Even assuming that they never let it get below say one fourth full, there is a very good chance that it is often half empty. I might agree with you if we could assume that the tank is always full, but that is not a reasonable assumption. In the aircraft engine business where I once worked, several explosions associated with nearly empty fuel tanks and malfunctioning wiring have brought down 747s, like a New York to Paris flight some years back.

It is not right for the UP professors to use the term "impossible" with respect to this diesel tank. We do know the sequence of events down there.

(3) The methane concentration could easily have been explosive or a small fire, perhaps intermittent was started in a methane enriched atmosphere within the confined space, which would easily provide the 200 degree Celsius temperature needed to cook the diesel in the tank, which would easily account for the pressure buildup needed. Once rupture occured, the fuel-air mixture would be explosive..

the reports of TWO explosions being heard would be consistent with this scenario. First heating of the dieself until internal pressure reached rupture levels for the tank,(first boom) a sudden injection of heated diesel gas fumes into a burning methane oven and the bigger boom.

Now as I said, neither you nor I have inspected the place. But just as much as your scenario, if true might lead to a conclusion that no explosion occurred there, you cannot exclude my scenario either.

In any case, there are a myriad of examples in which hundred or more people have died in purely methane gas explosions around the world (ten or twelve times a year!) in which even whole building structures have been totally demolished.

 
At 1:40 PM, October 23, 2007, Blogger DJB Rizalist said...

correction: "We do not know the exact sequence of events down there." is what I meant somewhere in the comment previous.

But even starting from more or less the same known ingredients, just as much as we can describe why there was no explosion, we can also describe equally reasonable scenarios leading to an explosion.

Given that there was an explosion, the only way to consider the latter scenarios unreasonable would be to come up with a different set of facts, like bullet holes or bomb components that would lead to a better explanation.

From what I know, the deflagration theory i posted still explains most of the known characteristics of the events best in my own mind. but of course I am open to better explanations as I cannot pretend to know all the conditions.

 
At 1:47 PM, October 23, 2007, Blogger DJB Rizalist said...

The condition of the tank is definitely crucial to a diesel-methane theory. But I think even that is not necessary. a pure methane gas explosion scenario is not far fetched given the historical examples all over the web. perhaps we shall have a nice technical report available very soon and can discuss that with more definite observations.

 
At 3:39 PM, October 23, 2007, Blogger MLQ3 said...

hi, tongue. would you be interested in guesting on my show next tuesday, with djb, to discuss how scientists and people with technical experience would go about evaluating the cause of the explosion?

please let me know. if you'd rather remain anonymous, would it be ok to discuss the points you raised here in your blog?

please email me.

 
At 4:56 PM, October 23, 2007, Anonymous stuart-santiago said...

good job, tongue and djb! verrry interesting. sana this is one investigation we all get to see to a credible conclusion.

meanwhile, whether a gas explosion or a terrorist-kuno bomb, deadly siya,
possibly as deadly as the payola and zte scandals hounding gloria. the coincidence is meaningful too.

 
At 10:03 PM, October 23, 2007, Blogger mschumey07 said...

Tongue,

Early versions of the M113s used petrol. During the its early use in the Vietnam war, these APCs were called rolling coffins as an RPG hit means the death of the entire crew. They immediately converted the engines to diesel and it quickly solve the problem.

Diesel will not ignite even when exposed to an open flame. Petrol and aviation gas are highly volatile fuels. These could explode in the right environment. Vehicles left in the open should be exploding left and right. Methane on the other hand needs the right pressure and temperature to reach explosive state. The amount has to be really big to create such a devastating blast.

 
At 10:31 PM, October 23, 2007, Anonymous chi said...

Tongue, Dean and Schumey,

Very enlightening comments you have there.

 
At 12:05 AM, October 24, 2007, Blogger AdB said...

Oh la la... this is getting more and more complicated for a simple sailor like me.

Tongue, Djb, I cut and pasted your posts, explanations, etc. along with some press clippings and sent them to a British submariner (used to diesel, etc) in the hope he can help me personally understand things.

We are a country where major scandals are rarely, if ever resolved. Wouldn't it be good if our experts at home could put a closure to at least ONE accident/scandal if they can?

