Preventing Worst Case Scenarios with Dynamic Plume Modeling

For a number of industrial facilities, unexpected or unplanned chemical releases are a worst-case scenario. While good care is taken to reduce the risk of such events, they can never be completely eliminated. This is why chemical detection systems are of vital importance to safeguard personnel, plant and the surrounding community.

This article outlines how dynamic plume modeling offers real-time monitoring relative to the source, severity and impact of chemical releases, and in the event of an emergency, allowing for the best decisions to be made.

Unexpected chemical releases can be both destructive and lethal. Flammable natural gas leaks from pipelines, chlorine releases from chemical factories, toxic gases from oil refineries – the outcome of such events can be devastatingly unpredictable.1,2

These often tragic events blemish the history of the industry. Naturally, a significant amount of effort is put into ensuring that the occurrence of such an event remains as low as possible.

Equipment and facility design, regular maintenance, inspections and leak testing are all key aspects of the attempt to prevent a chemical leak from happening in the first instance.

Yet, there is no level of operational excellence that can completely eradicate the chances of unplanned chemical releases, as both recent and historical events have demonstrated.

From natural disasters (including the earthquake and ensuing tsunami, which led to three meltdowns and numerous hydrogen gas explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant) to unexpected power outages, unforeseeable incidents mean that the probability of chemical leaks can only approach zero, never reach it.3,4

Paradoxically, where maximizing safety in industrial environments is concerned, the fact must be accepted: accidents happen. Then, once accident risks have been reduced as much as possible, it is key that organizations prepare for the possibility that they can and do occur.

Bridging the Information Gap

In the event of a chemical release, it is crucial to take action in the first few moments. During this period, responders are faced with an 'information gap.'5 There are several unknown quantities that must be determined:

  • How big is the release?
  • Where is the source?
  • Where is it traveling to and how long is it expected to take to arrive?
  • What are the hazards of the particular chemicals and what protective measures and actions must be taken to mitigate them?

Establishing the answers to each of these questions as quickly as possible is crucial to limiting the damage caused by a chemical leak.

Fortunately, plume modeling technology can provide the answers to such questions, offering a clear path to harm reduction and appropriately dealing with these accidents when they occur.

What is Dynamic Plume Modeling?

Outlining the path of an airborne chemical leak is a job for fluid dynamics.

In this field, a plume is in reference to a body of fluid passing through another fluid: for instance, a natural gas leak or a stack exhaust moving through the atmosphere.

Plume modeling refers to the use of computer models to chronicle the behavior of these plumes over time.6,7 The behavior of these models relies principally on the conditions at the beginning of the plume, as well as any atmospheric conditions.

The plume model’s accuracy depends not only on the logic of the model itself but on the amount of accurate data relative to the presence of leaked chemicals and meteorological conditions.

A constructive plume model will integrate real-time data from gas and weather sensors, making appropriate alterations to the model’s predictions in response to these measurements. This type of model is known as a dynamic plume model.

Dynamic plume models can provide an accurate prediction of the severity and behavior of a chemical release, allowing for the best possible decisions to be made in the early, key moments after an event occurs.

SAFER One® - The Real-Time Emergency Chemical Response Solution

SAFER One® is the first and only emergency chemical response solution that enables effective monitoring of area gas detectors and weather sensors, as well as model gas dispersion dynamically with adjustments made in real-time predicated on sensor data.

The system utilizes a unique modeling platform in parallel with state-of-the-art gas sensing and predictive analytics technology to provide precise and effective dynamic modeling of airborne plumes.

When faced with an event such as unplanned chemical release or a fire, SAFER One® makes use of networked sensors and predictive modeling to rapidly identify the source and predicted path of the hazard. This allows first responders to quickly assess the potential impact and severity of any chemical accident and take charge by establishing the appropriate actions to take.

By offering the power to act with speed and confidence during a chemical release, SAFER One® limits the damage caused by these events.

Identifying the danger of unplanned chemical leaks allows companies to be prepared while investing time into planning an effective response before an event occurs. The SAFER One® system offers all-in-one plume modeling solutions for chemical factories, industrial plants, pulp and paper mills and all other industrial facilities.

OH&S magazine acknowledged SAFER One® as New Product of the Year for industrial hygiene software. Contact Industrial Scientific today to arrange a demonstration and find out why.


  1. Natech Risk Assessment and Management | ScienceDirect.
  2. 36099995.pdf. OECD Studies in Risk Management | Italy | Industrial Hazards Triggered By Floods
  3. Gauntt, R. et al. Fukushima Daiichi accident study. (2012). doi:10.2172/1055601.
  4. WHO | Chemical releases caused by natural hazard events and disasters. WHO
  5. 10 Questions When Seconds Count: Preparing for Those Crucial First Minutes of a Chemical Emergency. SAFER Systems (2016).
  6. Barratt, R. Atmospheric Dispersion Modelling: An Introduction to Practical Applications. (Routledge, 2013).
  7. Björnham, O., Grahn, H. & Brännström, N. Reconstructing chemical plumes from stand-off detection data of airborne chemicals using atmospheric dispersion models and data fusion. Pure and Applied Chemistry 90, 1577–1592 (2018).

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Industrial Scientific.

For more information on this source, please visit Industrial Scientific.


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