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Fire at Twister Distillery in OK

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I was listening to whiskeycast this morning and caught mention of a pretty bad still malfunction that led to an explosion yesterday at Twister Distillery. I believe there was mention of Jeff Thermond (I think he's posted on this forum in the past?) having been airlifted to a hospital in critical condition!

Can't confirm anything beyond what I heard and what I came across online: http://newsok.com/blast-rocks-moore-distillery/article/4907972

If this info is indeed accurate, hopefully all involved are back on their feet soon. Terrible news.

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Quote:

Thurmon was taken by helicopter to Integris Baptist Medical Center. He was listed in critical condition Friday with second-degree burns covering 52 percent of his body, hospital staff said.

----------------------

Our best wishes for Jeff Thurmon on recovering.

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Whiskey Tango,

I think you need to look beyond the capability of the still and more to what actually happened and the result this will have on our industry.

I really feel sorry for Jeff, he must be pretty badly hurt and I hope his recovery is fruitful.

But all that being said.....we run ethanol refineries, period. Acting like anyone with a connection to the internet and the ability to put together piping is a Master Distiller is going to wind up landing serious repercussions across the industry as a whole (and someone is going to die.) Non-safe distillation operations are being run and built in every state, all over this industry. This isn't the first accident and it won't be the last.

Get better Jeff.

McKee

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I tend to agree- I have heard of explosions just due to a wind drift holding vapors in the corner of a building.

Of course, what caused the spark, that's the question.

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I wish Jeff a speedy recovery.

you can try and design safety into a system and it can still all be undone in a moment if lapsed attention.

get better and don't let this be the end of the dream.

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It looks like they had propane for the heat source. Most distilleries would have a boiler in a separate boiler room with appropriate ventilation, so any flame would be away from ethanol vapors.

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John,

For industry sake yes we need to look at the ramifications of this. But for safety sake the still set up does come into question. For someone who has been running their still for 3 days strait you would hope that the system would be able to handle that. Either it wasn't or its operator error. Both running for 3 days straight and the set up of the still should be called into question. There is no way to tell what happened from the outside hopefully we all can learn something from this accident.

Hope for a Speedy recovery.

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In industry, you cannot have anything that creates a spark in the same area as any alcohol vapors.

The normal practice, like mentioned above, is to isolate the areas.

I am somewhat surprised the fire inspector allowed it, but I'm sure there will be quite the investigation.

Mike

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open flame distillation is very common in the industry, not sure how. We've been asked many times to build systems with direct flame heat, we've had to turn down a few projects because we just wont go there.

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We use an electric steam boiler because the rates are so low around Idaho. There is lots of hydro electricity here.

So in our situation, there is not a separate boiler room. There is no flame source.

But I am working consulting on a new distillery in another area of the country. In that distillery I believe we will have to build a boiler room. It is my understanding that this is required in most fire codes.

I am interested in what happened at Twister Distillery. According to the article, they have been inspected in the past. So this appeared to pass local code. But looking at the pictures available, it is tough to tell. It appears they have purchased safer equipment, but they were not yet using it.

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Looked at the picture from the news article...looks like an open end garage with no ventilation, sooo I can imagine air could be quite laden with alcohol vapor after such an extended run.

How can anyone stay awake for 3 days and function properly???

Just sayin' I wouldn't want to be his neighbor in that industrial park.

Sorry he was injured, but there might have been more injuries.

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Setting aside the open burner for a moment, if the still is leak tight and the product is below flashpoint in temp, how do you end up with enough stray fumes to build up to the LEL? Or does at least one of those two parameter have to be violated?

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First, the photo of the vapor erupting from the small boiler with the guy standing next to it is amazing, I'm guessing they got that from surveillance or other video, because it appears to have captured the moment immediately prior to explosion (Photo 1 of 9)

Looking at the other photos, it appears that the copper condensing coil separated from the fitting at the top of the boiler. Looking at the photos, the before shows the condenser coil attached, leading to a flake stand or a thumper of sorts. Look at the background of photos 2/9 and 3/9. There are more shots of the apparatus in the video, which doesn't appear to show a triclamp clamp attached to the top ferrule, not sure if this was intentional or not.

Lighting in the immediate vicinity of the still does not appear to be explosion proof, but standard FL fixtures.

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photo 1 of 9 look sort of after the fact to me. Burn marks. Tough to tell. There was a reporter there that had just finished an interview. That person might have just started taking a bunch of pictures after the flash.

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Firstly I hope Jeff is recovering well

That set up looks like a bit funky.

How do you think he was hitting 190 proof on that pot still?

I have read and listened to quite a bit about this event. I think that whiskeytango asked a very important question.

To make 190 proof in a simple pot still the charge in the still has to be at almost 190, a very dangerous situation with direct flame heating unless the still is built to extreme safety. Listen to the interview with Alvin, He says he "filters" the vodka through a still. Another hint that he may have just put 190 into the pot. Also he says he uses grains from Europe. I would have thought US grains would be as good if not better, less pollution. I am just guessing here that he imports the "grain" at 190 proof.

Even if this still was heated with steam from a remote boiler I am fairly confident it would still have caused a flash fire. Look at the geezer of almost 190 proof, it hits the electric light fitting that look like standard fluoro fittings, not explosion proof.

The still was an amateurish piece of junk. See in the video at 1 minute the copper elbow looks as if it is held together with a piece of white tape, so I would be confident that the joint that fell off the top of the boiler was just as bad.

We have had the following question several times on this forum "what is the internal pressure of a still?" The answer should be "almost zero" if the still is designed AND RUN properly.