 
At 2:58 AM, October 24, 2007, Anonymous Gasulman said...

It’s another whitewash. We don’t expect much from Gloria’s PNP investigators. These people are fooling themselves. They are just speculating about septic tank methane gas explosion. Their explanation defies logic and science. The police investigators are trying to water down the significance of the RDX ingredients of C-4 explosives found at the bombsite.

 
At 7:44 AM, October 24, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

DJB,
Thanks for taking time out to read my latest post and react to it.

I speak out of my experience in relation to construction and electrical standards, meaning, textbook definitions of what should be and what should not be and how the construction industry actually implement the building, fire, and electrical codes.

RE #1: What I saw in the news was a huge cubical metal tank with the top overlapping cover sheets appearing to have been pried partly open, with fasteners that looked like rivets still attached to the topmost sheet at the point of overlap. To the left, at about the center of the left panel was a crudely cutout circular hole. The tank sides appeared to be welded at the seams. The cover didn't look dented nor bloated.

#2: Mission-critical emergency equipment, in this case, standby generators, at the minimum should have continuous operation for typically EIGHT HOURS. I mentioned in my main post the 7-day Plant Exerciser module that comes standard with many in-engine starting circuits. In most cases, however, it is redundantly installed inside the Automatic Transfer Switch as many building owners prefer to operate the generator remotely to avoid the high-decibel noise during cranking, the fumes, and the heat. This Exerciser works every seven days at a scheduled time. I would say for Glorietta, it could be on Mondays, hours before the mall opens. The generator is run for 15 miniutes maually and automatically to simulate all the functions: engine start, breaker transfer, breaker retransfer, cool down, and engine shutdown. This charges the batteries, too. Tank fuel consumed is thereafter replenished. That is what maintenance people are paid for. Building management (usually subcontracted) include the tanks in their regular inspection routine, so is the fuel inventory. I guess unless operators want to be fired, they would leave the tanks half-empty.

Of course it's different in the aircraft industry. Planes are expected to have the sufficient amount of fuel at pre-flight inspection. Generators do not always have a predetermined schedule of operation since not all power outages are announced.

I don't know in what context "impossible" was used by the UP professors.

#3: If methane was indeed present at its volatile level (5-15% mixture with air), whatever flame that ignited it would have engulfed all the gas in a matter of seconds, the heat it generated fizzling out roughly as fast as it had burned. The heat should be sustained for a length of time before it can vaporize the diesel inside a "sealed" tank/s which I doubt very much. Diesel tanks typically work by gravity, sealing them could dangerously cause air compression in the void. That's why I think the hole was intentionally put there - for pressure relief and maybe as inspection and dipstick port, too.

Btw, Dean, are you sure the tank capacity is 4000 ltrs? If that is so, it could have been supplying a second or third generator. I have not heard anyone report how many there actually are. And what sizes. I guess Manolo can ask Ayala that should Ayala oblige to a forum/presscon.

My experience is that there could be 2 or three Caterpillar engines, each coupled to an Onan 2000KW Alternator. That configuration is common to many of Ayala's recently-built buildings.

Yes, I agree it is difficult to make a sensible assessment when all we have are trickles of details. I have yet to hear Ayala make a full accounting of the equipment, accessories and the processes they now seem to be hiding from the public.

But these exchanges are never fruitless. At the very least, we help others make their own sound judgements and in determining which of the official statements or findings is totally bullshit.

I have not tried to google through the many available info on the web. Save for scholarly pursuits, even news, explained by a non-techie newswriter can sometimes be misleading if not totally false. For now, I am comfortable with whatever limited stock knowledge I have.

I have also known about subsonic deflagration in the past, owing to an industrial accident that involved a similar nature. Suffice it to say, many of similar incidents happened in the West where gas is piped-in for district heating and cooking.

We also prepared papers that would convert airconditioning systems from compressor + refrigerant to the now-abundant natural gas + water that would have reduced electricity consumption to an equivalent of a hairdryer. But you know how people frown on these "fantastic" technologies here. Some friends of mine are pushing it for the new projects in Taguig, who say piped-in natural gas in buildings is being seriously considered. Always, the stumbling block is the project owners' concern about, well, gas leaks!

