Capeco, Puerto Rico terminal fire - Buncefield N° 2?

CSB finds poor maintenance of level measuring devices and absence of independent protection.

The US Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) draft report into the 2009 explosion and fire at the Caribbean Petroleum (Capeco) terminal facility in Puerto Rico bears a striking resemblance to the 2005 Buncefield, UK oil terminal fire. The incident occurred when gasoline overflowed and sprayed out from a large aboveground storage tank, forming a 107-acre vapor cloud that ignited. While there were no fatalities, the explosion damaged approximately 300 nearby homes and businesses and petroleum leaked into the surrounding soil, waterways and wetlands. Flames from the explosion could be seen from as far as eight miles away.

The CSB found that the float and tape level measuring devices were poorly maintained and frequently were not working. An electronic transmitter card that was supposed to send the liquid level measurements to the control room was out of service. Investigator Vidisha Parasram said, ‘When that system failed, the facility did not have additional layers of protection in place to prevent an incident. The investigation concluded that if multiple layers of protection such as an independent high level alarm or an automatic overfill prevention system had been present this massive release most likely would have been prevented.’ The CSB has proposed regulatory changes to the OSHA, the American Petroleum Institute, and two key fire code organizations. For more watch the CSB’s ‘Filling blind’ video.

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