Category Archives: Butane

LPG Tank Cars derail in Martinez – could have been a catastrophic event

Derailment in Martinez: the nightmare no one wants

By Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent – 05/01/2018
LPG tank car derailment Martinez 2018-05-01 (KTVU Fox 2 News)

Early this morning, at least two tank cars carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG) derailed while backing into the Shell Refinery in Martinez, CA.  (See brief KTVU News coverage.)

Thank our lucky stars that those tank cars backing into the refinery did not tip over or leak!  Had they done so, and a spark ignited a fire, the accident might’ve resulted in a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, or “BLEVE” (blɛviː/ BLEV-ee).

Sharon Kelly described a BLEVE this way on DeSmogBlog: “As liquids in a metal tank boil, gasses build up, pressurizing the tank even despite relief valves designed to vent fumes. Tanks finally explode, throwing shrapnel great distances, and spitting out burning liquids that can start secondary blazes.”

BLEVEs were responsible  for the massive degree of destruction and loss of life in Lac Magantic, Canada.  If those Martinez tank cars had caught fire and erupted, the whole Shell Refinery might’ve blown up!  Downtown Martinez, the AMTRAK station, and the 680 freeway might’ve been threatened.

LPG tank car derailment Martinez 2018-05-01 (KTVU News)

Photos of the derailed cars show the 4-digit Hazardous Material Identification Placard: 1075.  The Emergency Response Guidebook, published by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration identifies the code for 1075 on p. 31 as one of the following flammable materials:

Butane, Butylene Isobutane, Isobutylene, Liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, Petroleum gases, liquefied Propane Propylene.

This is EXTREMELY dangerous.  On p. 170 of the Emergency Response Guidebook, emergency responders are cautioned:

In fires involving Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG) (UN1075); Butane, (UN1011); Butylene, (UN1012); Isobutylene, (UN1055); Propylene, (UN1077); Isobutane, (UN1969); and Propane, (UN1978), also refer to BLEVE – SAFETY PRECAUTIONS (Page 368).

BLEVE is defined : “A boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE, /ˈblɛviː/ BLEV-ee) is an explosion caused by the rupture of a vessel containing a pressurized liquid that has reached temperatures above its boiling point.”

Page 368-369 of the Emergency Response Guidebook reads as follows:

BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion)
The following section presents, in a two-page format, background information on BLEVEs and includes a chart that provides important safety-related information to consider when confronted with this type of situation involving Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG), UN1075. LPGs include the following flammable gases: Butane, UN1011; Butylene, UN1012; Isobutylene, UN1055; Propylene, UN1077; Isobutane, UN1969; and Propane, UN1978.

What are the main hazards from a BLEVE?
The main hazards from a propane or LPG BLEVE are:
– fire
– thermal radiation from the fire
– blast
– projectiles
The danger from these decreases as you move away from the BLEVE centre. The furthest reaching hazard is projectiles.

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    Train tank cars carrying LPG derail near Shell refinery in Martinez

    Repost from KTVU.com Fox News 2, Oakland, CA
    [Editor: This derailment of tank cars carrying Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) could have resulted in extreme hazardous consequences.  See my analysis here. – RS]

    Freight train derails near Shell refinery in Martinez


    [Editor: apologies for the advertisement at start of this video… – RS]

    By: Leigh Martinez, MAY 01 2018 05:22AM PDT, VIDEO POSTED: MAY 01 2018 05:13AM PDT, UPDATED: MAY 01 2018 06:55AM PDT

    MARTINEZ, Calif. – A freight train derailed in Martinez early Tuesday causing two tankers to lean off the tracks.  It is believed the train was backing into the Shell refinery when it went off the tracks at Shell and Marina Vista avenues.

    Two cars have their wheels off the tracks and were leaning into other rail lines.

    This was not a hazmat situation because there is no sign of leakage and no injuries were reported.

    The rail line runs next to Amtrak and Union Pacific lines. There was no immediate word if those commuter trains are affected.

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      Washington refinery project dead in the water

      Repost from Oregon Public Broadcasting

      Port of Longview Rejects Plan For Refinery, Propane Terminal

      By Tony Schick and Conrad Wilson, Feb. 23, 2016 3:08 p.m

      The Port of Longview is the state's third largest port, after Seattle and Tacoma.
      The Port of Longview is the state’s third largest port, after Seattle and Tacoma. Allison Frost/OPB

      Port of Longview commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to end talks with an energy company that wants to build the first oil refinery on the West Coast in more than 25 years.

      The $1.25 billion proposal from Texas-based Waterside Energy touted 700 construction jobs and 180 full-time jobs. Waterside’s plan detailed a facility capable of refining 30,000 barrels of oil and 15,000 barrels of biofuel each day. The proposed project also included a propane and butane terminal handling 75,000 barrels per day. The plan also called for three additional trains per week carrying crude oil along the Columbia River.