Huge methane explosions in mining sites usually happen in coal mines. Blasting underground methane reservoirs for mining coal is often the culprit in mass deaths.

Locally, I cannot recall any major methane explosion.

I will definitely look at that report they're coming out with. I can tell Ayala will contradict the findings should the investigators insist on something that would put Ayala in a bad light, that could mean class-action suits or void insurance claims worth hundreds of millions!

 
At 8:45 AM, October 24, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

stuart-santiago,
Credible conclusion? I don't think so. I don't trust these guys to make honest findings, remember Jose Pidal's specimen signatures?

(Welcome to the blog!)

*********

mschumey70,
Thanks for that info.

*********

Chi,

Yeah, everyday's a learning experience. That's why I'm addicted to the web, Heheh!

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AdB,
Sige nga, Anna. Please!

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gasulman,
Yesss! RDX dissipated as the shit flowed in. They will be needing trucks of RDX-based deodorants to remove that stench the first announcement made.

This government always reverts back to its original form: crap!

(Welcome to the blog!)

 
At 10:24 AM, October 24, 2007, Blogger cocoy said...

Tongue;
I agree completely with your mechanical theory, you’re so excellent on your logical principle reasoning. I also have some tremendous mechanical background and further schooling. The principle of 4 cycle stroke engine that is commonly used in trucks and automobiles, the cycle are intake, compression, power and exhaust stroke to complete 1 revolution of the crankshaft.

Let’s go on the diesel engine subject and how it works, On Compression stroke, rely solely on heat and pressure created inside the cylinder for process of ignition. The compression that occurs is usually more than three times higher than a gasoline engine. Diesel engines will take in air only, and shortly before peak compression, a small quantity of diesel fuel is sprayed into the cylinder via a fuel injector that allows the fuel to instantly ignite to higher pressures and heat, it trust the piston downward and that’s the power stroke, when the piston cycle upward that’s the exhaust stroke it discharged the burn fuel via the opening of the exhaust valve at it close when the piston reach the TDC. Thus, become smoke in the exhaust pipe. Can, anyone explain, why there was no smoke at Glorietta after the explosion? It seems that the investigators on the scene doesn’t come up with logical reasoning parallel to the Guru comparison of my friend Tongue.

 
At 5:34 PM, October 24, 2007, Anonymous omegaman said...

hi everyone very interesting topic here. maybe this is a very good material for the "Myth Busters". Pampasaya lang. That would be an on-your-face moment for the investigators, but i reckon that would take too long. But that would be fun.

I personally do not trust the investigators and bomb experts. Maybe the assistance of international bomb experts is in order though they have to work with a tainted area already.

sorry i cannot contribute to the technical discussions as that is not my field. But i feel that the current story is far from the truth.

Their eagerness of the authorities to divulge initial findings and the resulting different angles just demolishes their credibility even more.

But if it were a bomb, nobody's claiming responsibility yet and to what end was that good to them...except diversionary tactics.

But what was appalling was our reaction to it. Look at what we have become...numb. Business as usual? like we have bombings everytime? Actually, we have.

 
At 8:55 PM, October 24, 2007, Blogger mschumey07 said...

I never knew that tanks have to be cylindrical. We used to have have a gasoline station and the tanks were not cylindrical. Perhaps its all about the exhausts systems but I don't think the Ayalas would shortcut systems.

Methane to my knowledge needs an igniter to burn. Mere atmospheric conditions will not result to a burn. Unless there is a presence of a spark, then methane will not react.

There are two types of generators, one of which creates sparks and that could be the igniter. Unless Ayala used the cheaper which can create a spark, then the methane theory is on the money.

Unless the diesel tanks were subject to a "cooking" process, it will not have the temperature required for it to reach explosive pressure.

AFP investigators said that the FBI did not look in the right place that is why they failed to find traces of RDX. I do not know why they insist on the RDX connection. Perhaps they are still trying their best to push the RSM scenario. I suppose they are still hoping that GMA maybe able to declare martial law.

