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Comparative assessment of severe accident risks in the coal, oil and natural gas chains


  • Burgherr, Peter
  • Eckle, Petrissa
  • Hirschberg, Stefan


This study compared severe accident risks of fossil energy chains (coal, oil and natural gas), based on the historical experience contained in the comprehensive database ENSAD. Considered risk indicators focused on human health impacts, i.e., fatality rates and maximum consequences were calculated for a broad range of country groups. Generally, expected fatality rates were lowest for natural gas, intermediate for oil and highest for coal. Concerning maximum consequences of a single accident, natural gas also performed best, followed by coal, whereas accidents in the oil chain can claim significantly more fatalities. In general, OECD and EU 27 ranked top, while non-OECD countries and China in the case of coal were worst. The consideration of numerous additional country groups enabled a more detailed differentiation within the main bounding groups. Furthermore, differences among country groups are distinctly decreasing from coal to oil and natural gas, both for fatality rates and maximum consequences. The use of import adjusted-fatality rates indicates that fatality risks in supply countries are an essential aspect to understand how specific risk reduction strategies may affect other components of energy security, and thus tradeoffs and compromises are necessary. Finally, the proposed fatality risk score for fossil chains (FRSF) allows a comparison of the combined accident risk for the considered fossil energy chains across individual countries, which can be visualized using risk mapping.

Suggested Citation

  • Burgherr, Peter & Eckle, Petrissa & Hirschberg, Stefan, 2012. "Comparative assessment of severe accident risks in the coal, oil and natural gas chains," Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 97-103.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:reensy:v:105:y:2012:i:c:p:97-103
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ress.2012.03.020

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    Cited by:

    1. Gibon, Thomas & Arvesen, Anders & Hertwich, Edgar G., 2017. "Life cycle assessment demonstrates environmental co-benefits and trade-offs of low-carbon electricity supply options," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1283-1290.
    2. Tong, Ruipeng & Yang, Xiaoyi & Li, Hongwei & Li, Jianfei, 2019. "Dual process management of coal miners’ unsafe behaviour in the Chinese context: Evidence from a meta-analysis and inspired by the JD-R model," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 205-217.
    3. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Kryman, Matthew & Laine, Emily, 2015. "Profiling technological failure and disaster in the energy sector: A comparative analysis of historical energy accidents," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 90(P2), pages 2016-2027.
    4. Spada, Matteo & Paraschiv, Florentina & Burgherr, Peter, 2018. "A comparison of risk measures for accidents in the energy sector and their implications on decision-making strategies," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 277-288.
    5. Kamenopoulos, Sotiris N. & Tsoutsos, Theocharis, 2015. "Assessment of the safe operation and maintenance of photovoltaic systems," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 93(P2), pages 1633-1638.
    6. Silva, Joaquim F. & Jacinto, Celeste, 2012. "Finding occupational accident patterns in the extractive industry using a systematic data mining approach," Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 108-122.
    7. Burgherr, Peter & Hirschberg, Stefan, 2014. "Comparative risk assessment of severe accidents in the energy sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(S1), pages 45-56.
    8. Hirschberg, Stefan & Bauer, Christian & Burgherr, Peter & Cazzoli, Eric & Heck, Thomas & Spada, Matteo & Treyer, Karin, 2016. "Health effects of technologies for power generation: Contributions from normal operation, severe accidents and terrorist threat," Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 373-387.


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