US safety board urges more security at rural oil and gas facilities

27 October 2011 19:09  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) on Thursday called for more federal and state safety regulation of rural oil and natural gas production and storage facilities, citing 44 deaths among bystanders when storage tanks exploded.

The board said that the 44 deaths and an additional 25 persons injured in tank explosions over a 28-year period involved children and young adults who “frequently socialize at oil sites in rural areas, unaware of explosion hazards from storage tanks that contain flammable hydrocarbons like crude oil and natural gas condensate”.

“The unintentional introduction of an ignition source, such as a match, lighter, cigarette or static electricity, near tank hatches or vents can trigger an internal tank explosion, often launching the tank into the air and killing or injuring people nearby,” the board said, citing its investigation of three fatal incidents in particular.

The board, which was established by Congress to investigate chemicals-related accidents and report lessons learned to industry and the public, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and parallel state-level agencies to take steps to ensure that such potentially hazardous sites are secured from casual public access.  

The study recommendations called for “warning signs, full fencing, locked gates, locks on tank hatches, and other physical barriers”.

The board noted that in October 2009 two teenagers were killed in Carne, Mississippi, when a natural gas storage tank they were near exploded. 

That incident was followed in six months by one involving youngsters who were exploring a similar tank site in Weleetka, Oklahoma, when the facility was ignited and exploded, causing fatal injuries to one of the juveniles.

In a separate 2010 incident, an adult man and woman were on top of an oil tank in rural New London, Texas, when it blew up, killing the woman and gravely injuring the man.

In addition to its recommendations for better perimeter security at such sites, the board also urged state requirements for inherently safer tank design features such as flame arrestors, pressure-vacuum vents, floating tank roofs and vapour recovery systems to reduce the emissions of flammable vapours.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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