LNG Refinery: Increased dangers

I haven’t been very vocal on this medium these last several months, even though I have been doing things that are important to the protection of our lands, waters, and winds.  

I wanted to make sure that you were aware of some of PSE’s recent actions, so that you can take the necessary steps to inform your community and organize to continue to oppose the subjugation to another 50 years of fossil fuel development and destruction. 

I’m attaching a declaration that highlights new findings about increased safety and health risks at the LNG refinery. Risks which have not been evaluated, communicated, or permitted. These risks have substantially increased as a result of changes PSE has made to the design and operational aspects of the refinery. The following information is a summary of expert testimony provided by Professor Tom Spicer, Ph.D. of the University of Arkansas. This information has been provided to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). 

In 2017, PSE discovered that the single source of raw natural gas they defined in their FINAL SEIS, which is to come from Alberta and British Columbia, actually contains heavy hydrocarbons. Heavier hydrocarbons than what the plant was originally designed to process. These include ethane, propane, butane among other heavy hydrocarbons. 

These heavier hydrocarbons in the raw natural gas stock require several changes to the plant. Changes which were implemented without notification to the public and which have not been evaluated for health, safety or environmental impacts. 

Here is a summary of the changes: 

  • Equipment relocation in the liquefaction area that could contribute to congestion, increasing the potential for a vapor cloud explosion if a leak occurred in this area
  • More frequent removal of these heavy hydrocarbons via truck. 
  • A new 550 foot long pipeline for on site removal of heavy hydrocarbons from the processing . 

The equipment relocation, coupled with the introduction of highly flammable hydrocarbons, has increased the potential for a catastrophic explosion, which had been previously identified as an area of concern in the 2015 EIS. The heavier hydrocarbons include propane, i-butane, n-butane, i-pentane, n-pentane, n-hexane, n-heptane, n-octane.  But there are other chemicals which we aren’t allowed to have visibility of due to “proprietary” considerations. Given the way PSE behaves, I do not feel safe having these chemicals hidden from our scrutiny.

These heavy hydrocarbons are highly flammable and the potential for catastrophic explosion increases with their proximity to the refrigerant liquids that will be present for the storage of liquefied natural gas.  

The processing of these heavier hydrocarbons could result in a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE) that would have catastrophic cascading events as a result of compromising adjacent containers of other flammable fuels.  

Bottom line, this refinery was dangerous to begin with. PSEs recent actions potentially increased the immediate safety hazards to not only the community in Tacoma, but also everyone in proximity to trucks carrying heavy hydrocarbons as their payloads. We are currently on track, if things don’t change, to be exposed to massive safety risks and 50 years of fossil fuel hellscape.

We were persistent and loud in asking City of Tacoma and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to require a supplemental environmental impact statement. They outright refused every request, every voice. If they had done what we asked, these changes might have been discovered. 

Please read the declaration. It’s damning. 

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