Look again at the geezer of alcohol, it contains a lot of liquid. This still was obviously running at quite a high pressure. A little bit of a lesson here for those of you who don't understand the physics of boiling liquids-- As the pressure inside a container increases so does the boiling point of the liquid. For a rough example, high proof alcohol might boil at 78deg C, increase the pressure in the pot and it could go up 80 deg C and then continue boiling steadily, no obvious problem yet.

But if suddenly the elbow on top of the still falls off the pressure will suddenly drop, the boiling point is now back to 78 C but the liquid is at 80 C so the whole conents tries to boil instantly causing the hot boiling liquid to eject rather quickly, hitting the electric lights and dropping down onto the propane flame.

I am in very little doubt that this is what happened.

Please don't get too up-tight about open flame in a distillery using fermented mash in the pot.

If the Twister still was charged with wash at 10% abv the exact same geezer could have occurred, but the liquid being ejected would only have been at or below 10% which if it landed in the right place could extinguish the propane flame. (unlikely but possible)

On a second run through a pot still (spirit run) it becomes a little more hazardous in the same situation. It is quite possible the vapour could ignite but as long as the still charge was only 30% abv the contents of the pot is relatively safe when compared with 190 proof.

Safety is paramount. Don,t let your guard down just because of what I have said in my last paragraph above.

Even in the safest looking distillery SHIT CAN HAPPEN.

  • reaction_title_1 1

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It is most unfortunate what happened here and I would like to reiterate what our Australian friend noted: I know of several incidences in large, well established distilleries where fires or massive leaks have occurred. If it can happen to those with excessive protection, it is far more likely to happen to those of us with a more care-free attitude.

Be safe.

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Worst day of my life by far..... We had reporters in the plant doing an interview at the time of the incident so we had the old equipment left over from the previous distiller fired up for the show. I can't really say much more than that except for that I have recovered well and am back distilling again. We put our new 850 gallon still online with a boiler system when I got back and started making "Success Vodka" in Moore, Oklahoma. We have already been rated 5 stars by VodkaBuzz.com and won a Gold Medal in the Top 50 Domestic Vodkas in NYC.

I would like to thank all of you for the support and kind words here on this forum. If you get a chance to try some of my vodka I hope you will.

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Hi Jeff,

Glad to hear that you have recovered and are back distilling again.

Many of know of you from previous posts, so for the benefit of us on this forum, I am sure we would all be grateful if you could tell us what went wrong to cause this fire.

Was there an official investigation?

Pete

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Pete,

I spoke with the Fire Marshall in Moore, Mr. Lindsay. He is seeing if the official investigation report is public and will get me a copy. If that happens, I'll share that here.

Cheers,

McKee

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As former owner of Twister Distillery I would like to set a few things straight. One, that the contraption that Jeff was using during the time of the explosion was of his own design and not of anything that had been in use prior to my exiting the company almost 6 month before the accident. The use of a rubber bung leading into a thumper with shut off valves and being placed on a pallet on a forklift with a propane fed fire underneath would have never been an idea of mine. That would have never passed any fire regulation anywhere.

Two, by talking to the fire dept and actually having a copy of the incident report as my new distillery was less that a hundred feet away and received sever smoke and water damage, the still wS in the process of REDISTILLING imported NGS.

No doubt that this accident was intact an accident but I have suffered greatly at the hands of my former company. I have sat by and watched them register IP addresses for my products as a way to hinder my ability to market and constant slander. After reading that this was MY equipment I could not sit quiet any longer.

Cheers

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Garrett Janko , (now Scissortail Distillery, moved two doors down and attempted to bankrupt Twister) You are saying that mass produced small stainless "still" you bought and operated was "my design"?. As you know well, that was the only "still" you had and operated. YOU bought it. It was there when I arrived. You used a propane burner to "make" your "gin" using this "still", remember? You were still doing it when I got there. I took pictures. As a matter of fact this is the only "still" that was ever used at Twister Distillery before I installed an actual working internally heated still that has been inspected with a boiler that has been also inspected. Where is the "still" that you have now that is operational? I have not seen any permits or inspections for stills or boilers at your "distillery" or any other location in Moore, Ok. Don't bother posting pics of that crazy 100 gallon contraption you welded together either. I sold your propane burner for that and thank god you never fired that thing up.

The fact you did not reserve your own website addresses before naming your brand and you point that out to people and blame your competition for your loss is absurd. Please use spell check in order to make your sentences readable. The fact you post under "twister vodka" instead of revealing your own name is also questionable. The fact you go around making statements in the manner you have been does more damage to you than it does to us. Move forward and make progress, mud slinging looks you look like an idiot.

Please keep private arguments private. This is not the forum for mud slinging.

Best wishes to everyone and Drink Success Vodka! #drinksuccess

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As former owner of Twister Distillery I would like to set a few things straight. One, that the contraption that Jeff was using during the time of the explosion was of his own design and not of anything that had been in use prior to my exiting the company almost 6 month before the accident. The use of a rubber bung leading into a thumper with shut off valves and being placed on a pallet on a forklift with a propane fed fire underneath would have never been an idea of mine. That would have never passed any fire regulation anywhere.

Two, by talking to the fire dept and actually having a copy of the incident report as my new distillery was less that a hundred feet away and received sever smoke and water damage, the still wS in the process of REDISTILLING imported NGS.

No doubt that this accident was intact an accident but I have suffered greatly at the hands of my former company. I have sat by and watched them register IP addresses for my products as a way to hinder my ability to market and constant slander. After reading that this was MY equipment I could not sit quiet any longer.

Cheers

I had to quote this as I am sure that Garrett will retract his statement once he realizes the folly of his statements......

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