Root causes revealed for Buncefield explosion
The report into the explosion and five day fire at the Buncefield Oil Storage Depot in December 2005 tells for the first time the full story of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Environment Agency’s (EA) investigation. Drawing on previously unpublished material held back until the criminal prosecution was completed and the appeals processes exhausted, ‘The Buncefield explosion: Why did it happen?’ identifies several failings including: Systems for managing the filling of industrial tanks of petrol were both deficient and not fully implemented An increase in the volume of fuel passing through the site put unsustainable pressure on those responsible for managing its receipt and storage, a task they lacked information about and struggled to monitor. The pressure was made worse by a lack of necessary engineering support and other expertise A culture developed where keeping operations going was more important than safe processes, which did not get the attention, resources or priority status they required Inadequate arrangements for containment of fuel and fire water to protect the environment.
Seveso II proposals
On 21 December 2010 the European Commission published draft revisions to the Seveso II Directive, which is aimed at preventing major accidents involving large quantities of dangerous substances. The new Directive should apply from 1 June 2015. The revisions were prompted by, and will align the legislation to, changes in EU chemicals law (classifi cation of dangerous substances) and will also clarify and update other provisions. This will be of clear relevance to anyone in the bulk liquid storage industry. The Seveso II Directive (implemented in the UK through the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999) provides a tiered approach to the level of controls required by duty holders, with organisations managing larger quantities of chemicals (such as those in the bulk liquid storage industry) being subject to stricter rules. Operators of establishments where hazardous substances are present must notify their activities and establish a major accident prevention policy. Operators of ‘upper tier’ establishments must also establish a safety report and put a safety management system and an internal emergency plan in place. Public authorities are subject to additional requirements, discussed below, relating to external emergency plans and public information on safety measures for upper-tier establishments, domino effects, landuse planning, accident reporting and inspections.
The need for API 2611
The American Petroleum Institute (API) published one of the first important standards related to refinery piping inspection, API 570 Piping Inspection Code, in June 1993. This standard was developed to reduce the rate of serious incidents in refineries caused by piping failures. While the standard was primarily aimed at refining operations, it was crafted to be generally applicable to any process piping. However, there are numerous petroleum distribution terminals that have not and do not intend to adopt API 570 as part of their piping inspection programme (if they have one). This is understandable since there are major differences between the piping damage mechanisms in refineries and terminals. For example, refineries must cope with piping subject to high temperature, low temperature, various types of internal and external corrosion caused by a wide variety of chemicals, fatigue cracking, environmental cracking, temper embrittlement and accelerated corrosion at injection points to name a few damage mechanisms. On the other hand, terminal piping is generally low pressure, ambient temperature and there are only a few well defined corrosive environments associated with them. Rather than adopting API 570 most of these terminals use a wide variety of local piping inspection programmes, ranging from no inspection to fairly intense programmes. Within a few months the new API Standard API 2611 should be published, which will specifically address the terminal sector.
New tankage targets
Atlantic Fuel Supply Company Limited (AFSC) is a newly-established company formed to provide and operate an oil storage and distribution facility network for the Republic of Ireland market. The 79,800m3 capacity AFSC terminal – located in Foynes, Limerick – is the one of the first post-Buncefield oil terminals of this size to be constructed in the UK and Ireland. Originally a brownfield site, the facility took two and a half years to develop and opened on schedule for commercial business on 4 October 2010. The terminal’s refined oil storage capacity is divided between five main products – unleaded petrol, derv (diesel), gasoil, kerosene and heavy fuel oil – and comprises 16 main storage tanks located within two impervious bund systems. The terminal also has biofuel blending facilities for FAME, ethanol and heavy fuel oil blends. The terminal is ship fed from a Shannon Foynes Port Company owned jetty in the Shannon Estuary, which provides the facility for offloading tankers up to 35,000 tonnes capacity. The contents of the tanks are monitored by a radar gauging system, which is claimed to offer an accuracy of +/- 0.5 mm and is weights and measures approved for inventory control. The gauging system has the facility to provide a large spectrum of alarms to ensure safe import and discharge of products.