Safer Storage Needed: How Oil Companies Can Improve Storage Tank Safety (Part II)

This post is part two in a two-part post; last week, we blogged about the number of innocent teenagers and kids that were killed due to explosions and fires at unsecured storage sites for oil and gas tanks.

In looking at the recent incidents — such as the explosion in East Texas that killed a 24-year-old woman after she lit a cigarette while on top of one of the storage tanks — the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) determined that all of these fatal accidents were entirely preventable with warning signs, safer tanks and securer locations.

Larger cities, like Houston, put restrictions on how closely these storage facilities can be located to the city. But not all states have such regulations. With over 800,000 oil and natural gas facilities nationwide, it is apparent that more uniform storage standards and precautions are necessary.

The CSB recommended a number of steps that could help oil and gas companies prevent more fatal accidents from happening:

  • Adopting safer tank design features, such as “vents fitted with pressure-vacuum devices, flame arrestors, vapor recovery systems and floating roofs.”
  • Requiring hatch locks to prevent access to the flammable hydrocarbons stored inside the tanks
  • Placing fencing around tanks
  • Posting warning signs

And while security measures are suggested for storage tanks storing refined oil products, no similar industry standards exist for storage tanks at production sites. CSB would not only like to see safer tank designs being used, but also would like to see regulators in Texas mandate their use. CSB has asked the Texas Railroad Commission to increase safety precautions by requiring locked fences, hatch locks and other barriers to access.

The Texas Railroad Commission is still reviewing the CSB’s report.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “Feds urge oil, gas sites to protect kids from blasts,” 10/27/11.