Gasco LPG bottling plant fire simulation – 8th November 2013

December 31, 2013 in Fire

On the 8th of November, the EFRU participated in a major fire simulation held at GASCO’s LPG bottling plant in Bengħajsa, Birżebbuga. The simulation was organised by the Civil Protection Department together with GASCO Energy Ltd. Due to the huge quantities of gas stored there and the potential risk of a major accident associated with it, the CPD regularly tests the response of its personnel, as well as that of volunteers, to such accidents. The obligations to hold regular simulations arise from the EU Seveso II directive, of which the main objective is to prevent and control major accident hazards.

The simulation was obviously performed “cold”.  That is, with no fire or risk of fire.  However, all participants acted as though a real fire was blazing.

The simulation kicked off at 9 a.m. and from then on it was a race against time to reach the gas bottling plant. Although the design of the plant includes several safety shut off valves to close off the gas in case of an accident, the residual gas in the pipes will still pose a significant risk hazard even after valve shut off. If this gas catches fire, it is imperative to stop the heat from reaching the huge gas storage tanks, as well as the gas cylinders already filled and awaiting distribution. In fact, upon arrival, several hoses were laid to supply the fire engines with water from fire hydrants, while the fire engines pumped this water to create a ‘water curtain’ which would minimise the heat reaching the gas tanks. The next step was to close off one of the manual shut off valves on the gas pipelines. In order to reach this valve safely, two teams of firefighters had to work together and protect each other from the heat of the flames by creating a water curtain in front of them as they advanced towards the valve. Closing the valve would effectively deprive the fire of its fuel, thereby extinguishing the blaze.

In addition to testing the response to accidents, the simulations also give the opportunity to volunteers to practice working alongside each other and alongside the CPD personnel. This would facilitate greatly the team work necessary in case of a real accident, thus helping to save lives and minimise material damage as much as possible.

 

Joe Bonnici
EFRU Rescuer