01 October 2011

A glimpse of Bukom after the fire

There are no obvious signs of the massive fire on Pulau Bukom, as we passed the Shell refinery under clear, blue skies.
I took a few photos yesterday on our way to Pulau Semakau.

I noticed there were few large ships berthed at the refinery. Usually, there are many lined up against the island and along the long jetties sticking out of it.
The water between Pulau Bukom (left) and Pulau Hantu (wooded bit on the right) didn't have any obvious signs of pollution.
Here's a look at Pulau Hantu as we passed by. The reefs we usually explore lie just outside the seawall in this photo.
There are lots of large storage tanks on Pulau Busing.
A look at the facilities built on the former Terumbu Bayan/Pulau Ular which were reclaimed. There is some flaring at various parts of the refinery.
There seems to be a small ring of boom laid across and close to a wide canal through which a stream of water is rushing quickly out to sea.
Some brown stains on the seawall. But most of the seawall seems unmarked.
Later in the evening, from Pulau Semakau, the lights of the refinery are all on.
Here's a look at the various locations mentioned above, in relation to the fire at Pulau Bukom.

The latest updates in the mainstream media on the fire today include:

What operations are continuing?
SCDF said water jets were being used to disperse traces of fuel vapour. In addition, it is conducting foaming operations at certain parts of the incident site. [Firefighting foam can have some impact on marine life].

Is the danger over?
SCDF said yesterday that the fire was finally put out at 9.18pm on Thursday, ending a 32-hour battle. It added that it will keep 100 firefighters and 34 vehicles on the island as a precaution. Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said 'The fire has been extinguished. The key thing now is to make sure that it does not reignite, and the residual hydrocarbons from the fire are properly dealt with,'

Will the refinery be shut down?
Shell sources confirmed that the progressive shutdown of the Bukom facility was continuing. Although some wire reports said the shutdown could last a month, a Shell spokesman said that no timeline has been given for how long it will continue or for when the investigations will be complete. We do not expect any of the units to be restarted until a thorough investigation has been done and we are confident that it is safe to do so,' said the Shell spokesman.

There was also an eye-opening account of the situation on the ground from an unnamed Shell employee: He said the mishap was the worst he has seen in his decades of working on the island. It was chaos, he said, as fire engines rolled into the facility one after another. He heard 15 explosions over Wednesday and Thursday, and was no more than 20m away when one of them went off. He had a look at the pump house and was dismayed at the extent of the damage. 'It is bad. More than 100 lines are ruptured,' he said, referring to the pipes used to transfer oil to ships. The metal platform normally used by technicians is warped from the extreme heat. Metal discs called spades in the industry had been placed in the pipes to stop the oil from moving, but the pipes caught fire from the heat and burst. A fire engine which was discharging foam had trouble with one of its mechanical arms, he said, and would not direct foam at the right spot. The foam hit a man in the area instead, causing him to lose his footing. The Shell employee said firefighters were still spraying foam and water as he left the island at about 4pm yesterday.

Some of our friends will soon be diving Pulau Hantu to check on how things are there. Let's hope for the best.

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