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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Explosions Expert: Catastophic Failure of LNG Tank "Very Remote"

full containment LNG tank owned
by UGI in Steelton 
Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board listened to over four hours of testimony June 14 in connection with UGI's request for a 98' high, 78' wide liquefied natural gas facility in Bethlehem at 2470 Ringhoffer Road. It will be located on an 83.91 acre tract of former Bethlehem Steel land that is now part of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park. Testimony will continue on July 12.

To review, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is cryogenically cooled natural gas which is liquefied to reduce the volume for shipping and storage. LNG is primarily methane, but can contain up to 10% ethane and propane. It is stored at a temperature of negative 260 degrees Farenheit. The location along Ringhoffer Road was attractive to UGI for two reasons. First, it is located near a pipeline that will enable the company to deliver fuel after returning the methane to its gaseous state. Second, the facility would be located in a swale, affording some natural protection.

The tank will be filled by 10,000 gallon tankers, each of them weighing over 44,000 pounds, that would travel along Applebutter and Ringhoffer Road. About five or six deliveries will be made daily over the course of several months until the tank is full. After that, the only time the tank will be accessed is during extremely cold weather.

Allentown Attorney Tim Siegfried represents UGI, and has already presented at least five witnesses. Lower Saucon Township officials, who oppose the facility, are represented by prominent environmental attorney Charles Elliott.

Three witnesses were offered June 14.

Deputy Fire Chief Craig Baer explained what steps his department would take in the event of an emergency in general detail, though questions about Nixel or reverse 911 notification or door-to-door evacuations are unresolved. An emergency action plan is still in process. He did concede under questioning by Lower Saucon Council member Priscilla deLeon that "[i]f there's a catastrophic fracture [in the tower wall], there's nothing we can do to stop it."

Dr. Ryan Hart, a consultant who assists in the investigation and analyses of fires and explosions, said the likelihood of a major incident at this facility is "very remote." He noted that LNG is heavy and the vapor cloud is not something that will rise up in the sky. He said that instead, it would hug the ground.He also said that LNG is inflammable and needs to mix with air before it becomes explosive.

He told the Zoning Hearing Board that he's done no calculations at this point concerning how far an LNG clud would travel before it disperses or explodes.

Gregory Elko, a principal at Langan Engineering, testified that the proposed UGI is not near any dwellings in Bethlehem. The closest home is 662' away,and is vacant. He said the next two closest homes are 840'and 850' away.

He described the 83.91 acre UGI tract as 87% undisturbed and wooded. He also explained that a lengthy and winding driveway would be used to access the tower, and was necessary because if hills and wetlands.

He indicated that tankers would access the driveway from Route 412, Shimersville Road, Applebutter Road and then Ringhoffer Road. He acknowledged that Ringhoffer Road would have to be widened for the truck traffic.

Hart and Elko have yet to answer questions from Attorney Charles Elliott or the public. "Dr. Hart, I hope you enjoyed the hospitality of Bethlehem because we'd like to have you back," said Kevin Kelleher, who is providing legal advice to the Zoning hearing Board.

About 20 people attended the hearing, but Kellher took a very hard line on who may pose questions.He ruled that one woman, who lives in Springfield Township in Bucks County, lacks standing. He also denied standing to a woman who holds a mortgage to property in Steel City, claiming she would have to live there to be allowed to speak.

When testimony resumes on July 12, Charles Elliott will begin his cross-examination of both Hart and Elko.


Anonymous said...

Who paid Dr. Hart's bill? That will tell you a lot.

Anonymous said...

Sure it will. People need to get out of the mindset that this is the first time this was ever done.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Of course, Dr. Hart is being paid by UGI. I am keeping an open mind and caution you that neither he nor Elko have been cross-examined. What I like is the location. I would like to see more questioning about sinkholes, earthquakes and why this facility is not buried. I think it would be even safer if it were under ground. Of course, I would want to hear from tjose who know the subject.

Anonymous said...

Well Kelher is marching to his orders and making sure only the RIGHT people may speak. The dummies the aboard don't know, so they will listen to their betters. This is a travesty

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong Bernie, but Kelher is actually following protocol. To have standing you need to be a twp. resident. If not it should be. Keeps the mob mentality to a minimum.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are correct. Kevin Kelleher is an outstanding attorney. You do not need to be a city resident to have standing but have to demonstrate some kind of harm. Kevin has allowed questions from anyone within a mile or so. He has allowed Lower Saucon to intervene. The board is more lenient, but I understand his rationale.

Anonymous said...

Tanks do not fail. Humans do. Almost all catastrophes are caused by human error. Some recent examples - failure to follow safety procedures while transferring gas, a vehicle hitting a filling facility. There is no fire company in the Lehigh valley that could contain such a problem.

Anonymous said...

Build it, Fuck the township, its a Bethlehem thing and we need the taxes

Bernie O'Hare said...

I consider this an important story and am waiting to hear both sides.

Anonymous said...

"Tanks do not fail."

Can you verify that? Seriously, things do break without any human involvement.

Anonymous said...

The woman from Bucks County obviously lacks standing. The one who holds a mortgage - I don't see why not. Good article, Bernie. Was looking forward since you teased it last week. What does "providing legal guidance to the ZHB" mean? That is the ZHB's solicitor's role.

Anonymous said...

"Keeps the mob mentality to a minimum."

Bullshot for don't let the masses have any say. What crap. Why the sham of a hearing?

Bernie O'Hare said...

2;28, Kevin is the Solicitor in this case. Erich and Terry must have a conflict of some sort or were perhaps unavailable.