 
At 9:55 PM, October 24, 2007, Blogger MLQ3 said...

the pnp's presentations are here:

http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/gloriettablast/pnp1.php

and

http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/gloriettablast/pnp2.php

woudl you be willing to discuss things on my show, or let me summarize your blog entry?

 
At 9:43 AM, October 25, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Manolo,
I was looking for your email address because you did not post it here. But your site became unaccessible.

Regarding your invitation, I am flattered that you value my opinion on the subject. Although I would love a free-flowing discussion, especially with a very intelligent physicist like DJB, I'm pretty comfortable with blogging my views at the moment.

As you suspected, I am not ready to surrender my anonymity just yet. Further, I won't allow you to risk your successful show by putting me in, heheh.

Whatever I may contribute to your show you can lift/summarize from this blog. Plus those that I have posted in your blog. I am updating some issues after what I got from ALI's most recent responses.

Thanks for dropping by.

(Welcome to the blog!)

 
At 10:09 AM, October 25, 2007, Anonymous Carlos H. Lopez said...

my take on what happened:

a c-4 bomb strategically located on the ground floor explodes, hence causing a shock wave wich cause compression of gases in the basement which instantaneously causes a second blast in the basement.

This is consistent with all findings.

 
At 10:35 AM, October 25, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

cocoy,
Aha, a mechanical engineer, eh? I am not one, though I've had several years experience with engines and generators in a previous job that I can pass off as a PME (Parang Mechanical Engineer).

You're right, diesel normally does emit a black smoke while a grayish one indicates presence of water.

Thanks for the compliment.

(Welcome to the blog!) Malapit na akong magtampo dahil hindi kita nakikita dito although I thought you were gasulman. Heheh.

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omegaman,

You may consider it fun or amusing but I take it seriously. 11 innocent lives were snuffed out amidst non-stop scandals and I have reason to believe this incident was staged. What if these people were our family?

I'm glad though that your sentiments are in the right direction and you are vocal about it. It keeps those people in authority on their toes. We need more people like you who demand an acceptable explanation not just reckless attempts at justification.

(Welcome to the blog!)

*******

mschumey07,
Cylindrical tanks are generally structurally superior since they distribute forces evenly in all directions.

The presence of sparks alone will not trigger methane explosion, it has to fall within the mixture range of 5-15% methane-air mixture. The magnitude of the blast depends the amount of that mixture inside a confined space (as opposed to a tightly-sealed one).

The problem with the police findings so far is that they cannot say which came first: vaporized diesel triggering a methane blast or a methane deflagration triggering a diesel blast.

Both arguments are susceptible to flaws.

*******

Mlq3,
Thanks for the links, but the pictures without accompanying explanations seem vague.

What is puzzling is that after the NSC presscon in Crame, the investigators took a twist and the next day announced that the methane in the basement could be it. This, when nobody has even examined the place as they claimed it was submerged in water.

So far, no plausible answer has been given why Glorietta 2 as you said, "smelled like New Year's". If methane caused it, it would have smelled like shit just before the explosion and rotten eggs afterwards. Methane alone is odorless, though.

 
At 8:36 PM, October 25, 2007, Blogger the jester-in-exile said...

all in all, tongue, nice breakdown. a bit of nitpicking from me, though:

although diesel may not be a volatile liquid, there still is some degree of evaporation, especially in an area warmer than ambient. i wouldn't discount the possibility of fumes inside the tank and escaping out of it into the (presumably enclosed) basement, especially since (according to the reports) it was half-filled at the time. note that the damage to the tank was not catastrophic (no side bulges, just a top not-quite-blown off); it was almost as if the diesel content inside would have burned by "afterthought". therefore, the flame front would probably have originated outside the tank, the tank blowing off its top as a secondary event with the flame front entering the tank via the dipstick vent or similar.

re: white smoke -- agreed that it indicates the possible presence of water; it also is an indicator of possible occurrence of a methane-/ ethane-/ and so on-based fire. however, i've learned that in some instances the white smoke could merely be steam, with no black smoke being generated because of the complete combustion of the flammable vapor/s.

i'm fairly convinced that it's a CVCE instead of a deflagration, the tank not being pressurized, and the containment area (it being a CVCE and not a simple VCE) being the basement and not the tank. the trigger could very well have been a spark from a motor or a switch.