      The combined crude and biofuels refinery was an attempt to capitalize on the West Coast’s demand for cleaner-burning fuels.

      That clean fuels component initially intrigued many, including some environmental groups and top state officials in Washington, but the financial and environmental fallout at the project backers’ failed biofuels venture in Eastern Washington ultimately raised many doubts about their latest proposal.

      Longview Port Commissioner Jeff Wilson indicated the port shared doubts about the financial situation of Waterside Energy and its two subsidiaries.

      “Financially I’m not comfortable with the three entities,” Wilson said.

      Port commissioners said the company missed deadlines and failed to fulfill its obligation to the port.

      A signed letter of intent between Waterside and the port required the company to provide certain financial information within 30 days. Port staff said those disclosures were intended to determine whether Waterside Energy had the financial backing to complete the project.

      “This decision is not about fossil fuels,” Port Commissioner Doug Averett said. “It’s about the proponent not living up to his requirements and fulfilling his obligations.”

      After the meeting, Longview resident Les Anderson said he was pleased with the commissioners’ actions. Anderson serves as vice president of Landowners & Citizens for a Safe Community, which has opposed other fossil fuel projects in the region.

      “The community now can take a huge sigh of relief because this project was poorly conceived and pushed forward by bad actors with bad intentions,” Anderson said.

      Kelso, Washington, resident Linda Horst referred to the project backers’ track record in Washington in praising the decision to reject the project.

      “Bad people, bad partners for the port,” she said. “What they proposed to bring in here is something that could either kill us immediately outright through an explosion or over time, incrementally by pollution.

      Waterside CEO Lou Soumas said the company had already spent $1.7 million on the project.

      “We’re disappointed in the commission’s decision,” Soumas said. He added that he thought port commissioners had made their decision before they voted at Tuesday’s meeting.

      “They didn’t go into the meeting without a decision in mind,” he said. “They’re doing this stuff behind closed doors.”

      Soumas said Waterside was pursuing other ports and landowners in Washington and Oregon in an attempt to move the project forward.

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        Phillips 66 refinery plan threatens Rodeo California residents’ safety

        Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle, Open Forum

        Refinery plan threatens Rodeo residents’ safety

        By Janet Pygeorge and Laurel Impett, April 6, 2015 4:08pm
        Contra Costa County officials approved a controver sial expan sion of the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP / FILE
        Contra Costa County officials approved a controver sial expan sion of the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP / FILE

        The fracking boom in North Dakota and increased recovery of tar sands oil in Canada have prompted dramatic growth in transport of crude oil by rail throughout the United States from regions that pipelines don’t serve. Bay Area refineries and oil and gas companies already are planning for increased rail traffic and expanded operations. These plans are understandably alarming residents because of the potential for oil-train explosions. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, however, does not share this alarm.

        The supervisors made that clear in February when they rubber-stamped a proposed operational expansion of the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo. Analyses done by Communities for a Better Environment, a nonprofit environmental justice organization that has sued to overturn this approval, show that the refinery’s expansion would significantly increase air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and public safety risks.

        The board’s position defies both science and common sense. This refinery is located in the middle of an earthquake liquefaction zone. Phillips 66 plans to dramatically increase the number of railcars that are regularly staged at the plant; it also plans to begin processing propane and expand its processing of butane, both highly explosive.

        The proposal includes plans to store 630,000 gallons of liquid propane about half a mile from homes, churches, a school and a park. And yet the environmental analysis approved by the board claimed that there would be no significant risks associated with this operational expansion.

        In the case of a large earthquake, Phillips 66’s operational expansion would place huge swaths of Rodeo at significant risk of death and destruction, with damage radiating from the refinery up past San Pablo Avenue to as far away as where I-80 runs through Rodeo. It is simply unacceptable for our county officials to allow this expansion without requiring stringent attention to public health and safety by putting aggressive safeguards in place.

        In terms of air quality impacts, this refinery has a dismal track record. It received more than 200 notices of violation from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District between 2003 and 2014. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, it is the seventh-most-toxic polluter of all California facilities with large chemical releases. Phillips 66’s proposed changes would significantly increase the level of air pollution the facility produces, but the company used accounting tricks to hide the ball in its air-quality analysis. County officials did not question the refinery’s flawed analytical approach.

        The Board of Supervisors showed its hand when it approved Phillips 66’s operational expansion without requiring investments to protect the health and safety of residents. Three different lawsuits have been filed against the county for lack of appropriate oversight in this matter. Contra Costa residents must demand better from local elected officials.

        Join us in demanding that the county put an end to approving dirty industry at the expense of the public’s health and safety. Enough is enough.

        Ultimately, if elected officials won’t stand up for health and safety, the court should intervene and protect the best interests of this community.

        Janet Pygeorge is president of Rodeo Citizens Association, one of the groups that has filed suit in this matter. Laurel Impett is a planner with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, the law firm that represents the association.
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