Resource 2: News item on fuels

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

Benjamin’s story

Benjamin Njau lived in Sinai, a large settlement near to Nairobi airport. At dawn one morning he went down to the river to collect water and noticed that the oil pipeline that runs through Mukuru (near the settlement) was leaking – aircraft fuel was pouring out into a storm drain. The pipeline carried fuel from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi airport. Benjamin was unemployed and desperate to find ways of making some money. He ran home and collected two jerry cans which he filled up with oil from the leaking pipeline. He would be able to sell the fuel in the city.

By this time, the word had spread, and many people had gathered to fill their cans. As Benjamin was leaving the area, suddenly there was a huge explosion. He could feel flames on his back as he ran as fast as he could away from the area. He was fortunate. He dropped his cans, but he managed to escape and was not hurt. He found out later that over a hundred people died in the explosion and numerous others were badly injured. A few days later it was revealed that the explosion was caused by a man who was helping himself to the fuel; he discarded a cigarette so he could fill up his can. It was a tragic tale that demonstrates, among other things, the importance of everyone understanding the dangers of flammable liquids.

Notes for the teacher

This story provides a starting point for talking about several different aspects of combustion and fuels with your class. Things to consider could include:

  • Refining oil – where did the oil come from in the first place? What had been done to it to turn it into aircraft fuel? Liquid fuels are transported in pipelines – how are solids and gases stored and transported?
  • Aircraft fuel is kerosene – a hydrocarbon. In order to burn completely it requires plenty of oxygen. Incomplete combustion produces carbon monoxide and carbon. (Do they ever get headaches if they spend a long time in a room with a kerosene burner? Is there a lot of soot on their kerosene heater at home?)
  • Why did the fuel catch fire so easily? Introduce the fire triangle – you have to have heat, oxygen and fuel for a fire. Why are you asked to switch off mobile phones in a filling station?
  • What sorts of safety procedures should you take when handling fuels – especially liquids?

Resource 1: Making Science relevant

Resource 3: Brainstorming