i'm also fairly convinced that the blast was similar to a binary blast; the first flame front being methane, which then concurrently ignited the diesel vapor while evaporating the diesel liquid.

of course, there is carlo's h. lopez idea... but i can't picture a shaped-charge explosive that can create a compression wave wide enough to compress a large area (an area equivalent to that of the ceiling area?) above it and sufficiently slow to create an FAE-like subsonic overpressure wave instead of a "standard" explosive blast (at least, not yet; gimme a bit more time to do some research heh heh).

oh, and let's consider this possibility, regarding the smell -- the smell of fine concrete dust in air is not so different from the smell of gunpowder, especially if some form of fire or charring has taken place. visit a place where jackhammers are working, and you just might notice the similarity.

yes, i agree with you that the blast could have been staged.

that was a bit more than two cents, but i hope you don't mind.

 
At 8:47 PM, October 25, 2007, Anonymous omegaman said...

oh i apologize if i hit some button there, but believe me i am taking the loss of lives seriously too. i was just imagining the in-your-face moment when the current theories were debunked by mythbusters as a lot of people watch that show. again please accept my apologies and thanks for welcoming me on your blog.

But again another thought, how much methane-producing sh*t is ever dumped on that tank? Filipino culture dictates that it is embarrassing for us to "go" outside our own toilets, especially in a crowded mall like G2? well, if in an emergency the hell i care, but that would be too few to create a huge explosion like that. its not like all of makati's sh*t goes through there.

 
At 6:43 AM, October 26, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Charly,
That is one theory worth considering, and it does explain traces of RDX earlier found.

After Esperon's reaction to the Crime Lab finding's in the Crame presscon, the C4 angle has been conveniently avoided by investigators.

(Welcome to the blog!)

 
At 8:34 AM, October 26, 2007, Blogger DJB Rizalist said...

I think the folks pushing the RDX angle tend to ignore the fact that there ought to be lots more of it than a swab or two, as in, all over the place. Plus, contrary to newsbreak and several others, it, or stuff that can be mistaken for it using chemical techniques, is used in lots of things found in a mall. The FBI was looking for RDX, I think, because it is a main ingredient in land mines, and a highly reliable noncontact method of detecting RDX has been available to them for some time (Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance portadetectors--very sexy, but not available to PNP).

Although I am nearly 100% convinced this was an accidental methane-diesel-fumes gas explosion, i guess i am still willing to entertain various alternative ignition theories, until they can be more conclusively eliminated.

Let's leave out for now the absence of a crater as the main objection to a bomb.

The British embassy's reluctance to eliminate terrorism is the only reason i even consider this a possibility. But you see, if we assume a small RDX-based explosive was used, it could be tied to the NPA, who are the only combatant group that uses land mines nowadays, and even defends their practice by insisting they only use REMOTE CONTROLLED land mines, presumably because this implies they don't cause accidental land mine explosions and that every explosion they cause is intentional.

couple this with a google experiment anyone can do, which is to observe that almost all cell site bombings done by the NPA are against Globe and almost never against Smart.

So, here is the far-fetched scenario (leaving out most physical evidence against it).

Perhaps they have been trying to extort big bucks from Ayala and got rebuffed yet once more, so they decided to teach the Ayalas a major lesson and somehow rigged a small charge, put it in the diesel tank and used their remote control technology to ignite the explosion. I have a million objections to this scenario, some technical, some political, but if you can imagine a way to make it fit the known facts, it could energize the conspiracy theorists (though the usual suspects would want to blame the govt or afp).

this would put a lot of rdx inside the diesel tank, but then again NQR detects RDX in parts per billion even when it's underground and sealed in a landmine casing...

 
At 8:56 AM, October 26, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Jester, my man! I'm suffering from information overload these days, it helps though that initially vague theories are trimmed at the fringes with the hope of coming up with a tight, cohesive conclusion in the end.

Raw diesel, that coming off the refinery, vaporizes only at 200°C. Commercial diesel, which is most likely what that tank contained could probably contain catalytic additives that aim to ensure the complete burn of the compressed air-diesel mixture. What that could achieve, though, is to lower the vaporizing temperature by a few degrees. Certainly not radically to a few degrees over ambient.

