CSB Finds Regulatory Gaps in Safety Oversight of Petroleum Storage Facilities
In a final investigation report approved in October, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board urges OSHA and EPA to address regulatory gaps in safety oversight of petroleum storage facilities. The report details CSB’s findings from its investigation of the 2009 explosion and fire at the Caribbean Petroleum terminal facility in Puerto Rico, which occurred when gasoline overflowed and sprayed out from a large aboveground storage tank. The resulting 107-acre vapor cloud ignited, causing an explosion that damaged approximately 300 homes and businesses. Petroleum also leaked into the soil, waterways, and wetlands surrounding the facility. The Board’s investigation found that regulatory deficiencies contributed to the explosion; according to CSB, U.S. regulations do not consider bulk petroleum storage tank terminals like Caribbean Petroleum to be high-hazard facilities. “Existing process safety regulations exempt atmospheric storage tanks of gasoline and similar flammable liquids,” CSB’s press release reads. “Current regulations only require a single layer of protection against a catastrophic tank overfill—thereby putting workers and nearby communities at potential risk.” The CSB report recommends that EPA and OSHA require flammable storage tanks to be equipped with automatic overfill protection systems, and require regular testing, inspection, and risk assessments to determine potential dangers of these operations to the environment and surrounding population. The agency’s proposed regulatory changes would affect OSHA’s Flammable and Combustible Liquids standard and EPA’s Risk Management Program and Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure rules. Other factors that contributed to the incident include the unreliable measuring devices used to determine liquid levels in the facility’s storage tanks and a poor safety management system. For more information, see the report (PDF).
Video source: UK Health and Safety Executive. Total run time: 17:32.