Truth is in the Details ™

The Case of the Barrister’s Boiler

Having the right tool for the job is an advertising slogan in use for over a century. But, sometimes you have to design and build the right tool you need to do the job.

An ancient boiler exploded in the basement of a law firm’s building. Although the building was occupied at the time of the explosion, no one was injured but the law firm’s file storage and law library were located in the basement and a substantial portion of the firm’s files and books were destroyed, including thousands of pages of files that were blown up into the first floor of the building.





TI was requested to determine the cause of the explosion. On analysis of the remaining boiler components and the loss scene, TI determined that the boiler had exploded not because of age-related degradation, but because of extreme pressure. Further investigation and testing showed that a single gas valve had stuck in the open position which resulted in the boiler becoming over-pressurized. The boiler was equipped with a pressure relief valve which, if functioning properly, was more than adequate to relieve the pressure in the boiler to prevent an explosion. It was apparent that the pressure relief valve had failed to function. TI routinely tests pressure relief valves, temperature relief valves and temperature-pressure relief valves.

Prior to this assignment, TI designed and built a specialized test system to test the function of these types of relief valves under actual operating conditions. A joint, on-site test session was organized and a protocol developed for test of the pressure relief valve and gas controls. The pressure relief valve was installed in TI’s test system and the tests under actual operating conditions conclusively demonstrated that the pressure relief valve repeatedly failed to function substantially beyond its rated pressure thus allowing the boiler to explode. The technical representative of the pressure relief valve manufacturer stated that TI’s test system was the finest he had ever seen.


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