I maintain that a slow, methane-induced flame over a substatial period could achieve "cooking the diesel". That is, if the methane-then-diesel sequence was the culprit. But then, "slow" in this context would mean methane was not in the abundance it could be directly responsible for that kind of damage. I believe the diesel "explosion", if there was really any, was an insignificant secondary result from another bigger blast.

Which brings us to the CVCE theory. Assuming there was a volatile cloud of methane-air mix within the combustible range of concentration, the question is: was there enough methane-air mixture to have caused the damage? I don't think so.

First, the "sewage pit", as Ayala officials call it, contains raw sewage which is mainly aquaeous, as you would expect from a purely commercial establishment (Pls. refer to my notes on hotel and mall STPs I was involved in). If it were coming from from Oakwood in Glorietta 4, which is a hotel, it would be much different. Or that coming from the restaurants in Glorietta 2 itself, which Ayala says it flows into a different pit, for separation of used cooking oil from water, I presume. Shit diluted in water cannot produce that much methane at a relatively short period (from the last time personnel inspected the area to the time of blast). Methane DISSOLVES at 26mg/ltr of water !!

Secondly, a methane gas leak from sewage, much more one big accumulation of it, is not hard to detect. As Ayala officials reported, a large vent in the generator room, measuring 2.4m x 2.4m leading to the stairs, could have sent the stench outdoors. Further, the absence of Hydrogen Sulfide vapors which UP professors say smells like "rotten eggs" dispels this possibility firther.

If it would be proven that either the guards or maintenance personnel did inspect the area that morning, then a methane-caused CVCE theory is not plausible. If Ayala was lying regarding this, combustion computations ARE necessary. The accumulation, at maximum, could have taken place from the last time people were inside the room.

Carlos Lopez' scenario could be acceptable if the shaped-charge were in a container with its weakest point pointing upwards.

Regarding the smoke, a purely methane gas explosion will create a grayish to white smoke but not one that will engulf the whole atrium as we see in the vids and pics. The problem is, it's hard to distinguish smoke from airborne dust after a big blast, isn't it?

The smell of gunpowder, I'm not so sure about this, since it will have to take someone (an actual Glorietta witness, perhaps) to experience a methane blast and compare it with how he recalls the situation on that day. Difficult, I'm sure. But I think will take your word that charring concrete could have created the same smell.

Well, thanks for the inputs! Looking at it again, I would say we agree on many things here, complementing our theories.

Especially that one that this could have been staged.
*****

Btw, looks like you're sticking it out with Alecks in PCIJ, I slowed when the advocacies took over from the scandals, which are more exciting, Heheh. You can find me regularly in Ellen's blog or in MLQ3's (and in their bloggers') though I participate more in Ellen's. I still visit PCIJ once in a while and I often see you in the shoutbox. Hey you've got an awesome blog, too!

Thanks for the comment.

(Welcome to the blog!)

 
At 9:09 AM, October 26, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

omegaman,
I will have to agree with you.

 
At 9:30 PM, October 26, 2007, Blogger the jester-in-exile said...

try these ideas on for size, tongue:

Theory A.

(assumption is that the ignition was by an electrical spark, with a lesser amount of methane -- take note, methane is odorless at this point)

1. spark occurs.
2. methane is ignited.
3. methane burns out, but the flame front has already ignited diesel fumes.
4. diesel fumes-flame front begins to evaporate the surface film of the liquid diesel, causing rapid evaporation
5. evaporated diesel is ignited by flame front (steps 4 to 5 cycle towards a rapid chain reaction)
6. rapidly expanding gas creates subsonic blast wave.

Theory A is similar to a binary-component FAE, but being confined inside the basement, it's a CVCE.


Theory B.

(same ignition, higher methane concentration)

1. spark occurs.
2. methane is ignited.
3. methane continues to burn and flame front has ignited diesel fumes.
4. methane/diesel-flame front begins to evaporate the surface film of the liquid diesel, causing rapid evaporation
5. evaporated diesel is ignited by methane/diesel flame front (steps 4 to 5 cycle towards a rapid chain reaction)
6. rapidly expanding gas creates subsonic blast wave.

