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Portable Butane Cook Top Explosion #2

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Areas of Expertise

Michael Fox, PhD.



Portable Butane
Cook Top Explosion #2

Four patrons at a Korean restaurant were sitting at a table on which there was a portable butane cook top with a large 14-inch diameter brass pan. A Korean dish was being heated in the brass pan. The portable butane canister in the cook top exploded, resulting in a fireball and burn injuries to the patrons.

Portable Butane Cook Top

An early theory was that the l4-inch diameter pan radiated heat downward onto the butane canister, causing it to explode. However, further examination and testing revealed that is not what happened.

Experiments on exemplar cook tops with the same 14-inch diameter brass pan failed to produce anything out of the ordinary. One complete canister of butane was consumed with no event whatsoever.

Examination of the cook top that exploded in the Korean restaurant showed that the short plastic legs under the stove were melted, as seen in the accompanying photo.

Experiments on exemplar cook tops in many different configurations failed to reproduce the melted legs of the evidence cook top except for one experiment conducted on a heated pancake griddle.

Melted Leg on Portable Butane Cook Top

In this arrangement, the cook top's safety regulator kicked in and turned off the flame and ejected the butane canister from the regulator. However, the plastic legs did melt and due to the heat from the underlying pancake griddle, the canister eventually vented via the canister's rim vent release (RVR) equipped dome. It did not explode.

Upon further investigation it was learned that the table at which the patrons were sitting in the Korean restaurant had a built-in gas grill that was covered with a stainless steel plate. The portable butane cook top was placed on top of the built-in gas grill.

The most likely scenario, determined by Chemaxx, was that the built-in gas grill had been accidentally turned on. The heat from the built-in gas grill melted the plastic legs of the portable butane cook top and also caused the butane canister to vent and explode. The case settled shortly after these findings were reported. Chemaxx has investigated three separate fires and explosions involving portable butane cook tops and butane camping stoves.

Dr. Fox is uniquely qualified to investigate portable butane stove incidents. First, he has over 40-years experience in metallurgy, corrosion and failure analyses. Second, he is a Certified Fire & Explosion Investigator with over 25 years experience. Third, he has studied the failure of aerosol containers, such as butane canisters, for over 20 years. Lastly, he has investigated portable butane stove incidents for over 10 years.