30 September 2011

Shell refinery fire at Bukom: aftermath

The fire which flared up at noon 29 Sep was reportedly extinguished late the same day.
From the Straits Times 30 Sep 11
In this image, Pulau Hantu is the small wooded island above Pulau Bukom.

Some information taken from mainstream media reports on the fire include the following

Why did the fire flare up again?
According to Shell, the affected area "has lengths of pipelines and connected pumps, and holds a mix of hydrocarbons". The pipes are no longer in use but still contain fuel, which causes flares when the pipes open up under fire. "This was the reason for the erratic fire, sometimes waning and sometimes growing." Reports say the fire was contained within the bund wall.

29 Sep Explosions when the fire flared up again at noon.

What were the firefighting approaches?
Water was used to the fight the fire, with foam on stand by. According to the SCDF, 'Water is effective at this point in time to contain the fire within the bund area of the pump house. We will change our strategy the moment we are able to identify what is feeding the fire. We could use the option of foam if it is effective for that type of product that is on fire'.

SCDF said about 20 water jets are being used to carry out boundary cooling operations to prevent heat exposure to the nearby storage tanks. Two SCDF fire engines were badly damaged by the fire and one fire engine sustained partial damage. SCDF said early Thursday that it has about 100 fire fighters fighting the fire with six fire engines and 13 support vehicles.

Later Thursday, Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) troops also joined SCDF and police officers in setting up command posts at the Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal. SAF assets on standby include a Super Puma helicopter and three navy fast crafts.

Will the fire start up again?
According to reports, there are still traces of fuel vapour, and firefighters are on stand-by to handle that or any other leaks. SCDF said 34 of its vehicles and about 100 firefighters are currently at the scene.

Experts said that a fire like that at Bukom would take a while to die down completely. This is because fluids in the pipes that are burning could continue to reach boiling point and vaporise. The vapours could then heat up and re-ignite again.

Possible cause of the fire?
According to Shell's preliminary investigation, the fire could have started during maintenance work but the company was unable to provide further details.

Steps taken by Shell?
These include shutting down neighbouring units within the vicinity of the fire, and isolating the lines and cooling the tanks in the area to prevent entry of any fresh hydrocarbons. Before the fire was put out, Shell said it was undetaking "a progressive shutdown of the refinery". The company has shut several units in the vicinity of the fire, including a hydrocracker. A full shutdown will take two days. Other precautionary measures already taken include the monitoring of the air quality around Pulau Bukom four times a day.

Impact on air quality?
NEA, which has collected air samples, said it has not detected the presence of toxic gases. But it said smoke from the Pulau Bukom fire may have some effect on the air quality in western parts of Singapore - such as Jurong, Teban Gardens, West Coast and Pasir Panjang.

Impact on water quality?
There has been no public information put out on this.

What goes on at the Shell refinery on Pulau Bukom?
I did this post some time ago on what I could find out about Shell operations on Bukom.

What natural shores are found near Pulau Bukom?
More in this post.

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