Theory B might be more likely, accident or no, given that the temperature of the flame front would be higher, what with the methane content.


Theory C

(sample of not an accident)

T-minus 20 minutes: vapor with low flash point is introduced into the system (e.g., an LPG tank is opened up fully and is allowed to depressurize and empty itself)

Time zero: ignition.

1. LPG is ignited.
2. LPG ignites methane.
3. methane continues to burn and flame front has ignited diesel fumes.
4. methane/diesel-flame front begins to evaporate the surface film of the liquid diesel, causing rapid evaporation
5. evaporated diesel is ignited by LPG/methane/diesel flame front (steps 4 to 5 cycle towards a rapid chain reaction)
6. rapidly expanding gas creates subsonic blast wave.

this would be a trinary-type FAE/CVCE. interestingly enough, such an occurrence would not need any extraenous "bomb" nor would such an even leave much evidence that the act was deliberate. potential introduced gases/ volatile liquids would be LPG, vaporated/dispersed gasoline (but traces would be found), vaporated/dispersed ethanol (traces post blast would be similar to traces of methane burn).


Theory C-1

remove the methane component and use it as a convenient scapegoat later on. :D


Theory D (development of carlos' idea)

some sort of low-yield, slow overpressure wave, non-nitrate based explosive is detonated. the idiots among the cops who say that the traces of RDX could just be the remains of toothpaste or whatever ought to go back to chem class (DJB is right in pointing out about the swabs). what could create such a pressure wave? tongue-in-cheek and out of my floppy hat, i'd say a hydrogen balloon the size of the diesel tank.


if we can adequately demonstrate theory B or C, we can adequately demonstrate that this "industrial accident" was no more than a bitch being wagged.

(ilang two cents na ang utang ko sa yo, tongue? heh heh)

 
At 9:06 AM, October 27, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Djb, jester,
After reading Ayala's description of their sewage treatment process, I am more convinced now, more than ever, that methane was NOT the direct cause of the major damage. Any substantial amount of methane (enough to cook the diesel OR blow up the basement OR both) can be released in sewage only if the sludge was concentrated and was not just slowly being dissolved in the water. This could happen in a sludge collector tank or an anaerobic sludge digester tank BUT NOT in a RAW SEWAGE tank, or what Ayala calls "sump pit". Their claim that 90% of their sewage is liquid is fairly acceptable.

Glorietta 2 alone (with only 21 water closets, 20 lavatories and 8 urinals) could not have produced concentrated fecal solids emitting methane that quickly in this particular day and accumulated it in the generator room.

Our untreated septic vaults at our homes have two compartments that separate solids from water concentrating the sludge in only one pit. This setup CAN produce methane but then even if we just excavate/evacuate this once every five years, there is very little occurence of sewage blasts.

I would trust Ayala's expertise on sewage, it's Manila Water Group operates 2 of the biggest (if not the biggest) modern, privately-owned STPs in the Metro, one in Taguig and the other in the eastern side of Laguna Lake.

Regarding Dean's NQR, I have not heard about it being mentioned nor that it was used in Glorietta. What I did read is that the US investigators took six samples at 500M distances from the assumed center of blast.

What we do know is that the diesel tank, which had 6,000 ltrs of fuel on that day, could be a target of terrorists (from any side). I'm still looking for a definitive answer as to the quantity of diesel engines this tank is supplying to, but as the pictures show, there could probably be only one. So, why on earth did they install a tank this big (14,000 liters)?

If the place was intentionally bombed, the perpetrators have miscalculated that diesel can produce the same result as that when jihadists crashed full-tank planes into WTC and Pentagon. The bombers' primary target was the tank!

With methane now deleted from my list and the UP profs' non-concurrence to the diesel theory, then THERE IS a missing ingredient.

 
At 6:02 PM, October 27, 2007, Blogger the jester-in-exile said...

the missing element could be something incendiary, non-nitrate based, whose ignition would cause only a subsonic overpressure wave, and whose post-oxidation traces would not raise any flags.

for instance, nobody would question the presence of oxidized aluminum powder if a blast occurs near a glass-and-aluminum shop... but aluminum powder is a component of some incendiary explosives.

with that in mind, i thought of a different concept -- a high sulfur, negligible nitrate content igniter, sulfur being a component of low grade diesel. it could also account for the "amoy pulbura" smell post-blast. a relatively small section of magnesium ribbon (maybe a few inches long and a quarter of an inch wide?), ignited inside the diesel tank could very well cook off the upper skim of the diesel and start the chain reaction. maybe even a non-nitrate based truck flare or signal flare.

i'm leaning to agree with you that methane is a convenient scapegoat, but i'm not yet convinced that methane was completely absent. a methane pocket in the piping could be an accelerant to the flame front.

with all due respect to the UP profs, i'm not convinced with their view that diesel was not part of the CVCE. djb's idea that the diesel was cooked off (a runaway evaporation/ignition chain reaction) would likely have been the secondary flame front that was the final phase of the CVCE. diesel will ignite even in conditions dissimilar from an engine (without compression) for as long as the vapor (or even just a small volume of it) is ignited to its autoignition temperature.

bottomline, your missing element must have these conditions:

1. its flame front must have been sufficiently hot to create a runaway evaporation/ignition chain reaction on the diesel fuel.

2. the resulting overpressure wave must have been subsonic.

3. the oxidation of the missing element must not have left any tell-tales. the material must appear normal and analoguous to any material onsite.

4. the missing element should be sufficiently active to affect the diesel from outside the tank. this is so because the final overpressure wave was unlikely to have been from inside the diesel tank, and was instead from the surroundings within the basement (this is supported by the non-catastrophic failure of the tank, supported by the apparent "cook-off" damage of the tank).

a possible fourth element that could be the cause of the final (meaning, tertiary -- first being ignition, second being the diesel) blast phase could be something as simple as exhaust dust in the air from the aircon exhaust or gensets. the blast would be similar to that of a coal mine blast or grain silo CVCE.

(honestly, tongue, it seems to me that the cops are limiting themselves to the accident angle. could this be because only certain folks have access to non-nitrate based incendiaries?)

 
At 10:34 PM, October 27, 2007, Anonymous omegaman said...

ok, im not gonna wait for the mythbusters.

im now sketching a plan to replicate the methane-diesel scenario, although in a smaller scale.

my first focus will be on the diesel fuel and its combustibility. i will do many things on it to make it ignite without the pressure found from diesel engine compression cylinders.

my next experiments would require the replication of the scenario within the sump pit using different gases like methane, acetylene, lighter fluid, and whatever combustible materials i can get hold at. this experiments will be done on a smaller scale and a large field without people. i have access to that.

in the process i expect the holding box to explode with the different explosive gases but the focus would be to see if the diesel contributed to the explosion.

then finally i will use a pyrotechnic material to detonate the box and see if it will create the required pressure to ignite and detonate the diesel fuel.

i will post the results here and to my own blog.

of course i will be very careful during the entire process. i will even tell you if i had an accident, provided i still have the hands and fingers to type on the keyboard hahaha.

this time around, talk is cheap. give me 2 weeks.

 
At 5:06 PM, October 30, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FBI - no bombs

inquirer

 
At 9:50 PM, October 31, 2007, Blogger AdB said...

Hi Tongue,

Friend to whom I sent posts re blast hasn't had time to 'analyze'... did send me a couple of lines re gas and diesel but not helpful coz I've read your and Dean's post.

But will pester him if only for my own 'education'.

Meanwhile, Ellen's blog is missing (in action), wonder if it's been hacked again.

 
At 6:30 AM, November 04, 2007, Blogger Equalizer said...

Events are unfolding quickly and the main objective of the Glorietta "Big Fart" is becoming clearer to me.

Whether it was a bomb or not,the powers that be want to kill two birds with one stone: blame the Zobels,who are not particularly close to GMA ,AND blame the Makati City Hall and Mayor Binay,head of the United Opposition.

 
At 6:56 AM, November 05, 2007, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Equalizer,
They have mastered the art. When the time comes that they have pointed an accusing finger at everybody, then and only then will the fencesitting move-on crowd finally realize they are next.

No one will be spared.

(Welcome to the blog!)

 
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